Steal This Arrangement

When I get demos from aspiring producers, one of the most common mistakes I hear is an awkward or lifeless arrangement.
Author:
Publish date:

When I get demos from aspiring producers, one of the most common mistakes I hear is an awkward or lifeless arrangement. The beats, groove, and music may be slammin’, but if the “story” told by a well-crafted progression of sections isn’t there, all the slick production in the world won’t save the track. Fortunately, arrangements can’t be copyrighted. Otherwise, the formula for all pop songs might well belong to the Beatles or Quincy Jones. So this month, we’ll tackle a trick for copping the arrangement from your favorite dance remixes, without touching the music itself. Ready?

Step 1. Listen closely to your composition, comparing it to recent bona fide hits in your music collection. Then, pick the hit that most closely resembles the vibe you’re after. This will be your arrangement guide.

Step 2. Next, create a new audio track at the top of your arrangement window. Import your guide tune into that audio track—in the picture, it’s the purple region named “template arrangement.” From there, align and timestretch (or time-compress) the track so that the tempo and start of the guide track are locked with your own composition.

Step 3. If your DAW allows, add cue points to your timeline for each of the main sections of the guide remix arrangement. The essential arrangement sections are: intro, first breakdown, main body, big breakdown, peak, and outro. Of course, you can add more cue points for bass in, bass out, and various little fills if you like.

Step 4. You’re ready to arrange! Mute the guide track and build each of your sections based on your cue points. If you get lost, switch back to the guide and analyze what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to create similar whooshes or drum fills to reinforce the vibe. Just make sure you’re snagging only the “architecture” and not the music itself.