Dance Music Rudiments

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Mazala Recordings Presents

Dance Music Rudiments


This book / manual is an overview for beginner producers who have dabbled in music creation as a hobby, but want to take the next step and create a professional quality songs that can be commercially released and a DJ would be happy to play during his / her set.

A more experienced producer will benefit from the extensive collection of chord charts, drum sequences and rhythmic patterns listed in the Annex sections. They may also take advantage from the categorisation of Timbre for Bass, Leads Synths and Strings / Pads and inspire the creation of new sounds.

Long ago, to enhance my ability to create more effective Electronic Dance Music grooves, I decided to learn the basics of analogue drumming and purchased a drum kit. I discovered Traditional Drum Rudiments, which are recognised standards and sequences for practicing drumming.

Fascinated by the concept of rudiments, I searched on line for articles on Electronic Dance Music Rudiments, but they didn’t exist. Throughout the last decade of producing Breakbeat and Drum and Bass, my production notes grew to a substantial size and it occurred to me that my notes were the basis for expanding towards creating Rudiments for Electronic Dance Music.

Aim of the Book

-Inspiration for beginner producers or more advanced searching for new ideas.

-Extensive reference material containing both Musical and Rhythmic elements of dance music (Dance music/ club music/ music for DJ’s to play at clubs, not line dancing)

-Follow the book from start to finish to cover the main areas of music production in a logical order, or dip into particular areas of interest.

Overview of the Book

The main purpose of this book is to crate a library and reference to many essential ingredients to creating dance music. The appendix contain a multitude of useful charts, matrix, scales, drum patterns etc.

Chapter 1 Creating A Home Studio: This chapter contains an overview of the options available to set up a home studio, depending upon your budget.

Chapter 2 Music Theory: A brief introduction to a few key elements of musicology which are required to understand basic Chord Progression and Rhythm

Chapter 3 Genre: Usually producers create music that they are more familiar with. This chapter provides an overview of the main genres of Dance music and the key components.

Chapter 4 Song Arrangement: Arrangement categories are the distinctive sections to a song, e.g. Intro and Breakdown, which each provide a particular function. Block Types are the components within each section, e.g. Instrument, Percussion, Vocals. This chapter focuses on ensuring that interest is sustain throughout the song with particular theories of arrangement.

Chapter 5 Drum and Percussion Elements: Different drum styles are introduced plus a list of percussive instruments available to compliment the main beat.

Chapter 6 Drum Pattern: If your have used sample CD drum loops to create your songs but want to create drum beats yourself, this chapter provides assistance by listing a range of common drum patterns available. Chapter 7 Introduction to Synthesis: This chapter contains an explanation of the basic principles in Digital Sound Design or Synthesis. Although not essential for a beginner, a dedicated producer must nderstand the science of Synthesis to generate unique sounds for use in his / her productions.


Chapter 8 Electronic and Analogue Instrument for the Dance Producer: The range of sound sources available in the modern pallet are explored, including Samples, Synthesis, Analogue Instruments and Keyboards. A matrix of Synth Timbres categories the range of textures available.

Chapter 9 Creating Electronic Instruments: This chapter contains step by step instructions on how to create a wide variety of Timbres using any hardware Synthesiser or virtual Synthesiser.

Chapter 10 Rhythm: The core component of all modern Electronic Dance music is demonstrated using simple mathematical theories.

Chapter 11 Sound Effects: To compliment the Drums and Instruments, Sound Effects are an essential ingredient to add a professional finish to a song. The full range of categories, both Analogue and igital are listed.

Chapter 12 Dance Music Production Rudiments

Tips and ticks for getting inspiration, production ideas and techniques. Chapter 13 Use Of Filters: Digital Signal Processing.

Filters can transform a simple instrument into a more complex and interesting one. By mastering filters, a song can fore fill its maximum potential.

Chapter 14 EQ and Mastering

The final stage of production is to ensure that the instruments are clear and distinct, frequencies are balanced across the range, and that the song achieves maximum loudness and compression without distortion.Chapter 15 Organising Samples

Being organised is a key quality of a successful producer. Meticulously categorising and organising your samples into logical groups saves time and wasted energy.

Chapter 16 Live Performance for the Dance Musician

Once your masterpieces have been created, live performance in front of a screaming crowd is the ultimate Chapter 17 Selling You Music

After years of practice, your songs will eventually become indistinguishable from commercially released tracks. The final chapter provides advice on how to set up a record label and sell your music to an international audience.

Chapter 18 Dance Music Rudiments Version 2

Version 2 of this Dance Music guide aims to contain input from producers around the world. Help Wanted! 1 Creating a Home Studio

Introduction to Electronic Music Production

A decade ago, electronic musicians needed masses of hardware in order to make music, including hardware synthesisers, samplers, rack mounted effects units, drum machines, MIDI controllers, sequencers, mixers, tape machines for recording and more. Today is now possible to get virtual equivalents of all of the above, and more, either inexpensive or completely free. (I am referring to Shareware, Freeware and Open Source software to download, and not illegal bit torrent!)

If you a complete beginner to the world of music productions, there are several major decisions you will need to make. Most importantly, how much money are you willing to spend on a PC, mixer, hardware Synth, VST, samples?

