Capt'ns Guide to EDM Arrangement

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Capt'ns Guide to EDM Arrangement

Postby Captain Ironhelm » 23 Aug 2013 03:46

Do you ever struggle with getting your amazing 8 measures arranged into a full 6 minute track? Read on!

Be aware that I am not going to tell you how to write each section, but how to arrange your sections. I will also use some images for demonstration which are huge, but I need them big so don't freak out. They'll be in spoilers so the page size doesn't freak out. My terminology may not be standard, so don't freak out about that either.


This means the drum part of the song at the beginning that only exists to help the DJ mix.

This means the cooldown/rythmic part at the end of the song, similar to the intro, to help out the DJ mix.

The exposition is basically just you fleshing out your melody so your audience will be familiar with it before the song really gets crazy. Generally you won't really have your drums going at this point, kind of a calm before the storm. This is how you start your track if you don't have an Intro.

A buildup happens when things start getting more intense. It could be a more energized drum pattern, addition of instruments that make you feel like something is brewing/coming up soon, or whatever. Realise the difference between what I call a "buildup" and a "riser".

This is the part where you hear the drums getting more rapid, short repeated notes/samples, a rise in pitch in a synth, or whatever. Whatever it is, it quickly builds up a huge amount of tension right before the drop.

Should be obvious. It's the big main focus of the track. The pinnacle, the most exciting, the largest part.

This is the calm part in the middle of the track. Generally it doesn't have any drums. It's pretty chill and lasts as long as it possibly can before things start getting crazier.

What I mean by "rehash" is basically variation. Could be that the drum pattern is switched up, a new synth is added, or a new melody is introduced. Whatever it is, it's a variation on whatever type of section that it lies in, whether it's the intro, outro, exposition, buildup, riser, or drop. Between rehashes (and also arrangement sections) are great places to put your FX to help the transition, even if it's just a cymbal crash. (Also note that between sections are great places to put drum rolls.)

All EDM has basically the same structure. If you don't like it, get over it and conform.

- You start out with your intro. You may forgo this and start with your exposition. Intros generally last between 4 to 16 measures.

- Exposition. Flesh out the melody nicely for your audience before you go all crazy on them. Usually lasts about 4 to 8 measures.

- You then go to a buildup. Start making it sound like the song is going somewhere. Usually these last about 2 to 4 measures.

- Do a riser. This can be 1, 2, but generally not over 4 measures.

- Drop it hard. Drops are generally between 6 and 12 measures long. Every 2 to 4 measures, "rehash" or variate it.

- Move into your breakdown. Basically, you want it to last as long as you possibly can, but use common sense.

- Make a buildup happen. You don't want to sit in your breakdown forever, because that's boring.

- Riser again.

- Drop it again! This can often be shorter than your first drop, and might last only 8-10 measures, but whatever you feel like.

- Outro.

That's all there is to it!
There is certain amount of variation you can apply to this model, but it's effectively the same in any EDM song ever made. You can do multiple buildups/risers that build into more buildups/risers. You can even add buildups/risers into your intro. Sections can overlap and last as long as you please. Common sense is the key here as well.

Examples can be very enlightening. You can use someone else's arrangement if you please; there's no shame in that. "Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal" - Stravinsky.

I'll show you a couple of songs' arrangements. I know my labeling is not perfect, so don't freak out about it.

Spoiler images:
Elements of Life (Tiesto):

Pair of Dice (Tiesto):

Levels (Avicii):

Magic is Timeless (Archie):

Villo (Archie):

Leto (Archie):

Rainbow n Dash (Archie):

Flutterwonder (PinkiePieSwear):

Now We Are Free (Gladiator remix):

You may need to practice on how to make each section pleasing to listen to, but you should have good arrangement now if you follow this guide.
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Re: Capt'ns Guide to EDM Arrangement

Postby ExoBassTix » 23 Aug 2013 06:06

I can see this helping me a bunch.
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Re: Capt'ns Guide to EDM Arrangement

Postby vladnuke » 23 Aug 2013 09:10

or just be me and not do any of that and make shorter, faster pop tracks
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Re: Capt'ns Guide to EDM Arrangement

Postby simonli2575 » 23 Aug 2013 11:56

I've heard enough DnB tunes to know this basic formula, though it's the names that I don't know.

Thanks anyhow.
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Re: Capt'ns Guide to EDM Arrangement

Postby Mr. Bigglesworth » 26 Aug 2013 05:57

This is gonna make me look very stupid.

What on earth is a measure?
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Re: Capt'ns Guide to EDM Arrangement

Postby itroitnyah » 26 Aug 2013 06:49

It's the distance between the 2 and 3 on the piano roll.

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Re: Capt'ns Guide to EDM Arrangement

Postby Alycs » 26 Aug 2013 09:38

A measure is basically whatever is between any two thick bars you see in music (electronic or sheet)
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Re: Capt'ns Guide to EDM Arrangement

Postby Conchetupony » 26 Aug 2013 19:15

This formula doesn't just apply to EDM; it's a great way to keep just about any arrangement interesting.

I'll use a thrash metal classic, Slayer's "Raining Blood", because it's uncannily similar to the EDM structure Capt'n listed! See:

0:00 - Intro. It's not a part that "only exists to help the DJ mix" (thrash metal doesn't play often at clubs y'know) but an artistic decision; literally an introduction to the song, that is just as memorable as the rest of it. Play the same guitar chord over some storm SFX to your average metalhead and he'll tell go "hey, that's 'Raining Blood'".
0:33 - Exposition. The main riff is played, and nothing interferes with it.
0:45 - Buildup. The rest of the instruments kick in, but nothing crazy yet. It's about 16 measures long; something atypical.
1:06 - A short riser, with a sudden tempo change, leads us to...
1:09 - The "drop", the focus of the song: a crazy fast section where the whole crowd moshes like rabid animals in a damn huge circle pit. :3 First verse, with a new riff (rehash), also here.
1:40 - Breakdown, second verse, short reprise* of the main riff, more breakdown and third verse. It's arguably calmer than the mosh section. Many new melodies (rehashes) are introduced along this section.
2:49 - Another riser, leading us to...
2:53 - The final "drop" and outro: Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P.) go all bananas on their guitars and the crowd goes crazy as well.

*Reprising really memorable parts of your song is also very important!

Many popular metal songs follow the same formula: introducing memorable riffs with little other instrumentation, then blast everything loud, and introduce many new riffs, fast mosh sections and sluggy breakdowns, all leading to "drops", usually guitar solos or fast sections, until the song ends. Metallica's "Phantom Lord", Kreator's "Violent Revolution" - hell, Cannibal Corpse's "Make Them Suffer", alternating between blast beats, "regular" fast rock beats and short slow breakdowns.

And it's not just metal; check out "Play That Funky Music" - memorable guitar intro, and then a traditional verse/chorus structure (the chorus being analogue to the drop in this kind of structure, with pre-choruses usually serving as build-ups), "Billie Jean" - the bassline being the hook here, with the pre-chorus being calmer than the rest of the song. Don't feel like looking up more examples haha

Just thought I'd throw all this in here. c:
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Re: Capt'ns Guide to EDM Arrangement

Postby Captain Ironhelm » 27 Aug 2013 01:02

Neat-o! I'll have to actively listen to other genres as well to see similarities in structure.
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Re: Capt'ns Guide to EDM Arrangement

Postby JSynth » 27 Aug 2013 16:02

Mr. Bigglesworth wrote:This is gonna make me look very stupid.

What on earth is a measure?

Every couple of beats is a measure.
The number if beats per measure is determined by the time signature.
For example, if you are in 4/4 time, then every four beats is a measure.
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