6 Arrangement Tips: How to make Tracks not Loops
Some inspiration to get started
Unfortunately we have to bypass the assumption, this might be something that can be learned over night - because honestly there is no right or wrong.
As the concept of sidechaining is rather easy to understand, arranging music has at least two different dimensions - horizontal and vertical. You need to span your ideas, loops and sketches over a certain period of time (horizontal) and stack the right instruments and sounds on top of each other (vertical) to achieve the concept of a song.
But these endless possible combinations! And it could have turned out completely different! Yes - and that spot is where all the magic happens. This is the fear that does not let you get into the rollercoaster - you might be scared, but at the same it could give you the chills, the good chills.
Tip 1: All faders down!
Before taking your loop, copying it 20 times and start to deactivate random clips and samples, start with your project as it is and put ALL faders down.
With this technique you force yourself to start arranging, by substracting everything and slowly adding clip after clip or track after track in different combinations - maybe you start with the hihat loop and then let the synth simmer and gradually increase in volume until kick and bass enter, to bring all four to the floor, where the plucks are bedded in a cozy blanket of radiating pads.
Tip 2: Prioritize
The first ideas you recorded are not necessarily the clips or tracks you should start with! Try to identify the “carriers” of your song - which motif, melody or sound does hold the whole song together? Use that to build tension by adding it and leaving it out - if one sound or melody gets played on the full length of the song, it will tend to get boring and monotonous. Unless that is what you are going for.
Tip 3: Make it mixable
If you are producing a house or techno track, start with something rhythmic or in the best case with drums. That way your song can be put into a DJ-mix a lot easier.
Tip 4: Create dynamic
Mute the kick after a full blown drop or filter the bass for more tension in a build up. Try to see the final wave form already in front of you while you are composing and paint in some ditches and peaks. Detract very prominent instruments for a C-part.
Tip 5: Practice
Unearth all your old “2 bar loops” and lay them out to arrange a full song. You might not be that emotionally attached to the old ideas, so you can learn substracting and letting go of unnecessary parts or sounds.
Tip 6: Spread your ideas
You used tip 1 and still love every part, every sound and every piece of melody? Great! But maybe try putting them in 2 or 3 different songs - unless you are composing an opera of course!
Try one or more of the abovementioned tips and tricks to overcome the status of “being stuck in a loop” and start creating songs.
But most importantly: don´t wait for an epiphany or a strike of genius - just get started! You will learn everything else while you are at it!
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