Minimum Hardware Requirements

The absolute minimum hardware requirements for a home studio include a PC, Audio Interface, Software Sequencer, Midi Keyboard and decent Studio Speakers. If you are starting out, a large mixing desk, array of hardware effects processors and a multitude of Synthesisers are expensive an not particularly essential. Once your home studio has been set up and you If you decide that music production is worth pursuing, then you can consider expanding.

The digital/ analogue converters in most PC laptops, for example, are generally low end and will result in lots of hiss from your monitors/headphones. Good quality soundcards/audio interfaces vary widely with regard to


the number of inputs and outputs, the quality of the converters, their means of hooking up to your computer (PCI, USB, FireWire, PCMCIA etc.) An audio interface converts analogue signals from an instrument or microphone to a digital format to connect to the computer.


The cost of even the most basic Home Studio is not cheap so plan in advance and do plenty of research before spending a penny.

Minimum Medium Expensive

PC 500 £ 1,000 £ 2,000 £ Audio Interface 20 £ 100 £ 200 £ Software Sequencer 50 £ 150 £ 300 £ Midi Keyboard 30 £ 100 £ 350 £ Studio Speakers 80 £ 200 £ 2,000 £ Samples n/a £0 50 £ 100 £

Mixing Desk n/a £0 100 £ 1,500 £

Effects Rack n/a £0 100 £ 1,000 £

Total 680 £ 1,800 £ 7,450 £

Basic Tools for a Software Producer Sequencer

The core element to your software studio is the sequencer, for example Rebirth, Fruity Loops, Logic, Ableton Live, and Cakewalk (more details later). Modern sequencers contain virtual representations of traditional hardware studios, such as…

-A range of Audio tracks for recording or playing Audio data. -A range of stereo MIDI tracks.

-Controls for each track to adjust amplitude, pan, sends etc. -MIDI editing facilities.

-Send or Bus tracks for adding common effects such as reverb, delay etc.

Fig 1: Logic Audio; Modern Sequencer with the full functionailty of a hardware studio.

Audio V’s MIDI

Sequences record and playback either Audio or MIDI data. Audio data is very large and contains the sound, e.g. 1 Minute of an Guitar Audio recording at standard CD quality 44 KHz is 10 Meg. MIDI data is small and 1 minute recording is 10 kb.


MIDI Musical Instrument Digital Interface

A MIDI Keyboard can be used to record a players performance notes over time. As the musician plays the keys, MIDI information is generated and can be recorded in a sequencer. The MIDI data can be manipulated and edited using the sequencer tools to add, remove or change a notes position and velocity.

A software sequencer will enable you to record and edit both MIDI and Audio data. The MIDI editing facility will provide you with the basic tools required to touch up a performance, e.g. add, delete, move or edit notes.

Audio Editing

To complete more detailed Audio editing, a dedicated Audio software programme is required. Soundforge, Cool Edit Pro, Weavelab and Rebirth and the most common. They will allow you to cut, copy and paste sections of audio in preparation for use in your music. Functions such as pitch shift, time shift can alter the time and pitch of a sample independently of each other. If you have a classical sample loop at 140 BPM in C minor, you can use time shift to increase the tempo to 170 BPM and maintain the key of C minor.


Propeller Heads Rebirth is designed to chop large audio files, for example drum loops, into smaller individual audio files. It can automatically detect where each drum hit starts or the data can be edited manually.

Fig 2: A drum beat loaded into ReCycle.

Budget Software Sequencer

For a restricted budget, start with purchasing lower end programs, e.g. Fruity Loops, Sonic Foundry Acid, or Cakewalk Music Creator 4. They help to get a basic understanding of creating drum pattern sequences and Synth lines using a simple interface.

Fig 3: Two examples of software MIDI sequencers, Fruity Loops and Logic.

Budget Software Sequences are very easy to use, but are not particularly flexible and versatile. They may come with only modest selection of Drum Kits that cannot be expanded and Virtual Instruments that are limited and cannot be expanded.

There are even Freeware / Open source sequencers available: • Ardour

• Frinika (cross platform) • LMMS (cross platform)


• MusE

• MuseScore (cross platform) • Musette

• Rosegarden • Seq24

• Hydrogen (cross platform, drum machine)

Advanced Software Sequencer

If you want to expand your Software Sequencer with an almost limitless amount of Virtual Instruments, select a Sequencer that can use VSTs. Virtual Studio Technology, developed by Steinberg, are plug ins for both Virtual Synthesisers and Virtual effects.

Fig 4: A selection of VST Synthesisers. The sound quality of VSTs is catching up with hardware Synths. The average clubber can’t tell the difference and probably doesn’t even know what a VST is anyway.

Fig 5: A selection of VST Effects. Any hardware effect, e.g. EQ, Compression, Panner, Phaser etc has a software equivalent. (I don't know what they are claled but they look pretty, so they must be good)

VST Software Sequencer hosts include… • Ableton Live, • Ardour, • Cubase, • FL Studio, • Logic Pro, • REAPER • Sonar.

