Psytrance composition.. structure, flow etc.

ichabod

Member
There seem to be a lack of threads discussing the actual compositional aspects of writing psy. So here goes...

For me, composition is where the difficulty actually lies; I can make cool squelcy effects and synth lines all day but when it comes to putting it all together I always find difficulty getting the structure of the tune right e.g.
  • Getting the energy levels to rise/fall correctly
  • Deciding when to bring in new parts and then when to reuse synth lines from earlier in the tune and whether to do varitations on them etc.
  • How to avoid over reptativeness but still maintain some sense of continuation throughout the tune.
  • Make the tune more musicaly interesting - make the synth parts and FX kind of tell a story which draws you in and keeps your attention.
  • Choosing the perfect moments for break downs or bass line changes.
and so on...

I often find that once a tune is 3/4 finished I realise that it needs major structural re-arrangement which is a huge hasstle... plus my results are never quite satisfactory :Sad:

I do listen to a lot of psy music so know a well structured tune when I hear one - I just can't seem to do it myself. Does anyone else find similar difficulties. I know its a bit of a vague question but can anyone offer any gems of wisdom on the subject?
 

Continuum

Throb Farmer
I struggle too but I find that any structural problems really stand out when you listen to the tune after leaving it for a couple of days.

just listening through the tune again should suggest where changes, breaks or transitions should occur. For me, its usually pretty obvious where a tune gets boring and something new wants to happen...
 

jamez_23

Blah
Try deconstructing tracks you like with some kind of shorthand.

ie. 4 bars of bassline + effects + snippets of melody
4 bars of the same - high hats added _ breakbeat slowly mixed in over second two bars ..

etc etc ....

Then try to apply the same progression to the parts you already have. Just as a learning exercise. You will find that you have your own way of doing things.

I have done this before. It helped with my understanding of how the stuff I liked was structured.

It will give you a real headache as well though ..... :lol:
 

evilwill

definitely
interesting thread... i have to say i don't spend much time on composition compared to other bits... i tend to start writing any random bit of a tune and then build outwards from where i happened to start.

usually end up with a jumble of ideas, riffs, beats and breaks... which i then move around as required.. i often end up dropping (or massivly changing) whole sections at this point cos they don't fit with how the vibe of the tune is panning out. i do occasionally recycle these unused bits in other tunes so its not all wasted.

having played a few live sets one thing i would say is avoid having too many long drops/breaks (whatever you call the bits without any kik/bass) cos people need something to dance too.. some of my earlier sets had a big drop in every tune and after a few i was standing there willing the beat to come back in sooner... i do like long breaks with interesting buildups (clue: no f*cking snare on every beat then every half beat then every quarter beat etc etc!) but i certainly wouldn't put one in every tune...
 

jackrabbit

pulse width fay
Continuum said:
yeah or just plain nick the arrangement of a tune you like :Grin:


Why not. There are a lot of famous tunes out there both in pop and underground where producers load a tune they want a similar vibe too into their DAW and basically copy the araingement. I have read people also do this for mix levels instead of playing the mix on different systems for comparason.
 

soliptic

whirling mathematician
I'd find it pretty well impossible to tell anybody how to arrange

It's one of those things that just sort of comes naturally, from instinct, my only advice would be 'take mushies and dance to psytrance fairly often' and then it hopefully soaks into your subconscious.

failing that - continuum's advice is spot on.
 
I pretty much get a 16 bar loop going on and them when I feel I have enough to start playing with I disconstruct from that and start to layout the general arrangement. Then when I've disappeared up my own arse enough I export a mixdown and sit on it for a couple of days and regularly have a listen. Then I'll go back in and make the changes I feel need to be made. Then I concentrate on the production.

It's important to disconnect yourself a little bit from it which is really hard with the sequence open in front of you - I just can't resist fiddling and therefore thinking inside it. I find sticking it on WinAmp and sticking Milkdrop on for some visuals allows me to get a better handle on wha tI like about it and what I need to change.

Good topic :Wink3:
 

ichabod

Member
SteveJ... said:
It's important to disconnect yourself a little bit from it which is really hard with the sequence open in front of you - I just can't resist fiddling and therefore thinking inside it. I find sticking it on WinAmp and sticking Milkdrop on for some visuals allows me to get a better handle on wha tI like about it and what I need to change.

