Having a unique library of samples, presets, effects chains and MIDI files is the
first step to finding your own sound as a producer, just as a painter or graphic designer might have a custom palette of colours and shades prepared ready to create a visual masterpiece. To continue the artist analogy, it’s the way those colours manifest on a blank canvas that
really makes a unique piece of art. Yep, we’re referring to the arrangement process, ie, a track’s structure over time. The choice of sounds you put together – and, more importantly, the order you arrange them over the course of four to eight minutes – will define your track’s artistic content and emotional response for the listener.
Within the confines of club-destined electronic music, your arrangements are pretty much stuck within a rigid 4/4 framework of eight- and 16-bar sections. Stray too far from this turntable-friendly formula, and DJs will struggle to mix your music alongside other records that adhere to this layout. While this is slightly limiting if you want to compose a ten-minute-long beatless ambient masterpiece, these rules are there for a reason – crowds respond to them! Therefore, if you’re making club bangers, stick to the usual structure for maximum impact: keep intros rhythmic and DJ-friendly; throw in obvious peaks, troughs and ‘drops’; and keep the tension ebbing and flowing with automation and tonal motion. Once you’re comfortable with these rules, you can subvert them for creative gains using tricks such as unexpected silences, repeating drum edits, tempo switches and more.
If you’re producing music for your own listening pleasure, then feel free to experiment with weird time signatures, four-minute floaty intros, odd segues and structural randomness. If the track is that good, then a DJ will find a way to spin it in the club!