Some VSTs are quite inexpensive to purchase and other cost many hundred pounds. Ensure that you read many reviews or download trial period VSTs before purchasing.

There are many free VST Synthesisers and VST effects to search for on the internet… Samples


Another vital element to any studio, big or small, is a sample collection. Drum Kits, vocal stabs, sound effects, trumpet stabs etc. A vast number of professional quality sample CDs are available on the market from about £20 to £50 pound each. They differ substantially in quality and style so listen to them before parting with your cash.

There are many free resources on the internet which provide samples of all types and sources. Build up your own sample collection over the years or purchase a mike and some instruments and make your own. Free samples may not match the quality and consistency of purchasing professional CDs, but they are an excellent and diverse alternative. Sound Fonts

SoundsFonts (trademark of E-Mu Systems) are actual samples that are mapped to notes on a keyboard to provide a limitless range of instruments. Instruments such as the Piano and Flute which, traditionally, are very difficult to emulate by using subtractive Synthesis or physical modelling Synthesis. Instead, they are sampled at different tones and mapped to specific notes on a midi keyboard. This is known as Wavetable Synthesis.

Fig: Each block below the keyboard represents a sound recording of a piano at different intervals and different amplitudes. The intricacies and variation of a note on the piano played at different volumes can be mapped to the midi keyboard. Playing the midi keyboard softly on a touch sensitive keyboard triggers the soft sounds, and playing the keyboard loudly triggers the loud sounds.

Fig 6: Audio files are mapped to a range of notes on a MIDI keyboard and at different velocities.

Many SoundFonts are free and contain real samples of vintage and modern Synthesisers, including Novation Bass Station, Access Virus, Korg Triton and E-Mu. It is possible to build up a vast collection of electronic and analogue drum kits, Synthesisers, orchestral instruments, and many other sounds without any additional cost.

The following websites offer free SoundFonts.

(7) free soundfonts

Next Steps

Now that you have all of the tools, the next step is to gain knowledge. The basics of Synthesis, drum sequencing, percussion, effects, chord progression are covered various chapters within this book.

2. Music Theory


Understanding the basic principles of Music Theory is enough to get you started, but it will take a lifetime to master. There are many books and web sites devoted to Music Theory which provide a more detailed description of Musicology. The following pages provide a brief overview and enough information to give a beginner an introduction.

Notes on a Keyboard

The notes on a keyboard, listed below, are from A to G and repeat over a 12 note sequence. The black notes have 2 names, either Sharp # taken from the white note on the left, or Flat b taken from the white note on the right.

The numerical unit of notes is called a tone. The move of 1 note to the next is called a semi-tone, i.e. C to Db is a semi tone. E to F is a semi tone. The move from 1 note to the second is a tone, i.e. C to D is a tone, G to A is a tone, E to Gb is a tone. Tones are used to identify scales.

Fig 1: The notes on a keyboard repeat after 12 semi tones or 8 whole tones. Chap 2 a keyboard.jpg

Fig 2: The notes used in a sequencer correspond to notes in a Stave. Each grid in the sequence below represents 1/16th of a bar or 16 semi quavers. Each note is a quaver, or 1/8th bar. (Details on musical

notation below) Chap 2 b stave.jpg



Scales are a recognised sequence of notes that ascend up the keyboard starting of a specific note. There are an extensive variety of scales available, from the more common Major and Minor scale, to the more exotic Japanese, Kumoi and 8 Tone Spanish. An extensive list of scales are listed in Appendix 1. The are the starting point for constructing melodies that harmonise with chord progression (covered later in this chapter).

C Major Scale

C Major = C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C

The Major scale can be counted in semi-tones and is universal for all scales 2 2 1 2 2 2 1. For example, the scale of C Major: starting in C, 2 semi-tones to D, 2 semi-tones to E, 1 semi-tone to F etc.

C Major Scale in Semi Tones

















D Major in Scale in Semi Tones

















C Minor Scale

The second most common scale is Minor and consists of semi-tone steps 2 1 2 2 1 3 1 C Minor = C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, and C

C Minor Scale in Semi Tones

















C# Minor Scale in Semi Tones










Musical Notation

Musical symbols represent all elements of Musical Notation, including the note length. The most common symbols for an Electronic Dance producer are shown below. The use of note length is essential for creating particular Rhythmic components of a song, which is explored in more detail in Chapter 11.

Chap 2 c notation.jpg

Semibreve is

1 bar

Minim is ½

of a bar.

Crotchet is ¼

of a bar.

Quaver is

1/8 of a bar.


Is 1/16 of a



Chords are simply constructed from notes in the scale. For example… C Major consists of the 1st, 3rd and 5th Note of the C Major Scale C E and G.

C Minor consists of the 1st, 3rd and 5th Note of the C Minor Scale C Eb and G.

Chap 2 d chords.jpg

C Major C E G

C Minor C Eb G

A “Major” chord has a positive, pleasant sound and a “Minor” chord has a more dissonant and uneasy sound. A list of common chords is listed in Appendix 2.

Understanding Chord Progression

Chord progression is moving from one chord to another to create pleasing and satisfying change. Extensive chord progression used in pop and classical music is outside the scope of most electronic dance tunes, and also this book. Modern dance music can be effective with only 2 or 3 chords.