Good idea - I don't think that I do this enough! Thats half of the problem; while I'm working on a tune I get so engrosed that I forget to step back and try and see the picture as a whole. When you have heard every part of the tune a thousand times it is pretty difficult to be objective when making composition descisions.

I have also found that having a good listen to your tune in winamp after a strong spliff or while tripping really lets you stand back and hear it for what it is. Stuff that doesn't quite flow properly really seems to jump out at you.
 
Completely Agree :Wink3:

Another good point is knowing when to stop - it's all too easy just to keep addding and adding, which doesn't leave the needed space in trance for the delays and filtering to be effective. As a rule if I'm adding a strong line I'll drop another strong line to give it some room but try and still retain the power, the flow and the dynamic.
 

edwardbernadotte

Junior Members
i find that when i start a tune the best help is getting another track from an artist i like and copy it into logic. From there you can hear when things happen in the track.

I dont copy the tune, just the structure: when the breaks are, when the hats come in and percussion etc

By using different artists and different styles you can develop your own style by working out what bits of the different styles you like.
 

RedZebra

Member
Ichabod, I couldn't have stated any more clearly exactly the difficulties I find as well! In fact I think the structure is one of the most difficult and important things. So glad to see I'm not the only one that finds it hard!

It's all good advice above, some that I've heard before as well, so summarising:

- copy the structure (not sounds / tune etc) of a track you like. Even if just for practise.
- u probably know already the importance of grouping bars by 4 and 16 etc.
- leave it a while and come back to listen to it fresh. I especially like listening to my stuff when I come back from a party as you're really in the right mindframe then and some problems will stick right out. Only problem is you might not be in the right mindset to so anything about it, so write it down! :ismile:
- try listening to the track without watching the arrangement on screen.
- playing it to a friend can help cos I find it always makes you a bit nervous and you listen with different ears.
- I find cubase not very friendly for arrangement (but maybe cos I'm no cubase expert). I'm trying to learn Ableton Live though cos that seems much more designed for rapid and flexible arrangement.
- sometimes the only remedy if it's not working is what I like to call "slash and burn", ie: strip it back to the basics. Then work back out again keeping only what works.
- in the end I think it's practise that will help the most...
 

jackrabbit

pulse width fay
S Cube said:
Smoke a spliff close your eyes listen to the song from beginning to end..Usually if there's a part where the flow isn't correct you'll notice it right away..

The length of my tunes used to be as long as it took to smoke a spliff. That was my my time out period. I am on the last day of a course of nicorette patches. :icry:

When i'me not zoned on hash cakes I have been getting used to just lying on the settee with earphones on and eyes shut or looking out the window to keep my eyes off those coloured lines and grids.
 

Faction

Proto-col
I find listening to the track 'through someone else's ears' is the best way of spotting arrangement problems. if I play a tune to someone else (preferably someone who listens to some, but not a lot of trance) somewhere other than in my studio the mere fact that they're in the room makes me hyper-sensitive to sections that are too long, or clumsy breaks, etc.
 

BeatNik

DJohn Mustard Project
Colin OOOD said:
I find listening to the track 'through someone else's ears' is the best way of spotting arrangement problems. if I play a tune to someone else (preferably someone who listens to some, but not a lot of trance) somewhere other than in my studio the mere fact that they're in the room makes me hyper-sensitive to sections that are too long, or clumsy breaks, etc.

That's so true! You'll find yourself saying stuff like "this bits abit long maybe" or "this part might not be as interesting"...
Very true... :iyes:
 

psy-fly

anti-rat (i.e. no cheese)
is it not a bit hard trying to describe the composition of psy-trance? After all its still a song you are making so you should be free to go down whatever avenues you please without the contraint of what is the accepted structure. Ive really gotten quite bored with most full-on stuff ive been hearing at the moment largely as they stick to this kind of thing. I know this little post will be totally useless in helping you compose your music but maybe a little bit of non-expert advise will do something: learn to use the structure then fukkin abuse the structure, go fukkin mental and make some really psycho/mind bending music :Smile3:
 
Top