Re: 3 Ways to turn 8 bars into 16 and Keep People Listening
If you’re allergic to music theory, or find it difficult to understand, bear with me for a second. You don’t need to understand theory to understand the fundamental point here, but I’d be remiss not to try to explain it.
You are probably familiar with the concept of musical keys or scales. These are a grouping of notes that create a particular emotion when utilized.
For instance, you must know a song in C Major. C Major is the “happiest” key of them all. The notes within the C Major scale lend themselves to chords which create what we perceive as an emotionally happy sound.
If C Minor is used we will find that the song comes off darker. A little bit more bitter. Sadder. This is the power of different keys.
When moving into another section, consider changing your chord progression, your key, or both.
For example, let’s take an 8 bar loop I made for this article.
The loop has the following chord progression:
If I want to make extend this 8 bar loop, I can simply adjust the chord progression which changes the harmony.
So from the above I can now play something like:
Take a listen to hear this change.
Clearly, it sounds like the track has “gone somewhere.” I’ve succeeded in extending my 8 bar loop to 16 bars. I even added a little melody pattern change in the second half where the notes dip downward. And yes, I edited the melody notes to fit within each new chord.
One note of warning: Music is inherently about repetition, so changing harmony too much can make your music sound wandering and unfocused. This is why I’ve kept the initial two chords of each pattern the same. This connects them.
With that word of warning, what else can you do?
How else can you adjust things in order to create a meaningful new section?
How can you keep a listener listening?
Energy is my absolute favorite thing to focus on when switching things up within a track.
I’ll be honest. While harmony changes are important, musicians tend to overdo them.
Ridiculous key changes and chord progressions are often technically interesting but most audiences really don’t understand what is going on when that happens.
In my experience, harmony adjustments should be smart and few. You don’t need a lot to make change. Playing an entirely different chord is a single large “brush-stroke” adjustment.
Fortunately, there’s a more granular option that you can apply within a track.
This option is Energy.
Music is an art about time. No single instance of audio is compelling. It’s the context of sound overtime that connects with people.
Shifting energy is a fantastic way to make change in your track and connect with people.
To explain energy, I’ll use an example I’m sure you’re familiar with — a Pop song.
Here’s a diagram to illustrate how Energy levels change throughout a typical Pop song.
As you can see, the energy level is constantly moving up and down.
The key point to notice here is that each new section should have higher or lower energy than the previous. This makes it feel like the track is moving somewhere.
What if you’re not making Pop music?
Most dance music follows a structure called “Long Form” music and it functions pretty much the same way. I discuss Long Form at length in my Electronic Music Arrangement book and video series.
So how DO you change energy in your track?
Fortunately and unfortunately, there’s too many ways to count and they’re all pretty specific to what is in your track.
I intend to write another in depth post on this so if you want to know when that comes out sign up for my newsletter.
That said, take a listen here to see how I’ve changed energy in our demo song. I’ll explain what I’ve done in this specific example.
First thing is to decide whether to increase or decrease energy. I decided to increase it here.
Second, I have two synths with their cut off filters pretty closed. I know from experience that manipulating cut off is a powerful way to shift energy so I adjusted those.
Third, I wanted to pick up the pacing a bit more so I added a faster hi-hat pattern.
Finally, I threw in two transitional elements to ease listeners into the higher energy section.
The first transitional element I use is the cut off filter on my synths.
At the end of the first 8 bars, I begin to open the cut off on my synths. This tells the listener we’re about to go somewhere and eases us into the next section.
The second is a crash cymbal at the beginning of the new section. This helps us punctuate the energy change in this new section.
The cool part? I have made zero harmony changes in this example. This is 100% energy changing. Pure, organic, 100% grass-fed energy changes.
It’s also important to note that I continue to adjust the synth cut offs DURING the higher energy section. Generally speaking, the more your energy moves around the more interesting things are.
Energy. Use it. Change it.
In my book on music arrangement, I talk about the fundamental trinity of music creation. Everything that is done in music creation is focused at these three fundamental truths. Focusing on all three of these are key to composing great music and Energy is one of the three — so don’t forget it!
To wrap this up, what’s the third and final technique?
Combining the strength of harmony changes and energy changes yields the most powerful results. You should make sure to utilize both in your music.
Take a listen to this final clip of our demo track. I’ve combined the harmony changes from part one with the energy changes in part two.
The key thing to take away is that when writing your next section to make a change.
This is one of those things that sounds easier said than done. That’s true, but creating a second section is not much harder than creating the first section. When anyone signs up for my newsletter I send them an email asking about their struggles. The majority of things are mindset problems. People holding themselves back.
If you’re capable of creating an amazing 8 bars then trust me when I say you can push it to 16. I believe in you.
If you need help getting over these barriers, I’ve written a book on arrangement you can check out here.
If you need more directed guidance or consider yourself a visual learner you can check out my step by step video series on how to finish a track here. As a free bonus, this video series comes with the above mentioned book.
Don’t let your great musical ideas go to waste. The world needs you to finish your music and share it. The world needs to hear what you have to say.
If you know anyone else struggling with unfinished project files, please share this with them!
Re: 3 Ways to turn 8 bars into 16 and Keep People Listening
i want to reiterate that I dont think what your doing here is bad zencha, I've actually read a post before on your blog, I just think that what you are doing here is a bit transparent. this thread comes off as spammy, because you arent linking the site as a reference but are using copy pasta to bait click people.
alot of the language sounds like a sales pitch as well, which is like, you do you, but again is very transparent. Im all for offering advice and helping other musicians and idmfers, but I dont exactly agree with how you are doing it in the forums.
if lolirl caught on to this, and posted the way he did, then I will be happy to know so.
anyways not a personal attack on you zencha, just a tip for posting.