Structure: conventional, or not?
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Music Theory & Composition Questions & comments about composition, arrangement, and music theory. Music rules and how to follow or break them.

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Old 02-12-2012, 09:42 PM   #1
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Structure: conventional, or not?

Hey,


Would like to hear from any of you about your approach to composition / structure. I had previously wrote house material without any sort of worry about sticking to any dance music conventions. People would describe it as weirdly structured. Perhaps as if there wasn't a good use of tension and release.

I then shadowed a lot of commercial material, with the almost entirely opposite feedback: too conventional, boarder lining on predictable.

Do any of you out there have any tips on how to go about structure? Where do you start? Do you just aim to tell a story from the symbology of the sounds themselves?

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Old 03-12-2012, 07:05 PM   #2
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

Try to have the most abstract way of describing what you want to do:

Say for example:

A very dense section, then a very sparse section

Then start generating sounds and tracks, once you feel you have enough start assembling them together into a song according to the schematic you laid before.

Once it's assembled listen to it a few time and try to size where you think it's not right for you, and readjust by adding/editing out stuff.

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Old 03-12-2012, 07:32 PM   #3
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

Yeah, that's kind of already how I work: I develop loops, and then work sections based on contrasts: with or without, type of thing.

It's just that sometimes I don't think I'm able to deliver that sort of payoff in the chorus sections.
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Old 03-12-2012, 09:54 PM   #4
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

I agree, chorus are more tricky, regardless of the genre,

In conventional form a verse can simply be anything as long as it builds tension for the chorus to release...


In unconventionnal forms...well...it's unconventional so there's always place argue about what is what and when...so let's not get there lol

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Old 04-12-2012, 03:26 AM   #5
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

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I agree, chorus are more tricky, regardless of the genre,

In conventional form a verse can simply be anything as long as it builds tension for the chorus to release...
Exactly! And usually you can manipulate the production to indicate that something's coming... Potentially a payoff! But really nailing that bitch to the wall is a slippy one.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:53 PM   #6
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

I write almost everything I do in a narrative style with one notable exception. Bear with me guys this is metal....

Narrative (no apparent structure but comes back to most of the parts- not written with any verse/chorus structure)

Made in the verse/chorus structure everyone knows:


So I would say that an "anything goes" type approach, in the context of the song being made, is probably best. Some people like simple, some like complexity. Do what makes you happy and is coherent to you.
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Old 06-12-2012, 11:11 AM   #7
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

I get so bored with the traditional ABABCBAB format or variations of it. I compose each piece to work on it's own but also within the context of the album it is on. Do whatever you feel is right for the track.

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Old 07-12-2012, 03:01 AM   #8
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Numerical View Post
I write almost everything I do in a narrative style with one notable exception. Bear with me guys this is metal....

Narrative (no apparent structure but comes back to most of the parts- not written with any verse/chorus structure)
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Made in the verse/chorus structure everyone knows:

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So I would say that an "anything goes" type approach, in the context of the song being made, is probably best. Some people like simple, some like complexity. Do what makes you happy and is coherent to you.
Thanks for posting up the tracks. Although I was gritting my teeth at the genre. Quality production, though.

I've been told to do what makes me happy, but the slightest bit of mixing fatigue and I can quite easily fall the victim of the ol' copy and paste
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Old 07-12-2012, 03:07 AM   #9
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emperor Bear View Post
I get so bored with the traditional ABABCBAB format or variations of it. I compose each piece to work on it's own but also within the context of the album it is on. Do whatever you feel is right for the track.
I've really got to remind myself of this during the production... I just get too carried about with the minor details, and overlook the overall feel of the sound.

I have been developing some sounds for a project, and put together an arrangement last night on Ableton. It's only a first draft, and the sections weren't properly weaved... But you can clearly hear the obvious discordant sections.

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Old 07-12-2012, 03:09 AM   #10
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

How do you actually put up the soundcloud widget properly, so it's not just the code? Also, I've seen that you can also attach the same widget as a sort of footing to each messages...
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Old 16-12-2012, 08:32 AM   #11
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

Falling into formulas is too easy sometimes, but there are some tricks to avoid that pitfall or seize others' expectations in a frenzy of creativity.

Firstly, I would recommend mixing your music production with some live pa work especially if your primary method is midi. With midi it is sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees and some ad lib music production would benefit you greatly.

I find that playing these two style provides me with a different set of skills: 1) with midid you learn a lot about finding a listenable structure; whereas 2) with live pa (sequencers, grooveboxes and keys) you gain some experimental stylistics for ad lib production.

Secondly, I would recommend trying different genres. There are a ton out there; surprise yourself, do something you would never do. If you don't know where to turn, try looking on youtube, last.fm or use whatever other means you have; listen to and have patience for a huge variety of music

And thirdly, even predictable, generic music sounds good if it is produced well and the sounds/ tracks are produced well. You can turn a generic song into a masterpiece if you have the time and patience, and any true love of music could be engaged by the song.

