As an artist, can you relate to this? You open your DAW and you begin writing. You truly come up with the best idea you’ve ever written. Eventually, you finish the song and it ends up being mediocre. It doesn’t do the original idea any justice. Huh?
Where did things go wrong? How can you have such a great idea, yet the song ends up being boring?
Welcome to the chat, Arrangement.
Song ideas are similar to movie plots. A movie can have the greatest storyline, but how the director chooses to explain it over a 2-hour film is going to determine everything. For you, it’s telling a story in the form of your song structure and arrangement.
Here are 5 arrangement tips that should help you get the most out of your great song ideas:
The most important of the five! Music can be thought of as the change of sound, over time. If your songs don't evolve and change, you're going to have a hard time keeping the listeners attention. Very few people enjoy listening to the same loop, on repeat for 5-minutes. Some easy ways to create change include: automating parameters over time (filters, fx, etc), and by adding / removing instruments throughout the arrangement.
Similar to change, you also need to think about dynamics in your arrangement. If things are going to get loud and heavy, make sure you also have sections which are quiet and soft. No listener can headbang for 5-minutes straight!
A large portion of electronic dance music relies on energy to keep the crowd going. Utilizing change + dynamics can help you achieve these energetic moments in your song. Keep in mind, your energetic elements and sections of the song need to stand out! If your kick and bass are the driving forces of your track, they need to be loud and upfront! Also consider contrast and dynamics as other tools to create energy. Those dynamic differences can create energy shifts in your arrangement.
4. Tension and Release
Tension is an extremely important part of songwriting and storytelling. Your song ideas can benefit from a structure that creates tension and release. For example, creating a high energy drop requires an enormous amount of tension in the build-up section before it. The drop becomes the eventual “release” of all the tension from the build-up. It’s the resolution to a previous conflict.
Your song should tell a story. Think of a movie with its ups & downs. The good times, and the bad. In the end however, they all tie together and the story makes sense. Your song should do the same. You can even factor this into your writing. It helps to have distinguished sections of writing that speak to one another. An example would be “verse vs chorus.” For dance music it’s, “break vs drop.” You can then think of how each of those individual sections will evolve. How do they change from drop #1 to drop #2? Storylines develop, as should your songs!