What is repetitive in a good way?
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Old 11-30-2015, 07:38 PM   #1
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What is repetitive in a good way?

Something I've noticed over the past few years is how repetitive music can seem and how boring it can get when its the same few measures repeated for the majority of a song. With music that is focused on vocals, this isn't a huge issue because the singer talks about different things, makes changes in cadence and melody, stuff like that so the fact that there is little to no variation in the instrumental doesn't seem to matter that much to the ear. When I started listening to electronic music more and more I noticed how some songs can get so boring even after a couple minutes because they just keep rehashing the same idea over and over again. But then I would catch myself listening to music that I like from more of a technical perspective, often times some of the best, most listenable songs were actually really repetitive. Why is it so boring when one song has the same sounds over and over agin? But when this other song does it, its almost comforting not to mention hypnotic. A lot of older house, dubstep and techno seem to do this comforting repetitiveness very well. One can find it so reassuring to have a feeling for what the next part of the song will sound like, but still be engaged by the slight variations, additions or subtractions to the track without just getting bored and wanting to go on to the next one. I really love music that basically goes for a general vibe and strong atmosphere, so I've been trying to figure out what are some ways that producers make repetitiveness a way to build an ambience in their songs, verses those who use it as a way to be lazy. What are your guy's thoughts on this? Should we avoid repetitiveness at all costs? Or can we use it to create a meditative theme throughout a song, allowing for the listener's thoughts to almost be subconsciously incorporated into the music?

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Old 11-30-2015, 08:59 PM   #2
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

first of all; line breaks. holy shit, line breaks please. A solid block of text is fuckin hard to read yo.

as for the actual question; if any of us could really answer that I don't think we'd be nobodies on a music forum. And what one person thinks is boring another could find captivating. but clearly repetition and certain song structures are important for 'listenability' so if you want any degree of commercial success, don't stray too far from the formula.
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Old 11-30-2015, 09:18 PM   #3
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

I don't have an answer that I can really articulate at the moment. I do admire some people's incredible knack for making stuff that is really simple yet murderously effective.

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Old 11-30-2015, 11:23 PM   #4
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

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first of all; line breaks. holy shit, line breaks please. A solid block of text is fuckin hard to read yo.

as for the actual question; if any of us could really answer that I don't think we'd be nobodies on a music forum. And what one person thinks is boring another could find captivating. but clearly repetition and certain song structures are important for 'listenability' so if you want any degree of commercial success, don't stray too far from the formula.

What is the formula for listenable repetition?
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Old 11-30-2015, 11:28 PM   #5
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

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ravioli ravioli, give me the formuoli

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It sounds like two records playing at once .
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Old 11-30-2015, 11:33 PM   #6
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

Listen to Basic Channel

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Old 11-30-2015, 11:36 PM   #7
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

its a matter of taste on which level you are, but everyone likes the repetativeness in music, i feel.. somehow it make sense to me to play the song i like million times in my lifetime, and by all that time passing i hear different things in the song. also its happening with a song which is very repetative, its really amazing to get into the layers of the song because of the repetative nature of it
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Old 11-30-2015, 11:40 PM   #8
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

How'sabout you read my post again and actually process the words instead of skimming over it hoping to find what you want?

No? Ok fuck it, I'm feeling nice.

I didn't say I knew a formula, I said that repetition and certain familiar song structures are pretty much a necessity IF you're trying to make highly 'listenable' IE radio friendly poppy music. If you want to know what I mean, turn a fucking radio on.

If I knew a formula, I'd be in a big studio knocking out a bunch of shitty pop music right now instead of scraping online for a day job so i can avoid eviction and my car being repo'd.
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Old 11-30-2015, 11:49 PM   #9
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

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Originally Posted by f r View Post
its a matter of taste on which level you are, but everyone likes the repetativeness in music, i feel.. somehow it make sense to me to play the song i like million times in my lifetime, and by all that time passing i hear different things in the song. also its happening with a song which is very repetative, its really amazing to get into the layers of the song because of the repetative nature of it

That's a great point! When we can get accustomed to what sounds our ears readily pick up, then its a lot easier to hear more subtle elements layered in. I guess its like watching a movie 20 times, its not boring because we know whats going to happen, its interesting because we're seeing and understanding things we wouldn't have noticed with only a cursory view.
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Old 11-30-2015, 11:52 PM   #10
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

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How'sabout you read my post again and actually process the words instead of skimming over it hoping to find what you want?

No? Ok fuck it, I'm feeling nice.

I didn't say I knew a formula, I said that repetition and certain familiar song structures are pretty much a necessity IF you're trying to make highly 'listenable' IE radio friendly poppy music. If you want to know what I mean, turn a fucking radio on.

If I knew a formula, I'd be in a big studio knocking out a bunch of shitty pop music right now instead of scraping online for a day job so i can avoid eviction and my car being repo'd.

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. I hope your car doesn't get repossessed and you don't have to be evicted. I was only trying to talk, I didn't mean to insult your intelligence or degrade you in any way.
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Old 11-30-2015, 11:53 PM   #11
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

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Originally Posted by relic View Post
Listen to Basic Channel
Thank you for the suggestion, this guy (guys? girl? lol) are great!! Such thick atmosphere and really great melodic themes so far haha
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Old 11-30-2015, 11:58 PM   #12
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

I got a lot of stuff I like to listen to on occasion where little more than some effect modulation happens. I'm not always up to it, but sometimes it's right on point.

When I started out, one of the mistakes I made was to not repeat motifs long enough and it all sounded very disjointed. Now, when I have a groove I like, I keep it for at least 16 bars and then I may only add some variation in ear candy and keep it going. Freed from constraints of commercial viability I really have limited interest in being a crowd pleaser. As far as I can tell a lot of published music has little issue with repetition. And I don't care what's playing on the radio. It's mostly uninspiring, anyway. With a few exceptions.

