#1February 3rd, 2009 · 10:13 AM
4 threads
3 posts
United States of America
What Song Structure do you use in dance music? Need help!
Hello,

Sorry if this gets a little tedious or in the right section. I am little bit above a beginner when it comes to electronic music production. I use FL Studio as my DAW and I am trying to make dance music...Trance being one of them. I have done many kinds of research and study, but I still need clarification on a few things.

I have found tutorials, example project files and listened to other producers music to try to see how they do it and I understand to a point, but when I try to compare the structure that they did to what info I found, I get confused.

From the research that I did, I understand that even though their are structures out there, it is up to you on how you want the song to go, but for beginners I feel that a structure is a good thing until you learn the trade.

Example of a few structures I found.

1. Intro, First Body, Drop/Break, 2nd Body, 2nd Drop/Break, The Reprise, Main Body. Outro
2. Intro, Break, Motif and Build, Central Break and Build, Plateau and Build, Build to Climax, Theme and Climax,
Comedown, Outro

The intro, breaks and outros I understand, but it is the other parts of the structures I need some clarification. Here is one thing. Do you normally stick with a 16 bar intro? can you do an 8 bar?

So here is the questions...Do you follow anything like these structures? Could any one explain a little further on what a climax is? Body is? Reprise? Main Body? Do you guys follow a 8 bar, 16 bar etc rule when it comes down to arranging your song parts? Is it wrong to do a 4 bar?

Can you explain further what is a Motif? Riff? Lead? Do you make your Melody first? If so, do you make the melody in 8 bars? Is it wrong to have a 4 bar melody?

I have noticed especially in trance that there is about one main melody a producer comes up with in the song and they change synths, as well as arp, gate, stutter and pad the main melody they come up with to get variety. I have noticed other types as well, but is it wrong to have different melodies in one song?

Ok, I will leave it at this for now. Thank you very much for reading and any help you can give.
#2February 3rd, 2009 · 05:09 PM
173 threads / 46 songs
1,913 posts
Canada
I know nothing about dance music...but I think everything applies for all music. It isn't wrong to do ANY type of bar! You do it the way you want. Nothing is set in stone. I know this may be annoying for beginners, but you just have to create peicees that flow well together, and just ad-lib on the parts, keeping you and the listeners on the edge!

Just create something that feels right to you.
#3February 4th, 2009 · 12:51 AM
4 threads
3 posts
United States of America
Thank you for your advice. Will do. Have a great one.
#4February 4th, 2009 · 01:14 AM
102 threads / 59 songs
204 posts
Canada
I too don't know much of dance music, but within the realm of composition I may be able to give some guidance.

Typically a composition is written as a melody (even writers who begin with chords often have a melody in mind at the time) which is then expanded on using some form of counterpoint, harmony, chaos, etc. for which different theories apply depending on the style.

As far as dance and trance music goes I'm not much of an expert (or novice) but to begin with you would probably want to build a motif. A motif (to quote wikipedia) is "a perceivable or salient recurring fragment or succession of notes that may be used to construct the entirety or parts of complete melodies and themes". In other words, some catchy piece of a melody off of which you might build a deeper melody. Essentially a riff.

You're motif should be something that people will want to listen to again and again and again so keep it simple because you're probably going to voice a lot of different chord over it, but make sure it's interesting. A good number of dance music is based around recognizable riffs and motifs from popular songs because these ones already worked.
From there it's pretty open.
You can vary you're motif (change keys, modulate, ornament it, etc.) or use it as a jumping off point to build a completely different melody or an entirely knew motif.
Generally compositions work with A and B sections in patterns (or more than 2 sections for that matter). Common compositions go something like ABA or AA'BA or ABAB'A (where the ' denotes a similar section but with one or two small differences). Sections generally end with perfect cadences (a chord progression from the fifth (in G major thats D) to the tonic (in G that's G) where the fifth occurs at the end of one measure and the tonic at the beginning of another. There's a lot to explain about how to write typical sections, learn about cadences if you don't already know.

Consider Turkish March by Mozart. The song pretty much alternates between an 2 16 bar (or so) sections A and B which alternate for the first 50 seconds or so (I'm listening to it I don't have the music so you'll have to cut me some slack but it's a very formulaic composition and a lot of the theory can be applied to dance music). There's variations, not every A section or B section are identical but they're all the same number of bars and the piece contains a very memorable motif (that little beginning ditty), a lot of this makes it a good composition.

