Stay – Zedd feat. Alessia Cara

Computer Music - - Make Music Now / Arrange Tracks Like A Pro -

Zedd’s re­cent hit, Stay, is a good ex­am­ple of a tra­di­tional song struc­ture with an EDMin­spired twist, adding an ad­di­tional in­stru­men­tal drop cho­rus af­ter what would or­di­nar­ily be a stan­dard cho­rus, but which in this case is al­most com­pletely made up of acap­pella vo­cals. This would have been an un­usual step even five years ago, but pro­duc­ers are con­tin­u­ally ex­per­i­ment­ing and push­ing the bound­aries of the tra­di­tional song form. The three-minute pop song for­mat cur­rently of­fers a wider can­vas for dy­namic ex­plo­ration than ever. Pound­ing drums now yield to at­mo­spheric break­downs more fre­quently than just once in the mid­dle of the song, and in­no­va­tive use of tech­nol­ogy such as pitch warp­ing, Auto-Tune and Melo­dyne, to­gether with new in­stru­ments like iZo­tope’s Vo­calSynth 2, are mak­ing it pos­si­ble to craft new song sec­tions that don’t rely on con­ven­tional vo­cals – of which this tune is a per­fect ex­am­ple. Here’s a break­down of the ar­range­ment.

0:00 IN­TRO

A looped and pitched-up sam­ple of a male voice hum­ming an in­tri­cate lick serves as the in­tro­duc­tion to the song, cy­cled over four bars and backed with the two main chords that go on to pro­vide the back­drop to the verse, pre­cho­rus and bridge sec­tions.

0:09 VERSE 1

The del­i­cate verse vo­cal melody en­ters over a synth pad and that con­tin­u­ally loop­ing hum. All the main sec­tions from this point in the song on­wards are eight bars long.

0:28 PRE­CHO­RUS 1

Af­ter a per­cus­sion fill, things start to build over a back­drop of min­i­mal per­cus­sion: mainly re­verbed fin­ger snaps and clat­ter­ing, low-pass fil­tered, high-pitched snares.

0:47 CHO­RUS 1

Here’s where it gets in­ter­est­ing. We’re ex­pect­ing a full-on cho­rus, but the track falls away com­pletely, leav­ing us with just the acapella vo­cal cho­rus hook, backed by com­put­er­gen­er­ated BVs. The only other mu­si­cal el­e­ment is the bass that punc­tu­ates a sin­gle root note with ev­ery chord change. Ma­chine-gun snare fills pro­long the sec­ond four bars to lead us to…

1:05 DROP 1

In come the drums and the rest of the track, ex­pertly ar­ranged swoop­ing synths tak­ing over from the vo­cals. In­tri­cate fills keep us in­ter­ested from the rhyth­mic point of view. A sam­pled ‘uh’ and one line of lead vo­cal half way through seem to be all that’s needed vo­cally at this point.

1:24 TAG

A one-bar rest, over which the re­verb and de­lay over­hang­ing from the drop die away, helps us re­set in readi­ness for the rein­tro­duc­tion of that looped sam­ple and verse two.

1:27 VERSE 2

Grad­u­ally open­ing fil­tered per­cus­sion and a sub­tle vo­cal coun­ter­melody are all that re­ally set the sec­ond verse apart from the first, but the de­vel­op­ment in terms of the pro­gres­sion of the song is still no­tice­able.

1:45 PRE­CHO­RUS 2

The de­vel­op­ment con­tin­ues. This pre­cho­rus is dis­cernible from its pre­de­ces­sor by the ad­di­tion of a fuller drum track with kicks and off­beat

tam­bourine, to­gether with big pi­ano chords fill­ing out the mu­si­cal side of things. 2:04 CHO­RUS 2

This cho­rus, too, comes across as a break­down, sound­ing al­most the same as the first but with the ad­di­tion of the tick­ing clock sam­ple through­out, and a fuller synth pad part that ap­pears ear­lier in the sec­tion.

2:23 DROP 2

Other than some ad­di­tional high-end per­cus­sion in this sec­ond ver­sion, the two drop sec­tions are pretty much iden­ti­cal.


Mu­si­cally the same as the in­tro, verse and pre­cho­rus sec­tions, the bridge is mainly synth pad, vo­cal and picky gui­tar line, un­til the kick drum reap­pears again four bars in, ush­er­ing in a short build-up to the fi­nal drop cho­rus.


The full-in­stru­men­ta­tion, sing-along cho­rus sec­tion that the whole song has been build­ing to. To keep it to a ra­dio-friendly length, there’s no dou­ble-length outro cho­rus, merely a sin­gle eight-bar sec­tion that fuses the vo­cal hook from the cho­rus with the mu­sic of the drop.

3:19 OUTRO

Prac­ti­cally a mu­si­cal mir­ror image of the in­tro, the iden­ti­cal four-bar outro brings us back to earth with a down­ward-fac­ing vo­cal adlib, ready for the an­tic­i­pated hit of the re­peat but­ton.

Zedd’s Stay com­bines EDM-style and tra­di­tional ar­range­ment ap­proaches to great ef­fect

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