The choice of chords available is based on the predominant scale of the song, e.g. a song based on C Major has 7 chords to choose from, each starting with a note from the C Major scale C, D, E, F, G, A, B. Each note or Scale Degree can be referenced using a Roman Numeral as described in the chord chart below.


Appendix 2b features a Chord Progression Chart from A to G, Major and Minor.

Chord Progression Example in C Minor

An example of a simple 4 chord progression VI, I, II, I or A Minor, C Major, D Minor and C Major is listed below.

1) VI A Minor A C E 2) I C Major C E G 3) II D Minor D F A 4) I C Major C E G

Chap 2 e Chord prog1.jpg

To devise your own chord progression in C Major, use any of the above chords in any order, either starting or ending in the root chord, i.e. I or C Major. Experiment to see which progressions sound familiar and useable, or too unfamiliar and strange. If you use too many unfamiliar chord progressions, the audience may be put off because they are unfamiliar with your choice of chords. If you use too many familiar chord progressions, the audience will be put off due to high predictability. The key is to find a balance between the two extremes.

Transposing Chords Progression

Any chord progression can be transposed to another Scale Degree by using the matrix in Appendix 2b. Cheat, by learning chord progression only in C, and use the transpose button when you jam with better musicians!

C Minor Chord Progression Chart


Chap 2 f Chord prog2.jpg

Chord Progression Chart Based on Any Scale

Any chord progression chart can be devised based on a particular scale, and Scale Degree. -The chords in Scale degree I uses noted from the scale in position I, II and V.

-The chords in Scale degree II uses noted from the scale in position II, IV and VI. -The chords in Scale degree III uses noted from the scale in position III, V and VII. -The chords in Scale degree IV uses noted from the scale in position IV, V and I. -The chords in Scale degree V uses noted from the scale in position V, VII and II. -The chords in Scale degree VI uses noted from the scale in position VI, I and III. -The chords in Scale degree VII uses noted from the scale in position VII, II and IV.


To increase the range of chords available for more advance progression, change any Chord Name apart from the root to a possible substitution. Substitutions include inverse, i.e. Major to Minor, Minor to Major, bVII e.g. B Dim becomes Bb Major.

Substitution: 1 “bVII”

In a standard C Major Chord Progression Chart, Scale Degree VII or B Dim creates a very dissonant chord progression when used with the other chords. By substituting the B Dim with Db Major (i.e. lowering B by a semi-tone to Bb) a more pleasing progression option becomes available.

Chap 2 g Chord prog3.jpg

Substitution 2: All Major

An established method for using all Major chords is to reverse the polarity III and VI, i.e. turn Minor to Major and use bVII to turn B Dim to Bb Major. Remove II from the progression chart because it doesn’t produce a pleasing progression.


Further Reading

This chapter merely introduces the key elements of musicology. Other areas of interest which you may choose to explore include..

• Staffs, Clefs and Ledger Lines • Steps and Accidentals

• Phrases and Cadences • Music and mathematics • Symmetry

• Musical temperament • Tonality

• Classical terminology

Emotional Chord Progression

The choice of Scale Degree, Scale and progression will determine the emotional response. Many factors contribute to the mood of the song, including tempo, timbre, rhythm and chord progression.

Dark Chord Progression

The vibe and atmosphere is more important that the emotional content of Chord Progression in dance music. Classical music uses dissonant harmony and minor chords to convey unsettling and moody songs.

In electronic music, dark vibes are crated by using minimal chord progression as chord progression generally has a specific emotional attachment. By detaching any emotion, and selecting specific instruments with distorted textures, dissonant harmony and disturbing timbres, a dark vibe is created. Chap 2 i Chord prog5.jpg

Euphoric Chord Progression

Euphoric chord progression consists of alternating between major and minor chords, i.e. V, VI and I. Chap 2 j Chord prog6.jpg


Appendix 3 lists several examples of chord progression used in a variety of genres, including Dark D&B, Funky House and Breakbeat.

3. Genre

Decide what Genre to compose.

The first decision to make is what type of Electronic Dance Music you want to make. A Genre that you are most familiar with will make a good starting point. If you choose to produce music in unfamiliar territory, you may create a genre breakthrough and produce completely original and unique tunes.

At the simplest level, Electronic Dance Music can be divided into 2 main genres types, either regular 4 to the floor Kick or Broken / Irregular Beat. Genres with a Regular 4 to the Floor Beat have more emphasis on the musical element, however Genres with Broken Beat have a greater importance rhythmic variation.

Broken Beat

Breakbeat Electro

Drum and Bass Garage

Dub step / Grime

Regular 4 to the Floor Beat

Hard Dance House


Sub Genres

Each Genre contains a wide range of Sub Genres with emphasis on either chord progression, e.g. Intelligent Drum and Bass / Trance, or atmosphere and vibe e.g. Dark Drum and Bass or Hard House. If you can master both elements, your choice of Genres will increase considerably.


The full definitive list of main and sub genres will probably never be complete as genres overlap and new categories are invented regularly. Wikipedia contains a reasonably comprehensive list however true pioneers are out creating music and don’t have time to update Wikipedia (or create books on Dance Music Rudiments!)