To illustrate the last point, take a look at these two versions of the same song I wrote, if you'd like.

The first draft was written in 2 weeks; I realized that the song needed work, but I needed a moment to collect myself and set my course of action. The second is the final version which I completed 2 weeks after the 1st version. The song took a total of 20 hours or so of time to produce, but some and most songs (for me) take that long. Patience and spotty motivation synergized to get this song to my personal standards.

If you don't have an interest in comparative listening, check out the second. If my words were enough to convey the point, I hope they helped. Otherwise, check out what I did below.

Rough draft: third third is "unfinished" and the song lacks something. At the time, I didn't know what to do with the mix. I listened to it every other day several times and took notes on my thoughts concerning production
soundcloud dot com/hakuin/stract

Final version:
youtube dot com/watch?v=vwn55RjEevU
This version has some drastic changes which include a new addition of a high frequency drum part (cymbals) in the third third and a lot of distortion on a drum part added midway through. This was enough to carry the song to completion. I had to put this on yt, because I couldn't share it as a private link on soundcloud without followers to whom I could share it. it has to remain a "private" link until the release date of the compilation on 12/18/12. Excuse the low quality fractal video; i need ram to render high quality; this took 2 days to render.

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Old 17-12-2012, 03:22 AM   #12
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

[quote=AbM;1011176]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hakuin View Post
Falling into formulas is too easy sometimes, but there are some tricks to avoid that pitfall or seize others' expectations in a frenzy of creativity.

Firstly, I would recommend mixing your music production with some live pa work especially if your primary method is midi. With midi it is sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees and some ad lib music production would benefit you greatly.
I'm really not sure I understand what you mean by PA? Do you mean an analogue desk? I use softsynths / field recordings / ukulele. Produced through either Logic / Ableton. Also, I've tried several genres: UK Garage, D'n'B, House, etc. I've just been a little transparent with my structures, especially with Logic's linear arrangement. Ableton has helped ease that slightly.

As you said, though, even the most generic composition can be a masterpiece, which is just difficult to appreciate when you're producing music; you just sit there and thing that the section changes are too obvious, but not everyone hears the finer details like you do. Maybe I just lack the ability to take a step back...

I quite like the distortion on the kick. Can't really hear the production very well, though, as i'm monitoring through my laptop speakers! Like the distortion on the kick. Sounds like something you'd get on a game. Maybe a little too aggressive for gaming, but it has that texture.
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Old 22-12-2012, 12:28 AM   #13
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

First rule of music (for me): Make the music that you want to make.

Now when it comes to dj's playing tracks, there are definitely things that are expected. Depending on what you want to do you can either jump on that wagon or not. There's usually things like lead in for the dj to mix, a short break where its easy for them to cut over, or whatever. I suppose it depends on the dj too, but you can learn alot just by pulling apart other folks songs. Count the length of the sections, note where the drops are, and so on. I've started doing this for chillout tracks on my blog in efforts to get more structural ideas.

When it comes to what I think makes good structure, well it depends on what I'm going for. Tension and release is something I try to do when i'm working with EDM, at the same time - it doesn't *have* to be that way. I find that when people do things out of the norm, its the way they execute it that makes the difference. Its how you end up with tracks in weird time signatures that no one on the dance floor seems to notice.

So, by all means, experiment, but its also good to know what's the 'norm' for the genres you are interested in as well.

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Old 22-12-2012, 02:03 AM   #14
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

I structure how i want, if people don't like it, they don't have to listen.

I don't like my music sounding like a loop that replays every 8 bars...but thats just me.

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Old 22-12-2012, 01:52 PM   #15
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by vt100 View Post
First rule of music (for me):

When it comes to what I think makes good structure, well it depends on what I'm going for. Tension and release is something I try to do when i'm working with EDM, at the same time - it doesn't *have* to be that way. I find that when people do things out of the norm, its the way they execute it that makes the difference. Its how you end up with tracks in weird time signatures that no one on the dance floor seems to notice.
Yeah, there's this Disclosure track in 12/8 and I never even realized; just became engrossed in the groove of it. It's something I've never ventured in to, and something I wouldn't even know how to execute. I've just remained in the quarters of 4/4 and disguised the simplicity with groove, sonic texture, and sectional threadwork to disguise the quite obvious change to chorus. Any tips on how to get in to counting in 6/8 / 12/8, or anything like that? All my EDM have live acoustic instruments which I record in, so I'd really need to get my head around the timing in my mind.
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Old 22-12-2012, 01:55 PM   #16
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Re: Structure: conventional, or not?

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Originally Posted by Paggos View Post
I structure how i want, if people don't like it, they don't have to listen.

I don't like my music sounding like a loop that replays every 8 bars...but thats just me.
That's completely understandable! It's even quite annoying sometimes when you're making a track and it's a copy and paste of the previous chorus, but with more involvement with width, or height - the beefing out. However, people like that predictability in a record. If everyone structured things how 'they want' perhaps we wouldn't have any genres...

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