SONG STRUCTURE: Changing Up a Song’s Arrangement Drastically
Arrangement — Have Different Impacts in Your Song,
I was asked via YouTube comment to make a tutorial on how to change up your song in such as way, where it sounds like it’s a totally different song, yet all blends together when you want it to.
So our goal here, is to create a beat, where at times, it sounds like a different composition, yet it’s the same beat!
How to Achieve a Drastic Change in Arrangement,
Well, for those who have great knowledge in music theory, and piano skills, you can always change up the key that your song is playing in. However, it can get tricky figuring out how to bring the song back into what you had originally had, plus you have to create loops pertaining to that key, which aren’t able to blend with the original loops of the original key of the song.
Another alternative you can take, one I use often, is create a bunch of loops that are all playing at the same time. This is how you’ll know that the loops will play nice together, but when it comes time to arrange the song, you now have tons of instruments to work with. This allows for quick swapping of your loops, while song building, allowing you to figure out which loops go best together, and which loops provide the biggest change up in your arrangement. Getting us close to the goal; changing up our song’s sound/arrangement drastically.
Sound Selection to Help Diversity in the Composition,
With the recent tutorial of Sound Selection, this also has a huge part to play in how different your production can sound, and have flexibility to be played around with.
If your loops can hold their own just by them self, or with one extra loop, this gives you even more room for big change-up in the track.
If you have a bunch of synths, but also a bunch of horns.. you can have the synths for the first verse, bring the chorus in with all the instruments, then break it down to verse two with just the horns and percussion elements (When I say percussion elements, I mean cool one-hit sounds to use as fillers. These can be bongos, shakers, just in general, quick hits that add impact, and fill up the beat).
Changing your song up drastically, really all comes down to the arrangement.
Arrangement — Practice Only Makes you Okay,
Arrangement is such a hard skill to become good at.
Arrangement requires so much patience, trial and error, being strong enough to cut things out of a composition (or add things in), and having an ear for what instruments sound good together. Finally, knowing how to paint that picture for your listeners, whether that be with transitions, or in the overall song structure.
Now, learning how to set up for a big change in your audio takes these arrangement skills. Start slow, and learn about the basics of how transitions work. These allow you, as the composer and arranger (if you create the beat and arrange the beat — as in the music industry, these are two separate jobs), to paint the picture for your listener. This is essentially what you are doing while arranging, painting an audible picture. By using a transition, it lets the listener know something is changing, therefore, giving you access to change the beat how you’d like. Most of the time the change up will work pretty well.
In other words, using transitions are quick tools you can pop in to easily change the structure of the song. These become very powerful tools to place in front of a change up. It can be even as simple as a reverse cymbal to that big change up in how the song sounds.
In verse one you have these loops playing:
The chorus comes in for let’s say 8 bars, then it comes into our verse two. How are we going to approach this?
In our song, let’s say we have these instruments:
- A nice LUSH PAD
- Percussion Elements
- Of course, most beats have kicks/claps/snares
If that’s the instruments in our track, we have a lot to work with.
Verse one contained only piano and guitar, went to our chorus with all the instruments, now verse two.. we can do something like:
Then half way through verse two, add in the Bell. Bring it back into the chorus (with a transition ;)), then verse three, mix it up again. Maybe..
Keep in mind, this all depends on how solid your loops are. Are they catchy by them self?
Percussion Elements in Arrangement, the Back-Bone
When I say percussion elements, I mean your hats, bongos, shakers etc. (Pretty much all beats have kicks, claps, and snares, even though they are technically considered percussion elements — I just consider percussion elements the one-hit fillers like bongos etc).
Why I think percussion elements are the backbone to your arrangement is because they have such a big part on filling up the track in the background. Your instruments have a huge impact on how the song sounds, but the percussion elements are what enhance what those instruments sound like, in the context of the arrangement.
Let’s say you have a kick and a clap, and Piano -> Bassline.
This can sound great by itself, but let’s say after it repeats four bars, it starts to get a little old. We need to change up the rush-feeling of the track. So, after four bars, we add in our hats and percussion loops for fillers. These will excite the track, allowing it for a build up feel to the chorus.
Now, once it hits the chorus, you change up the song how ever you’d like. But it all comes down to how many instruments you have, as by having more instruments, you have more to add in, and take away. Also keep in mind, the more instruments you have, the busier your track will be, and the more overwhelming it will be to mix — especially if just starting out ;).
Arranging a Track — Final Thoughts
In order to change up a song drastically, I guess there’s two big ways you can go about it.
The first, change up the key the song is in at a different point in the song. This requires music knowledge and theory, but can give the song a total twist that isn’t easily achievable by just changing up the sound of an instrument. You could also try using a different chord progression in a different verse? Kind of similar to the change of key, but still an approach to change up your song’s sound.
Second, the way I like, as I find it’s easiest, and works great for me. This includes creating tons of loops over top of each other. I’ll make one loop, go in and edit it on my piano roll, come back, record another loop over top of it, and do the same thing; edit on the piano roll.
I’ll do this for how ever many loops I think the beat needs to be full, or however many instruments I can jam-pack into the beat ;).
By having all these instruments, it gives huge flexibility to just pop different instruments in, and see what combinations work great together. In the end, the more instruments gives you huge flexibility on changing up your song’s arrangement drastically.