To save you seconds of your precious studio time, I’ve Googled the subject for you…

It is outside the scope of this book to define the combination of elements that determine a particular sub genre but to categorise the elements themselves.

I have been producing Breakbeat (Mazala Recordings) and Drum and Bass (Bass Fix Productions) for over a decade and have released numerous singles, EP and Albums globally. Although this book is created from an author with a background in the above genres, there is no reason why a Trance producer, for example, can benefit from the ideas contained within.

4. Song Arrangement

Considerations Before Arranging a Song

Before spending time on arrangement, ensure that the song has a good vibe to start with and is worth pursuing. Create the core elements of the song first, Drums, Bass, Synth. A vibe is combination of rhythm and music that give the listener an overwhelming desire to move. The creation of a good vibe can often be hard to explain in words, but when the magic is there it cannot be ignored. The order you produce the elements dictate what direction the song will take. Starting with Bass for example limits the chord progression options available. However, for certain genres, chord progression may not be of particular importance for the track.

Composition Tip

Any creative artist has good and bad days for their work, however at the time of production, a low standard may be hard to spot. After a few days, fesh ears and mind will be better to judge if the vibe is good.

When creating a new tune, start by creating the main part of the song, (the drop) using an 8 or 16 bar loop, using the core components of the song, Drums, Bass, Lead. Compose a second part, different but not too removed from the main part of the song. Don’t worry about the intro, breakdown or outro at this stage. The intro is just a light version of the drop with the hook or main synth removed. The breakdown is usually the introduction of the hook or synth without the drums.

Your initial perception of a tune is altered as soon as it is created so take a break from that particular song for a few days. After a break re load the tune and if the vibe is good, continue working on the song to completion; add more detail, e.g. pads and Synths (Chapter 8), sound effects (Chapter 11) and production techniques (Chapter 13). If not, consign it to the bin, and make a fresh song. Adding details and intelligent arrangement will never fix the fundamental issue of “lack of vibe”

Arrangement Categories and Arrangement Block Types.

When arranging a song, it is necessary to understand the different Arrangement Categories and their particular function, see the chart below. Each Arrangement Category is distinctive, does not overlap and fore fills a particular function for both the DJ and dancer.

A lot of songs go straight from the Intro to a Drop with a minimal build up. The only rule to arranging is so ensure that the song can be mixed by a DJ.





Start of song, e.g. just drums, or Strings. A DJ friendly intro will

enable the song to be mixed from the beginning. A simple intro will

be easy for the DJ to mix. An epic intro with a variety of instruments,

atmosphere etc will provide a substantial start to a DJ's set.

Breakdown 1

Change of pace, create space prior to main part of the song “drop”.

(This part of the tune is generally where the new song is given 100%

of the cross fader and the old song is replaced with the next tune to be


Pre Beat 1 Or

Build up

Anticipation prior to the main part to song / Drop. The rhythm and

intensity increases.

Main 1 / Drop 1

Start of main part of the song.

Variation 1 /


Change of pace or themes to sustain interest. Traditionally the

Chorus contains the most memorable and catchy riffs of the tune.

Breakdown 2

Similar function to Breakdown 1.

Pre Beat 2

Build up 2

Anticipation prior to the second Drop.

Main 2 / Drop 2

Start of main part of the song. (This part of the tune should contain

an easily recognisable cue point for the DJ to start mixing in the next


Variation 2 /


Change of pace or themes to sustain interest.


Finish, winding down of elements.

An epic outro with a variety of instruments, atmosphere etc will

provide a substantial end to a DJ's set.

Arrangement Block Types (single)

An Arrangement Block Types describes the musical or percussive content. There are 10 categories, and each Arrangement Category will contain a combination of multiple Arrangement Block Types, see the chart below.


Block Types




Used for intros or breakdowns and helps the DJ keep

time without overpowering drums.

DRUMS - Light Full Drum kit with little power, commonly used before

the Main Drums.

DRUMS - Main Main hard drums, full volume and intensity.


INSTRUMENTS Strings / Pads

INSTRUMENTS Lead / Synthesiser

INSTRUMENTS Analogue Instruments Guitar, Piano etc. Real recordings

or Sound Fonts.



Digital or Analogue FX



Example of Arrangement Block Types in a Breakbeat Tune

The following example provides overview of a typical arrangement of an 8 minute Breakbeat tune… -A single “Arrangement Block Type” unit lasts 16 bars (or 30 seconds at 134 BPM).

-By introducing a new “Arrangement Block Type” every 8 bars, the tune does not become repetitive and maintain interest.

In the example below, the intro provides the DJ about 1 minute to mix both tunes before cutting the fader 100% for the breakdown. The DJ can mix out of the tune at the end of Variation or Pre Beat 2.


t Category


Intro Breakdo

wn 1 Pre Beat 1 Main 1 Variation 1 Breakdown 2 Pre Beat 2 Main 2 Variation 2 Outro

Number of


32 16 16 32 32 16 16 32 32 32

Number of


2 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 2 2

Block Type Variation

To sustain interest for the listener, it is necessary for a producer to exhibit subtle variations in the Arrangement Block types, and dramatic variation from one Arrangement Category to the next.

