Developing a song is more than just the pieces placed together. It’s about getting your timing and flowing in and out to create 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.
UPDATE: Check out the new video and tutorial for song structure in Ableton live with free download.
The parts that make a song
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 an 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 sometime 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.
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 screams and is classic Dubstep.
It is a fairly simple arrangement starting with intro, repeating 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.
Video below goes over more ideas and concepts with Song Arrangement:
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
- Has the climax after the breakdown or around %50-%60 into the song
- Create change and interest in your song by breaking it up a little with melodic changes or drum brakes
- Most pop songs are 3:30 and electronic songs can be any length, but to keep a really tight song that keeps interest try and keep it on the shorter side.
- There is a difference between the dance floor and the bedroom. On the dance floor and live take out mostly intros and have songs last around 5-8 minutes to keep the beat and audience’s attention. The bedroom is much more fluid and shorter attention span.
To check out more on Arrangement and get a free pack of the basic structures of a track check out the new article: Quick and Easy Composition Tricks