Developing a song is more than just the pieces placed together. It’s about creating a fluid story. In this article, I am going to go over how to arrange your track and getting a solid song structure for your music.
The Building Blocks of an Arrangement:
To start, let’s go over the parts that make up an arrangement. There are many different terms, depending on the style of music. For our purposes, we will be looking at these basic terms and then applying them to the electronic music arrangement:
- Intro: The intro is pretty much anything you want it to be. Many songs start with just the melody that is rising up. You can even create a melodic question that is answered by the rest of the song or something of the sort. The important thing is to not stay too long at the intro and make it tie in quickly.
- Verse: The Verse is the first main part of your melody and story of your arrangement. It repeats a few times before moving on to the chorus. Verses are usually used in music with lyrics. Music with a verse, or verse like aspects, can do really well by ending the melodic and harmonic line with tension. Either with a I chord or a V chord and then resolve it in the chorus.
- Chorus: This is the main part of the song. It is the hook, the thing you want people to remember and has most of the power of the song. This part should have energy and be no longer than the verse. It will usually repeat like: Verse, Chorus, Verse, and chorus.
- Solo: This can be used anytime, preferably after a round or two of chorus and verse, to add a little jam feel. Used a lot in jazz and can really create cool sections in music. When you are thinking of live performance Solo parts are always fantastic, even if it’s not in your released track.
- Break or Bridge: This is used to break up what the listener has paid attention to. In electronic music, you usually take out the drums and add a rising sound to the next part. A bridge/break can be more powerful by adding new instruments or changing the key. Try to keep this at 8 measures or less.
- Riser: A Riser is just like a break except that it is arpeggiating or having some sort of buildup that is released with the next section coming in. Usually no beat and last 8 measures or 16. When the next part comes in, it will have a lot more energy and should be the climax of the piece.
- Outro: This is used to resolve the song and come in for a smooth landing. Some son’s don’t have an outro and others have a long outro. You can also add a final sense by adding a Coda, or strong cadence at the end of your track.
This video walks through the different building block of a track in Ableton Live.
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The Structure of a Song
A typical Pop Arrangement goes Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Outro. There are different radiation of it, but that is the basics. In electronic Music without words, it generally does not have a Verse and Chorus. I view it as the “main” section. Below is an example of a Dubstep Song and its structure. The song is one of the screams and is classic Dubstep.
It is a fairly simple arrangement starting with the intro, repeating the main section with some breaks. Repeating, and then ending. This song structure is more electronic songs with variations.
Another example is the song arrangement of Halcyon & on & on from the Hackers soundtrack. Considered to be one of the first epic trance songs. It’s a very similar structure, but over a much longer amount of time. There is also the Main B which was a totally different melody and feeling section to break things up.
Tips on Songwriting
Here are some basic concepts to keep in mind when thinking about your arrangement: Keep it a short intro for dance music
- Breaks create a tension that leads power to the next section
- Have most elements come in and repeat every 8 or 16 measures
- Have the breakdown around 50% in the track or more
- Have the climax after the breakdown or around %50-%60 into the song
- Create change and interest in your song by breaking with melodic changes or drum brakes
- Most pop songs are 3:30 and electronic songs can be any length.
- There is a difference between the dance floor and the bedroom. On the dance floor and during a live performance try taking out intros and increase the parts of the tracks with a steady beat to keep the audience’s attention.
There you go, that was a lot on building out your tracks composition and understanding the basic building blocks.
The subject of songwriting is vast. It’s easy for electronic musicians to get obsessed with sound design and mixing, but the songwriting is the number one thing that will make or break your song. There are hundreds of examples of badly mixed tracks that have been a hit, but there are few tracks where the composition was bad and it had staying power.
If you’re interested in learning more about songwriting and lighting fast workflow, then check out my course on Fast Songwriting with Ableton Live.