As an example, the following 32 bar Intro contains a new variation of “Arrangement Block Type” every 8 bars.

8 bars of drums and Bass, then 8 bars of drums, Bass and Synth, then 8 bars of drums, Bass and vocals, then 8 bars of drums and vocals.



0:00 0:30 1:00 1:30 2:00

8 Bars 8 Bars 8 Bars 8 Bars etc

Drums - Main Drums - Main Drums - Main Drums - Main Instruments - Bass Instruments - Bass Instruments - Bass

Instruments - Synth Instruments - Synth

Vocals Vocals Snare roll crescendo Pads

Decide the Sequence of Arrangement Block Types

Once you have an understanding of the function of each individual Arrangement Block Types, the next stage is to produce an arrangement which contains the main framework, and simple sequencing patterns, e.g. Intro = 1/8th closed hat

Build up = Snare roll

Main 1 = Main drums and Bass

Variation 1 = Main drums and Bass and Synth Breakdown = 1/8th closed hat

Main 2 = Main drums and Bass and vocals Variation 2 = Main drums and Bass, vocals and Synth


Outro = 1/8th closed hat

Fig 1: Each unit below represent 4 bars in the song (or 15 seconds).

Key Elements to an Arrangement.

1) The song can be mixed in easily by a DJ.

2) There are not too many breakdowns, either 1 or 2 per song is enough. 3) The song can be mixed out easily by a DJ.

Simple Arrangement

Keep the arrangement simple enough for a DJ to mix in and out of the tune. If you want to demonstrate cutting edge rhythms and irregular Synth effects, utilise the breakdown when dancers stop dancing and take a break (unless their particular state of mind prevents them from noticing that the beat has stopped). As long as the main part of the song contains a familiar and regular rhythmic sequence, the dancers won’t mind a complete contrast in musical elements for the breakdown.

An important consideration is that only a few song Arrangement templates provide a DJ friendly track. If the DJ can’t mix your song because of a contemporary and irregular arrangement, it might fore fill the function of a film score, but fail for the purpose of a dance track.

For more examples of Song Arrangement, see Appendix 5.

DJ Friendly Cue Points

Any percussive element at the beginning of a song will help a (Vinyl) DJ mix in a tune straight from the start. It is important to add DJ Friendly Cue Points in a variety of places within the track. An obvious example to demonstrate is by adding the vocals, “3, 2, 1, go” just before bar 13. An example or non DJ Friendly arrangement is 4 bars of Strings and no percussion which jump suddenly into the main part of the song. An experienced DJ will be able to cue off from the Snare but this only gives them a fraction of a second to react. Motifs can be used symbolically to communicate arrangement, e.g. the clichéd 16ths Snare build up before the main part of the song.

e.g. FX - swoosh up or down to signify a new 16 bars.

5. Drum and Percussion Elements Determine the Drum Kit to use

The Drum Kit is also an instrument, with an infinite pallet of sounds. To provide a greater understanding, Drum Kits can be categorised into 6 types. Other qualities which can be suitable to help categorise include power, i.e. light, medium and heavy, which makes a total of 6 colours with 3 different shades each, or 18 categories.

Drum Timbre

The timbre of a Drum Kit can be classified mainly by the source and use of filters. Certain timbres are more effective for specific genres, although you can mix it up a bit for originality.

1) Analogue: Raw, unprocessed live kit, either recorded directly from a live drum kit or sequenced.

Drum Timbre Rock.mp3

2) Electronic Crisp Hard: Analogue kit, processed electronically to create a tight and crisp kit.

Drum Timbre 2 Elec hard.mp3

3) Electronic Vintage: Electronically generated drums, e.g. 808, 909.

Drum Timbre 3 Vintage.mp3

4) Filtered Analogue: Filtered analogue drums with either subtle, e.g. modulation, vocoder, band

pass or drastic effects, e.g. distortion.

Drum Timbre 4 Rock FX.mp3

5) Filtered Crisp Hard: Filtered Crisp Hard drums with either subtle, e.g. modulation, vocoder, band pass or drastic effects, e.g. distortion.


Drum Timbre 5 Elec Hard FX.mp3

6) Filtered Vintage: Electronically generated drums, with additional DSP.

Drum Timbre 6 Vintage FX.mp3

Percussion Style

World percussion can add a distinctive and energetic flavour to static beats. The following examples sound effective when added to a House Beat or Broken Beat.

Jazz: light percussion, i.e. no big Snare or Kick.

Perc Style 1 Jazz Drums.mp3

[See Appendix 6a]

Latin: bongos, castanets and bells and life and an upbeat vibe.

Perc Style 2 Latin Drums.mp3

[See Appendix 6b]

World: bongos and tabla complement a steady beat

Perc Style 3 World Drums.mp3

[See Appendix 6c]

Industrial / Orchestral Drums: - e.g. movie drums

Perc Style 4 Industrial.mp3 Drum Extras

Additional sequences can enhance a standard drum beat and provide subtle variation.