A lead voice is the one that carries the melody. It's usually the highest voice (the soprano) but can really be any voice (meaning instrument, actual voice, whatever). For the most part dance music comes in common time (4/4) though you could do things in compound time signatures (6/8, 9/8, 12/8) but these are going to be harder to dance to. As well tempo is a reasonable concern. I heard from a friend recently that most dance music is written in some tempo that's supposed to match the average frequency of a person hopping (since we all rise and fall at roughly the same rate). But that's a very good consideration for how long your bars should last. If clapping in time matches the rate at which you'd hop, you'll have a song people can bounce to. As for the motif being 4 bars, it can be any length (preferably some number of bars that divides evenly into your time signature (top number)). 4 is a bit short and you might want to extend it to 8, 12, or 16 but if it works it works.

A simple structure might be:

A B A' A x 2
A B C A
A B A' A (or whatever you want)

I'm writing a lot because you've asked a very vague question to which there are volumes of answers. I'm a big advocate of theory and while TheKunadiun does have a point, flowing well together is something that can be better explained through good theory. Just remember if it doesn't sound good it doesn't matter how many sections it has or how "right" it is. Hope this helps.
#5February 4th, 2009 · 02:19 PM
369 threads / 187 songs
3,322 posts
United Kingdom
The great thing about creating music is you can pretty dam well do what you like. so long as it sounds good.

If you try and copy other songwriters, you'll just be like everyone else.

Keep the structure simple at first.

Intro
Verse
Chorus bridge
Outro

The verses,bridge and Chorus can be in any order for however many times it requires.

Everyone gets inspiration from different things. With me it starts by say a rif or a chord progression

Once I have that I just simply build on it and let my instincts do the rest.

The secret is for the song/music to flow, all I do is just simply listen to my ideas until I find something that fits.

So in conclusion yes the structure is important, but not as much as the music

This is only my point of view, it works for me, I create lots of music this way.

Cheers

Denis


Look forward to hearing some music from you, that's the best way to critique your ideas
#6February 5th, 2009 · 04:11 PM
89 posts
Canada
I have to agree with some of the other comments above, there is no definitive structure - unless you want there to be!  That's the key, don't hesitate to be conventional just have a purpose to it - use conventional segments interlaced with unconventional to create a juxtoposition between two melodies for example.  You can capture an audience easily with conventional, then take them somewgere they weren't expecting:  that's where all the different forms of dance music came from anyway, someone wanting something a little (or a lot) different.  It used to be ALL 2unlimited and marky mark and the funky bunch lol.  Now we have house, breakbeat, trance, and so forth - though I still miss marky mark lol. Good luck, make sure you post so we can all have a listen!
#7February 9th, 2009 · 04:13 PM
4 threads
3 posts
United States of America
Hey everyone,

Thank you all again for your advice. Helped. I will start off with DTF. Thank you DTF. I am very thankful for your time and help.

DTF wrote…
As far as dance and trance music goes I'm not much of an expert (or novice) but to begin with you would probably want to build a motif. A motif (to quote wikipedia) is "a perceivable or salient recurring fragment or succession of notes that may be used to construct the entirety or parts of complete melodies and themes". In other words, some catchy piece of a melody off of which you might build a deeper melody. Essentially a riff.


When it comes to Motif's and Riff's I am a little confused. I am getting the concept of a motif, can you explain further on a riff. How is it different to a motif? Somebody mentioned that a riff is a slang word for a melody.


DTF wrote…
Generally compositions work with A and B sections in patterns (or more than 2 sections for that matter). Common compositions go something like ABA or AA'BA or ABAB'A

Can you explain further what A and B sections mean? Also waht ABA or AA'BA etc, or where I can find info on learning about that.

Thank you again

Jeff
#8February 9th, 2009 · 04:17 PM
4 threads
3 posts
United States of America
Hey Denis,

Thank you for your time and great advice.


Denis wrote…
The great thing about creating music is you can pretty dam well do what you like. so long as it sounds good.

If you try and copy other songwriters, you'll just be like everyone else.

Keep the structure simple at first.

