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dylab

getting beyond loops

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i find myself forever stuck making musical loops, either drum loops, bassline loops, or other noise loops..

any advice to break beyond loops and develop beyond the bars ...

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You need to work on your arrangement skills. Pick a simple (generic, formulaic) track you like and do a cover version. Rule #1: When in doubt, steal from someone better than you. Look at how the song is structured. Each 8 bars ask yourself "what is this doing?" Is it an intro, a break, building up to something, killah bit or something else? What are the identifying features of the track (the riffs or whatever makes it recognisable as that particular track). Where do they show up? Where do they disappear? Are there any variations of them throughout the track, and do any other parts mimic them?

To get started, in cubase or the arrangement view of ableton, load up the track as a wav, set your bpm to that of the track, then for each part you identify, add a midi track and empty midi sections where the parts are playing. So you might have a track for bassline, kick, hats, lead synth 1, lead synth 2, pad 1 etc. Don't worry too much about the details, you just want to be able to see when the various parts come in and drop out. Once you've got that, look at what is happening and ask yourself the questions above.

Do this for a couple of songs, then take your newfound understanding of arrangement and go get 'em.

Also, beware of  loopitis

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Ok so I just ran through Chemical Beats by The Chemical Bros, it's track 6 on Exit Planet Dust (hear it here

). Older tracks are generally a bit simpler in structure. If I was really interested in their style I'd go through a couple more tracks off the same album and see what's common between them.

chemical_beats3.JPG

(click for bigger)

It's not perfect but I mapped out the main bits I noticed, theres some atmospherics and other stuff here and there but the aim is to just get a feel for the structure.

The actual sections are somewhat arbitrary, but this is how I split it up.

  • 8 Bar Intro
  • 32 Bar Verse 1 (or 4 bar intro/36 bar verse 1 :P )
  • 16 Bar Break
  • 32 Bar Verse 2
  • 8 Bar Break
  • 32 Bar Verse 3, which you could divide into:

    • 16 Bar Verse 3
    • 8 Bar solo
    • 8 Bar pre-outro

    [*]16 Bar outro

Some things of interest in no particular order:

  • The use of the crash throughout the track, basically every 4 bars, which tells you they tend to think about things in 4 bar groups, you can also see by looking at the high hat patterns in the first verse. This has to do with keeping the track interesting to the listener, so even though the basic kick/riff is the same you'll hear subtle variations every 4 bars. If you're working at faster bpms (say 130/135+) you can get away with working in 8 bar groups without things getting boring.
  • The snare rolls at the end of 8 bar phrases in verse 2 and 3 (pink cause snare rolls are gay), lets the listener know somethings going to happen/keeps interest
  • The variation of the main riff during the breaks
  • Where the high hats show up/drop out. Hats add energy, listen to where they get dropped in and out and its effect on the track
  • Dropping the kick at the end of the breaks for emphasis, which a) lets the listener know somethings going to happen and :D sounds cool when it comes back at the end of the break. Similar to how they use snares/hats.
  • The use of one-off sounds, i.e track 14, track 17 and the scratches in track 18. Probably chucked in to keep the ear interested. There's more of them in there I just didn't map them out
  • It gets a bit weird at the end/outro bit. I don't really know, I guess that's why the chems are superstars and I'm not  :P Maybe they chucked it in to help the DJ mix it, the song could finish at bar 129.

It's all pretty common/well known stuff, which you'll hear in all styles of music. Get your basic patterns/loops you can layer together, make some variations, work out (or steal) your structure, arrange and you're done! Easy huh ;)

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^ Top work dizzy, great analysis and advice - definitely looking at how your favourite writers/producers do it unlocks a lot of doors. At school we did it to Bach and Varese - just the 'street' equivalent of that really!

I'd also add that listening to and trying to understand how ambient/downtempo/soundscape pieces are made can also reveal a lot. Much of this music is 'continuous' in form rather than 'sectional' (which almost all techno/dance is). Long evolving sounds and textures, where much of the challenge is creating mood and keeping interest.

My favourite ambient crew are still The Orb, been kicking around for years but do really quality production, and have a good balance between looped and continuous music.

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My favourite ambient crew are still The Orb, been kicking around for years but do really quality production, and have a good balance between looped and continuous music.

"Roots music........music for art!" ahh ahh ahhhhhhhhhhhhh...  :D

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^ Top work dizzy, great analysis and advice - definitely looking at how your favourite writers/producers do it unlocks a lot of doors. At school we did it to Bach and Varese - just the 'street' equivalent of that really!

I'd also add that listening to and trying to understand how ambient/downtempo/soundscape pieces are made can also reveal a lot. Much of this music is 'continuous' in form rather than 'sectional' (which almost all techno/dance is). Long evolving sounds and textures, where much of the challenge is creating mood and keeping interest.

My favourite ambient crew are still The Orb, been kicking around for years but do really quality production, and have a good balance between looped and continuous music.

Thanks RB! I've picked up so much stuff off this forum I figured i better add something.

I remember when I first started people would say 'oh just write what you want man, dont worry about that other stuff' and needless to say I struggled for a long time. I looked at more traditional musical study and people spend years studying the works of others, so it's always struck me as a bit silly that some people think its a bad idea.

Obviously biting other peoples stuff isn't cool, but as a learning tool it's really helped me out.

I find progressive stuff is interesting structually, cause it progresses rather than having the typical sections. Check out the album Archipelago by Vibrasphere, every track is esentially based around 16 bar groups with rises/falls every 8 bars, which sounds incredibly boring but imo its something else.

I will have to check out The Orb as well. I love that sort of stuff but have never really dug into it, and I really should, cause ambient can have a tendency to get boring which is something i need to work on.

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gear needs more blinking LEDs in song mode

pattern mode seems prettier somehow

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I must say i have been having the same problem as you and i blame albeton haha

But the good news is im finally arranging full tracks in ableton and its working quite nicely

Im going to work in the next school holidays on making a huge loop pack so n00bz can have a play because thats how most people start these days and thats how it was when i started, the good old garageband 1.0 and acid pro 4/5 days haha

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If you want to get out of the loop rut, try approaching your track like a rock band would approach it... the whole 16/32 bar sections dont really come into play there. The chorus might be 8 bars long but ther is quite often a bit space before and aft, tempo changes etc.

With drums, if you program up the groove you want, then just sit back, close your eyes and 'play the drums along with it in your head', you'll start hearing cool places to put ghosting snares, rolls, "air", groove and tempo changes etc. Its quite an "unnatural" way to write music in loops as it is quite easy to loose the original vibe amongst all the quantizing and onsnaps etc.

In short, do what keith richards would do... hmm, no dont do that at all. Do what Jimmy Page would do.

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I must say i have been having the same problem as you and i blame albeton haha

i guess I could blame abelton or the pattern based nature of drum machines/sequencers but i think it probably comes down to musical ability, or ability to see a bigger picture, i guess I can see part of the picture which is the loop but dont really have much idea where its come from or where its going, which will take time, practice and knowledge

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Do what Jimmy Page would do.

lots of coke and heroin?

at my intervention i can say the internet told me to!

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