Boom drums / bongos: Rumble boom drums with long reverb

Drum Extra 1 Boom Drums.mp3

Beat Box: Beat Box: Human vocals imitating drums

Drum Extra 2 Beat Box.mp3

Beat Band Pass / Ghost: Tiny filtered beat – treat like shaker percussion.

Drum Extra 3 BP Ghost.mp3

Beat FX / filter. Beat that is filtered drastically so it no longer sounds like a drum beat, but a sound


Drum Extra 4 Filter.mp3

No Kick:Hat and Snare beat for breakbowns

Drum Extra 5 No Kick.mp3

Percussion loop: Hats / bongos - usually in house

Extra 6 Bongo Loop.mp3

Poly filler: Polyrythmic sequence to enhance a basic beat, i.e. provide a fuller drum sound

Drum Extra 7 Poly drums.mp3

Pre Beat: Pre Beat rudiments. Intricately programmed rhythmic effects. (More details in chapter


Drum Extra 8 Pre Beat.mp3

Beat Swish: Usually in house before the second Snare.

Drum Extra 9 Beat Swish.mp3

Beat Zaps: Zaps or bleeps, usually off beat to provide a fuller rhythm.

Drum Extra 10 Zaps.mp3 Percussion

Simple percussion can provide effective additional rhythmic components to a simple beat. The combined effect is a more danceable rhythm.


Bongos – steady: With the rhythm for a steady compliment

Percussion 1 Bongos Regular.mp3

Bongos – sparse: Against the rhythm and off beat to add intensity

Percussion 2 Bongos Sparse.mp3

Clap: Electronic or Real (Analogue)

Percussion 3 Clap.mp3

Crash Cymbal: Electronic or Real (Analogue)

Percussion 4 Crash.mp3

Cymbal Ride: Electronic or Real (Analogue)

Percussion 5 Ride.mp3

Hats real drummer: Different subtle/extreme timbres to emulate real drummer; a dynamic timbre

greatly enhances the overall vibe.

[insert imagination here]

Hats regular: Quantised 1/16th drums that provide a precise, unnatural and clinical sequence.

Percussion 6 Hat Reg.mp3

Hats swing: Swing hats for a jazzy vibe.

Percussion 6b Hat Swing.mp3

Hats electronic: Micro sequencing 1/32nd or less.

Percussion 6c Hats MS.mp3

Bell Percussion: Metallic percussion.

Percussion 7 Bell.mp3

2 Tone: e.g. 1/8th note bell, electric bong, pop etc.

Percussion 8 2tone.mp3

Percussion FX: Any standard percussion with a filtered sound.

Percussion 9 Beat Filter.mp3

Misc: Anything that doesn’t fit in any other category.


Shakers Regular: With the rhythm for a steady compliment

Percussion 10 Shakers Reg.mp3

Shakers Sparse: Start on 3/8 to 7/8 of the bar.

Percussion 10b Shakers Spr.mp3

Shakers Analogue: Analogue recording of shakers

Percussion 10c Shakers Real.mp3

There are other percussive instruments available including Whistle, Guiro, Wood Block etc but they add an element of amateur General Midi composer.

6. Drum Pattern

Drum and Percussion sequencing.

My preference for producing Drum and Bass and Breakbeat over House probably originates from my love of solid Drums and contemporary rhythmic variety. Although subtle variety within the drum sequencing is necessary, it is essential to maintain a steady grove.

A simple techniquie to create a 32 bar sequence of drums from1 pattern:

Create 1 bar of drums. Copy and change the rhythm of the last bar (the second). Copy both to make 4 and change the rhythm of the last (the fourth). Repeat 3 more times until you have a total of 32.

The following drum patterns have been seperated into 3 categories, Breakbeat, Hip Hop and Drum and Bass.


A) Breakbeat – 100 to 150 BMP

Breakbeat drum sequencing can be categories into the following sub categories. The categories are defined by the position of the Kick and Snare only. Hat sequencing can help accentuate certain rhythmic qualities and offer variety to an identical Kick and Snare pattern, but does not define a category. Each block represents 1/16th of a bar or Semi Quaver.


Regular Snare, simple and effective.

Drum Pattern 1 Stand Elec.mp3


Regular Snare, simple and conventional 1/8 sequencing for Kick and accented Snare (Only light Snare / Ghost Snare is sequenced at 1/16 only)

Drum Pattern 2 Stand Break.mp3


Combination of Regular Kick with break ending

Drum Pattern 3 Hybrid.mp3


Snare delayed or increased by 1/16th

Drum Pattern 4 Irregular.mp3


Regular Snare, simple and effective. Very similar to “Standard Breakbeat” with the addition of a Kick on 1/16th hits to give more momentum.

Drum Pattern 5 Rollling.mp3


Intelligent and modern, Snare delayed or increased 1/8th



Intelligent and modern, Kick delayed or increased 1/8th

Drum Pattern 7 Contemp Kick.mp3


Snare that is not constant and delayed or increased by over 1/8th

Drum Pattern 8 Unconven.mp3


“Off Beat” and complementary to a regular “On Beat” sequence.

