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Producer, guitar player, composer and maker of noise.

Keep the Big Picture When Working on Dance Tracks

Posted on | November 25, 2006 | No Comments

ableton_big_picture.pngWhen you produce dance-music tracks, the goal is to deliver a product that DJs and mixers could easily use. Anyway, that’s at least a noble goal.

That means that the initial starting point has just drums or a melody, 16-32 bars or more and the progression is building up to two or so breakdown points, one around minute and a half, and one from 3 minutes forward. Now, this is not carved in stone, there are all kinds of variations. Check any of your favorite tracks to see how the layout is done. I think the 3+ minute breakdown is a good one, it gives the DJ a chance to skip to another track at this point, in case it’s a short mix he or she is aiming for.

Anyway, the end is similar, after 5-8 minutes or so the song should end with a simple track setup, just the melody, just drum sections, and so on, and it should progressively end. This means that the DJ has a good chance to mix in a new track. If there’s no melody in beginning or end, even easier for the DJ to do the job.

What I was going to write about is that I think it’s really important to keep 8/16 bar sections in the track. I have sometimes encountered tracks that have deliberate sections of two bars, one bar or so on. It sound musically interesting, but it totally causes havoc when doing mixing at some point. For example, Ableton users could jump around with their loop point set on four bars, and if the format is broken, it’s hard to catch the right places for the next loop point.

It does not hurt to keep a nice clean format of the whole song, if it’s a break-down, we could keep it at 32 bars, or 16 bars, not 9 bars…

Now, when working with DAW systems, such as Ableton Live, it’s not always clear how things work out, especially as the timeline indicators do not easily show the bar breakdowns. What I do nowadays is now and then zoom out the whole project (see picture), and I could see gaps, and look at the top timeline, if it fits nicely into 16 or 8 bar gaps, it’s all Ok. If not, I need to go in and rearrange the track so it looks nice again.

Also, please make sure the initial starting point also has an even 8 bar or so loop, sometimes when I’ve purchased music, the starting point is chopped off, so I need to hunt around and find a more suitable starting point to align all the loops done later…


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