How To Arrange a Song (or Beat)
Are You Lacking Arrangement Skills in Your Songs?
Arrangement is not easy. It can be very stressful, time consuming, and overall, just hard!
The more you practice, the better you get, but each song is different, and it will always require your focus, to make a great song from a boring one.
Sometimes in arranging a song, you have to cut things out. That’s just the way it is; how ever sad that may be :(. Yes, the part may be so catchy, but the build up before may just be too full before the chorus, or the transition just doesn’t cut it. However, if you take out an instrument before that transition, or chorus, that might be the missing piece to solidify your composition.
There’s a lot of different skills that go into making a good beat, great.
These skills can range from:
- Arrangement of the song.
- Music theory.
- Piano Skills.
- Mixing or Mastering.
- Creativity — (improvisation of putting a beat together).
- Sound Design.
- High Quality Sounds.
This is a huge tutorial for one video, but I got it done! 😉 — Although it’s long, I don’t feel it’s too overwhelming. Just sit back, watch, and soak in some knowledge of about arrangement, and song structure!
How Do You Go About Arranging Your Song?
Take a second, and read over these questions. Is there one specific question that you now realize, “This is what I got to work on” ?:
- Do you just add instruments in and take them out?
- Do you use transitions/SFX to paint a picture for your listeners by letting them know something’s changing in the beat?
- Do you add in all your instruments to make one big chorus?
- Does a sound play in your chorus only, and not anywhere else in the song?
- Do you try to make your chorus’ chord progression different from the verses or bridge?
As you can read from the questions above, they can really make one think!
Arrangement is all about painting that picture for your listeners. If you can get them ready for the change, you’ve done a great job. However, there’s times where there can be a big build up, but at the end, there’s nothing 😉 — SURPRISE!
How Does One Paint a Picture with Audio?
Near the end of the video, when I started to build the beat, the intro was very “bland”. Before adding my transitions and SFX, it was walking aimlessly with no sense of direction.
As a listener, this leaves a person not understanding what is going on inside the beat. Sure, they may not “notice” anything wrong, but this can make your music from amateur to very professional.
Just always have the mind set of what you are trying to tell someone through your music. When you start that intro, do you feel it’s catchy? Does that chorus hit as hard as you want it to? Is the break down from the chorus to the verse a bit weak?
Well, What If Your Answer Above Was Yes?
There’s a few reasons why this can be.
- Your arrangement in the song could be poor (No transitions/SFX etc.)
- The way you have your instruments laid out could have a huge impact. (Try replacing your instruments with others in your beat to see what sounds best — Sometimes 2 instruments sound great, but one by itself doesn’t hold enough on it’s own!).
- Adding hats right in the beginning usually throws off the impact of arrangement very quickly. What I mean by this is sometimes a hi-hat really adds that extra ENNGGH! into that verse! So if you add it half way in, it may give the verse that little something special, and give your arrangement that sense of “change” even by adding just a hi-hat! (Rather than having the hi-hat going for the whole verse).
- Sometimes it could be your sounds! (Personally, I find Nexus 2’s quality of VST sounds far superior over FL Studio’s Toxic Biohazard for example.)
- Do you rush your arrangement? (I know I have many times! — The reason being, I want to get the beat out for people to listen to rather than taking my time out and only giving my best! — If you come back to the beat the next day, and it was just as catchy as when you were making it, this may be a good sign ;)).
A great trick I’ve developed while beatmaking is, at the end of my track, when I feel it’s complete, I hit stop. I start at the very beginning of the track, hit play, and let it play to the end. Did all your transitions from verse to chorus sound decent? Was it mixed fine?
These are things I look for, while doing that final listen.
The reason being is that there are so many options you can choose! Add things in, take things out, add SFX here, make silence there, keep the instrument in? Add it in half way!? (You get the idea ;)).
Another thing to keep in mind while arranging your song is,
Does it suite the song?
I really take my time out when it comes to arranging, and make sure that the arrangement suites the song.
When transitioning from verse to chorus etc. I always think, does that transition sound good enough to release it? As you can notice, I’ve really been stressing about transitions, and how important they are.
This goes for songs and beats!
There’s lots that goes into arranging your beat. Even more so when you have vocals! But learning how to arrange your instrumentals/songs in such a way to bring out the most impact you think the song can have, is the ultimate goal in music production.
This is why there are some people with the specific job of just that, arrangement.
Final Thoughts on Arranging a Song,
This is a lot of information to take in, but again, your transitions are important. They don’t have to be super intense glitchy transitions, it can be as simple as a quiet reverse cymbal. Or, even adding a delay to a certain sound. And one more, a simple snare/tom roll, silence before the chorus, or yes, make it super intense!
Hopefully this gets you started arranging, and some ideas of what ways there are to arrange your beats. (These are just ideas, not the only way you can do stuff! — That’s the nice thing about audio! — There are some rules, but in a lot of things, it’s do what you want!
Also keep in mind, arrangement is an on-going learning process. Each song is different, and what you learned on the last song, might not apply to the song you are working on now. Keep at it, and eventually you’ll become stronger at achieving the feeling you are going for in your songs.
Arrangement is an on-going learning curve.
If you feel I have missed something, or are confused in a certain area, leave your questions in the comments! If not, check out more tutorials from Beatstruggles!