Originally Posted by Tactical Otter
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.
Pachelbel's Canon in D. Possibly one of the top ten most famous "classical" pieces of music and it's also the MOST repetitive of the popularly known....and that's because it's a canon.
A canon was basically an early prototype of electronic dance music; where the reason it was repetitive was so that you could just have it play as many times as you want to keep going so the party can keep it going.
Yep, even though it was boring as hell to our minds, they were getting down with the canon beats back then yo!
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.
Not entirely accurate. Go to some place like Holland and they might give you a run for your money on this idea.
Also, traditional songs are repetitive, yes, but they are also incredibly short and regularly cut parts out to create diversity through texture. The same is true of electronic music, but electronic music is stretched out over a longer period of time...so you can dance to it. Because dancing for 3 to 4 minutes in 30 second groove increments is...not as fun.
That's why all this got started in the first place.
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.
The arrangement. It all comes down to the arrangement.
Also; the booty groove.
A lot of the early pioneers' music that you are listening to were folks with a background in R&B, Disco, and Funk in various flavors. They were focused mostly on one thing all the way back then: the bass.
That bassline was the lifeline of the entire song. If you couldn't groove to that bassline, then it didn't need to exist - many of those early folks have said.
There's also a bit of a bias here, though, to be honest.
You're looking back at the early stuff and thinking "This is better! Why?", well, because what YOU are getting is all of the cream that rose to the top.
You didn't get to hear the thousands of failures played at the Chicago Warehouse back in the day that were really, really, REALLY repetitive and only worked that one night because everyone was so damn high on lots of various drugs.
It's not like everyone was just jumping up and down to get a copy of EVERY track that a DJ spun - no; they wanted those select few that came along once in a while that blew the sweat off of the walls.
Also keep in mind how incredibly minimalist those tracks were back then compared to today.
Almost all of them were just a couple of items, and many were what we might call progressive - in that they started thin and kept the same thing going and just added more and more texture progressively - except that they would usually strip it back down at some point because...well...people needed to breath and chill out for a few moments before getting back to getting their freak on.
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?
I'm supposing you mean "character" or "the general air" of the music by "ambience".
No, don't avoid repetition. That's sorta kinda the backbone of dance music for as long as there has been dance music.
If you want to make non-repetitious electronic music, that's also very much fine - I do that A LOT!
However, you have to also be alright with far fewer people's butts wagging to it.
What are some ways to get away with repetition?
A really damn good groove.
Take for instance Credence Clear Water's Proud Mary.
It REALLY doesn't matter that this song has words; that fact would absolutely not save it all by itself.
It's rhythm is what saves that song, and that rhythm is comprised almost 90% of ONE NOTE.
And trust me; you can play that without any words and it still works.
It's all about that groove. You have to find that pocket and once you do; hammer it repeatedly (even heavy metal knows this...it's called "the riff").
How to find that pocket and make that groove?
No one has that answer; no one. Even the badasses who nail it over and over and over and have a seemingly endless supply of groove can't articulate how they exactly do it.
The best that anyone has been able to say is that it's more of a sensation than an academic sort of finding - an intangible asset.