Three ways to turn eight bars into 16 and keep people listening
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Old 26-02-2015, 10:20 AM   #1
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Three ways to turn eight bars into 16 and keep people listening

Zencha here again!

Got another article talking about how to take any 8 bars and turn it into 16 (and then, of course, entire songs).

Here's the introduction

"We all know the feeling.

You’ve written a great 8 or 16 bar loop.

The drums are killer. You pulled off a sweet synth patch and the melody is air tight. You’re proud of it.

For some reason, you find yourself stuck. That 17th bar feels miles away.

So you end up on Reddit. Or you end up playing some video games. Or whatever it is your mind slips away to.

Perhaps you end up starting another track only to find yourself packing away another unfinished project file. Maybe you’ll come back to it.

Maybe.

We all know what happens though. That song lays dormant on your hard drive, occasionally opened while you scan all your unfinished songs looking for something to work on.

What if I told you that taking a song from 8 to 9 or 16 to 17 bars and beyond is super simple.

And there’s three extremely easy ways to do this that I want to discuss here.

With these three strategies you can extend any core musical nugget into an entire song.

In fact, if you’re not focusing on these three things your tracks will be lifeless and boring.

What are these three strategies?"

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Old 26-02-2015, 10:27 AM   #2
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Re: 3 Ways to turn 8 bars into 16 and Keep People Listening

harmony
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:

D Minor
F sus4
A Minor
G Major
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:

D Minor
F sus4
Bb Major
C Major
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

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.

energymappopform

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?

harmonyandenergy

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!

It’s time to cross the finish line.

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Old 03-04-2015, 05:03 AM   #3
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Re: 3 Ways to turn 8 bars into 16 and Keep People Listening

Things like this make me wish I had a parallel life where I can spend my time autotuning the news and making shreds...?????


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Old 31-07-2015, 03:31 PM   #4
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Re: 3 Ways to turn 8 bars into 16 and Keep People Listening

Nice reading I would add what follows:

Actually, you can think of it following the parameters of the sound

height: the harmony parameter you mentionned
intensity: the energy parameter you mentionned

but there is also

timbre: that can help a lot
timing: for example, I like to gradually speed things up, if I feel it could get a bit boring.
Panning: maybe less useful, but could be in certain circumstances...
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Old 07-09-2015, 05:21 AM   #5
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Re: 3 Ways to turn 8 bars into 16 and Keep People Listening

interesting stuff. well written too. thanks for the writing
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Old 07-09-2015, 05:35 AM   #6
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Re: 3 Ways to turn 8 bars into 16 and Keep People Listening

there's a few good tips in there but unfortunately it reads like a male sexual enhancement advertisement or infomercial.

"what if i told you that..."
"in just 3 easy steps..."

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Old 02-10-2015, 09:20 AM   #7
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Re: 3 Ways to turn 8 bars into 16 and Keep People Listening

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nystagmus View Post
there's a few good tips in there but unfortunately it reads like a male sexual enhancement advertisement or infomercial.

"what if i told you that..."
"in just 3 easy steps..."
I thought that something was odd
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Old 02-10-2015, 09:35 AM   #8
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Re: 3 Ways to turn 8 bars into 16 and Keep People Listening

Daniel Feldman, are you for reals living in Antarctica?
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Old 28-10-2015, 10:02 PM   #9
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Re: 3 Ways to turn 8 bars into 16 and Keep People Listening

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Originally Posted by vashima View Post
Daniel Feldman, are you for reals living in Antarctica?
I was wondering the same thing?
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Old 28-10-2015, 11:46 PM   #10
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Re: 3 Ways to turn 8 bars into 16 and Keep People Listening

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nice

personally I thought this was about like runs or fills, maybe inversion or other comp technique. maybe its still useful to someone else

rip

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It sounds like two records playing at once .
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Old 29-10-2015, 08:31 AM   #11
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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.

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It sounds like two records playing at once .
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