Intro
Verse
Chorus bridge
Outro

The verses,bridge and Chorus can be in any order for however many times it requires.

Where can I get info on learning more about verse chorus verse structures.

Thank you

Jeff
#9February 9th, 2009 · 04:18 PM
4 threads
3 posts
United States of America
12InSilver wrote…
I have to agree with some of the other comments above, there is no definitive structure - unless you want there to be!  That's the key, don't hesitate to be conventional just have a purpose to it - use conventional segments interlaced with unconventional to create a juxtoposition between two melodies for example.  You can capture an audience easily with conventional, then take them somewgere they weren't expecting:  that's where all the different forms of dance music came from anyway, someone wanting something a little (or a lot) different.  It used to be ALL 2unlimited and marky mark and the funky bunch lol.  Now we have house, breakbeat, trance, and so forth - though I still miss marky mark lol. Good luck, make sure you post so we can all have a listen!

Thank you 12inSilver....Well said. Nothing at this point to ask.
#10February 22nd, 2009 · 07:34 PM
102 threads / 59 songs
204 posts
Canada
In terms of composition I've only learnt a little bit about sections. To really understand what makes a melody a section you need to understand cadences.

Cadences are to melodies as periods and commas are to sentences. A melodic line is usually grouped into lines (usually 4 measures or so) called phrases, on some scores phrases will be marked by a slur going over the whole melodic line. I'm a little unclear on what exactly a phrase is but my current understanding is to think of it like a short melody line you might hum to yourself. For the most part you can do whatever you want but in general a phrase will start on the root 4th or 5th scale degree and usually end on the root, third, or fifth so that some sort of cadence could be voiced overtop. I'll keep with my example of Mozart's Turkish March. Phrases often come as a question and then an answer which you can hear quite clearly in the first 10 seconds of this piece. The first 8 measures mark a motif which we will hear developed and changed throughout the composition. The first 4 measures (there's a short pause at the end of the 4th measure) is the question which is usually marked with a half cadence (something then-V), think of it like a comma or a question mark. And then the next 4 measures (again ending with a short pause) end with a perfect cadence (V-I). (The roman numerals represent the chords we're using from I (tonic, let's say C) to vii (leading tone Bdim in C major). The perfect cadence acts as a period and that short pause helps to develop a feeling of completeness. The song isn't over but if it ended here we could tolerate it and not beg for resolution. The next 8 bars work pretty much the same way. 4 bar question and 4 bar response. These 16 bars together will form a section, let's call it A. In Turkish March this section gets repeated and then we move on to something different. Another section.

Dividing our sections like this the first minute or so of Turkish March looks something like AABA. Note that each A section is not identical, the melody and the harmonies may change but for the most part the chord progression will be the same for each section. I don't have a copy of the music so it's a bit difficult for me to get a full analysis but the basic idea is this. You want to create a comfortable, pleasing A section with which to begin and likely end your piece. For the most part this consists of developing a chord progression over let's say 8 bars. You're first chord will be I and the last chord of the 4th and 8th measures should be V and I respectively (this serves to create tension between your phrases and allow for better flow, even if this is all new to you look at any chord progressions you've written and I'd bet that most times you use the V chord it either goes to I, IV, or vi). You're A section should contain a melody that will serve as your motif. You're B section should contrast your A section to keep the music interesting. Just like the A section it could be a 4 bar question and 4 bar answer starting on I and ending every 4th measure on V or I. Your B section should use different chords than your A section. From there the basic structure of your song could be something like AA'BA (where A' is the same chords as A but with some differences).

That's pretty much what I've been taught about sectioning and composition. Though it's not absolutely necessary it helps to have some background in harmony before tackling this sort of stuff but if you have any specific questions you can PM me and I can try and help. If you're really interested in this sort of stuff any book on composition and musical form should cover this. Here's a wikipedia article on it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_form. Don't think that this all exists to trump your creativity. Theory is there to give you an understanding of the things you're probably doing anyways and not really noticing. It helps a lot in terms of breaking you out of writing the same 3 chords.

Hope this all helps and doesn't just make things more confusing. It's hard to explain things with only a mediocre understanding myself and no music to actually show you but if you haven't already, listen to Turkish March and try and get a feel for what I mean when I talk about sections. Good luck.
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