Arranging a Song
Any creative artist has good and bad days for their work, however at the time of production, a low standard may be hard to spot. After a few days, fesh ears and mind will be better to judge if the vibe is good.
When creating a new tune, start by creating the main part of the song, (the drop) using an 8 or 16 bar loop, using the core components of the song, Drums, Bass, Lead. Compose a second part, different but not too removed from the main part of the song. Don’t worry about the intro, breakdown or outro at this stage. The intro is just a light version of the drop with the hook or main synth removed. The breakdown is usually the introduction of the hook or synth without the drums.
Your initial perception of a tune is altered as soon as it is created so take a break from that particular song for a few days. After a break re load the tune and if the vibe is good, continue working on the song to completion; add more detail, e.g. pads and Synths (Chapter 8), sound effects (Chapter 11) and production techniques (Chapter 13). If not, consign it to the bin, and make a fresh song. Adding details and intelligent arrangement will never fix the fundamental issue of “lack of vibe”
Arrangement Categories and Arrangement Block Types.
When arranging a song, it is necessary to understand the different Arrangement Categories and their particular function, see the chart below. Each Arrangement Category is distinctive, does not overlap and fore fills a particular function for both the DJ and dancer.
A lot of songs go straight from the Intro to a Drop with a minimal build up. The only rule to arranging is so ensure that the song can be mixed by a DJ.
Block Types (single)
Example of Arrangement Block Types in a Breakbeat Tune
Block Type Variation
To sustain interest for the listener, it is necessary for a producer to exhibit subtle variations in the Arrangement Block types, and dramatic variation from one Arrangement Category to the next.
As an example, the following 32 bar Intro contains a new variation of “Arrangement Block Type” every 8 bars.
8 bars of drums and Bass, then
8 bars of drums, Bass and Synth, then
8 bars of drums, Bass and vocals, then
8 bars of drums and vocals.
the Sequence of Arrangement Block Types
Intro = 1/8th closed hat
Build up = Snare roll
Main 1 = Main drums and Bass
Variation 1 = Main drums and Bass and Synth
Breakdown = 1/8th closed hat
Main 2 = Main drums and Bass and vocals
Variation 2 = Main drums and Bass, vocals and Synth
Outro = 1/8th closed hat
Fig 1: Each unit below represent 4 bars in the song (or 15 seconds).
Key Elements to an Arrangement.
1) The song can be mixed in easily by a DJ.
2) There are not too many breakdowns, either 1 or 2 per song is enough.
3) The song can be mixed out easily by a DJ.
Keep the arrangement simple enough for a DJ to mix in and out of the tune. If you want to demonstrate cutting edge rhythms and irregular Synth effects, utilise the breakdown when dancers stop dancing and take a break (unless their particular state of mind prevents them from noticing that the beat has stopped). As long as the main part of the song contains a familiar and regular rhythmic sequence, the dancers won’t mind a complete contrast in musical elements for the breakdown.
An important consideration is that only a few song Arrangement templates provide a DJ friendly track. If the DJ can’t mix your song because of a contemporary and irregular arrangement, it might fore fill the function of a film score, but fail for the purpose of a dance track.
For more examples of Song Arrangement, see Appendix 5.
DJ Friendly Cue Points
Any percussive element at the beginning of a song will help a (Vinyl) DJ mix in a tune straight from the start.
It is important to add DJ Friendly Cue Points in a variety of places within the track. An obvious example to demonstrate is by adding the vocals, “3, 2, 1, go” just before bar 13. An example or non DJ Friendly arrangement is 4 bars of Strings and no percussion which jump suddenly into the main part of the song. An experienced DJ will be able to cue off from the Snare but this only gives them a fraction of a second to react.
Motifs can be used symbolically to communicate arrangement, e.g. the clichéd 16ths Snare build up before the main part of the song.
e.g. FX - swoosh up or down to signify a new 16 bars.