Let me repeat myself
Let me repeat myself
Let me repeat myself

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Old 12-01-2015, 12:12 AM   #13
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

You didn't offend or degrade me. You just gave the impression that you didn't really read my post. Such an impression typically makes me assume someone is either not very bright or not actually interested in learning, just having their existing opinions reinforced or looking for an easy answer - in effect, degrading yourself.

We get a lot of people coming on here pretty much asking 'what is the secret to being famous' or some similar unanswerable question, so many of us don't put a lot of effort into being nice or helpful when it looks like that's the kind of person someone is.

Of course I'm just unpleasant to begin with. Don't let it get to you.
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Old 12-01-2015, 12:13 AM   #14
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

I think music itself is a careful balance between different frequencies of repetition and novelty.

So there's no easy answers.

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Old 12-01-2015, 12:43 AM   #15
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

Quote:
Originally Posted by oly View Post
You didn't offend or degrade me. You just gave the impression that you didn't really read my post. Such an impression typically makes me assume someone is either not very bright or not actually interested in learning, just having their existing opinions reinforced or looking for an easy answer - in effect, degrading yourself.

We get a lot of people coming on here pretty much asking 'what is the secret to being famous' or some similar unanswerable question, so many of us don't put a lot of effort into being nice or helpful when it looks like that's the kind of person someone is.

Of course I'm just unpleasant to begin with. Don't let it get to you.
Well thanks for clarifying, I'm glad it's not just something personal for some reason XD I'll try to keep from passing you off again in the future
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Old 12-01-2015, 12:46 AM   #16
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

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I got a lot of stuff I like to listen to on occasion where little more than some effect modulation happens. I'm not always up to it, but sometimes it's right on point.

When I started out, one of the mistakes I made was to not repeat motifs long enough and it all sounded very disjointed. Now, when I have a groove I like, I keep it for at least 16 bars and then I may only add some variation in ear candy and keep it going. Freed from constraints of commercial viability I really have limited interest in being a crowd pleaser. As far as I can tell a lot of published music has little issue with repetition. And I don't care what's playing on the radio. It's mostly uninspiring, anyway. With a few exceptions.

Let me repeat myself
Let me repeat myself
Let me repeat myself
Very true, it does seem like a lot of what keeps songs interesting are minor changes to the way it flows as a whole. One extra synth line can change the entire feel of a section without having to blatantly change the entire structure of the theme.
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Old 12-01-2015, 01:30 AM   #17
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

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I'll try to keep from passing you off again in the future
Don't, trying to avoid me being pissed is like trying to cut a 1000 year old redwood down with a broken plastic spoon.

If you wanna do something, just try to be more thoughtful and contemplative in your question asking process. But do it for you, because I'm doomed to be a dickhead regardless.
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Old 12-01-2015, 02:47 AM   #18
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

I think the key to interesting repetitive music is attention. What you're making the listener focus on.

Talking dance music here - e.g. techno / house etc. But may translate well to other styles?

If you have forever changing percussive parts (e.g. even a shaker part that never loops; but instead always tries something different) then it will grab your attention and you'll listen to it - and it'll probably be distracting, and possibly really shit house...

A ridiculous unvaried shaker may also sound too static; but the repetition is probably more likely to draw someone into the groove, and it's more likely to be taken for granted and placed back in the listeners mind and then into the "trance" of repetitive tunes.

Somewhere between never varying and always varying is a good place for most "repeating parts" imo. e.g. a bar or two. Small variations at key points to define the "greater loop" e.g. a little change at 8 bars; or 16 or 32... but then back into the repetitive trance.

So: Distract the listener from getting annoyed - how?

New sounds - a new ride cymbal layered on the hh; a new synth "donk".. etc.

Or maybe it's the background effects and swirls. Or anything really. But something needs to draw attention away from the monotonous side of things...

The point is: in highly repetitive music (e.g. "good techno"), you can be smashing away on the groove - the really repetitive stuff - but listening to that slowly evolving repetitive synth sound - even as simple as slowly raising the cutoff and increasing delays and reverbs on a single sound can draw attention to it; and it becomes the point of focus.

Similar approach to many type of sounds - drums / musical - will do the trick. Slowly increased a decay envelope on a ride cymbal; or dec/rel on a tight clicky synth sound turning it into a ringing sustained sound over many bars... Too many things changing at once and you can loose that repetitive trance effect though.

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I don't always write heavily repetitive tunes like this; but they can be really captivating. I'm actually working on one at the moment, and so this seems quite on topic

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Old 12-01-2015, 08:30 AM   #19
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

“The music is not in the notes,
but in the silence between.”
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Old 12-01-2015, 09:10 AM   #20
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Re: What is repetitive in a good way?

There are at least three clear purposes for repetition in music:

* Repetition is crucial for a listener to parse complex or interesting ideas fully. Composers use it as a kind of rhetorical device - like a speech writer. How much you repeat verbatim or carefully alter depends on the context.

* Repetition also has what theorists call physiologically mimetic qualities - a repetitive, driving beat is reminiscent of various physical activities. That has something to do with why it's important in dance music.

* Less prominent than the above two reasons, repetition can be used to create a sense of stasis. "In the moment" or "trance-like" music often relies on highly repetitive small sections - think of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, or Techno.

In opposition to this is the fact that too much repetition leaves a listener with too much fulfilled expectation, and the music becomes boring (incidentally this doesn't just happen inside a single tune, but also when whole formulas are repeated in different tunes, which is why pop can be boring).

So, in short, it's a matter of balance and context.

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