Drum Pattern 9 Poly R.mp3

Important Considerations

• The use of too many unconventional drum sequences with irregular Snares and Kicks will dissuade clubbers to dance.

• To sustain interest, try a variety of Drum Sequence styles in a song, either alternating every 16 bars or example, or changing style for the second half of the song.

See Appendix 8a for the full list of Breakbeat sequence patterns in the different styles.

B) Hip Hop– Below 100 BMP

To create a groove for Hip Hop, reducing the speed of a Breakbeat tune will not necessarily sound good. A standard Breakbeat sequence that is reduced to 100 BMP sounds too empty.

Drum Pattern 10a Hip Empty.mp3

HIP HOP with Swing

Beat sequence that sounds better below 100 BPM. The sequence benefits from additional Kicks either 1/16th

before or after the sequence of standard Kicks.


HIP HOP without Swing

Swing becomes more important with slower tempos. Compare the Drum Sequence below without any Swing and notice how rigid it sounds.

Drum Pattern 10c Hip Noswng.mp3


It is essential to add a lot of Swing or else the straight 16 beats sound ridged. All good Software equencers will provide a function to add degrees of Swing to a sequence.

Fig 1: Top top bottom, Heavy Swing, Medium Swing, No Swing

[see Appendix 8b for the full list of Hip Hop sequence patterns]

C) Drum and Bass – Above 150 BMP

The majority of regular Breakbeat patterns can be increased in tempo for Drum and Bass which has a standard tempo of just above 170 BPM. An important consideration to make are that sequences that contain too much swing start to loose their edge. Also, too many 1/16th Kicks sound cluttered.


A standard Hip Hop sequence that is increased to 170 BMP sounds too messy. The quick Kicks and swing are not pleasing to the ear.

Drum Pattern 11a DnB 2full.mp3

The sequence benefits from removal of all swing and too many Kicks

Drum Pattern 11b DnB fine.mp3


D) Percussion Sequencing

When sequencing the hi hats, their relative position to the Kick and Snare is important. A simple rule to create the Kick and Snare pattern first before adding hi hats which complement the rhythm.

[see Appendix 9 for the full list of percussion sequence patterns]

E) Electronic Drum Rolls

One of the drum’s rolls most simple functions is to indicate the end of a drum sequence by introducing drastic rhythmic variations. The drum roll enables the song to progress to the next section of the song comfortably.

[see Appendix 10 for the full list of Electronic Drum Roll patterns]

7. Introduction to Synthesis Basic Tutorial In Sound Design

To create your own Synth Sounds, you will need a basic understanding of Sound Design or Synthesis. There are a variety of types of Synthesis, including…

• Additive • Subtractive • Granular • Spectral • Ring Modulation • Amplitude Modulation • Frequency Modulation • Re-Synthesis • Wavetable • Physical Modelling

A detailed description of each form of Synthesis is outside the scope of the book – For further reading, Google it. The fundamental areas of Synthesis are explained below.

Introduction to Additive Synthesis

In it’s simplest form, Additive Synthesis is the addition of sine waves at various frequencies to create more complex sounds. In theory, any sound can be reproduced using up to an infinite number of sine waves. Square Saves, Saw Waves and other more complex waves are generated by adding Sine waves of different harmonic frequencies together. A harmonic of a wave is a component frequency of the signal that is an integer multiple of the fundamental frequency. For example, if the fundamental frequency is f, the harmonics have frequencies f, 2f, 3f, 4f, etc.


Fig 2: Three addition sine waves are added at double 880 Hz, treble 1,320 Hz and Quadruple 1,760 Hz the original frequency.

Fig 3: More harmonic frequencies of the Sine Wave are added to create a Square Wave.

Introduction to Subtractive Synthesis

The most common form of Synthesis in most VSTs is Subtractive Syntheses. Filters are used to subtract frequencies from different types of waves, e.g. Sine, Saw Tooth, Square to create a variety of sounds. It is a 4 stage process to create an infinite array of any sound imaginable

Subtractive Synthesis = 1) VCO + 2) ADSR + 3) Filter + 4) DSP

1) VCO = Voltage Controlled Oscillator e.g. Sine, Saw or Square wave.




2) ADSR = Attack Sustain Delay and Release. Attack is the time for the instrument to reach maximum amplitude, e.g. a percussive sound has a short Attack and a Pad has a longer attack.


3) Cut off Filter = A filter removes unwanted frequencies, for example a Low Cut filter removes low frequencies at a specific frequency, e.g. 410 Hz in the below diagram.

4) DSP = Digital Signal Processing. The final stage includes adding filters that manipulate the sound, e.g. distortion, modulation, etc. Chapter 13 covers DSP in more detail.

LFO Low Frequency Operator

A Sine Wave VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator) that generates a tone of A4, or “Concert A” oscillates 440 times per second or 440 Hz. The human range of hearing is 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 KHz). A signal that oscillates below 20 Hz is called an LFO. LFOs are used in Synthesis to apply subtle variation to sounds via modulation. An LFO with the value of 2 oscillates 2 times per second. An LFO with the value of 0.5 oscillates once every 2 seconds.

Fig 4: An LFO with 1 Oscillation.


All variables in Synthesis such as pitch, cut off frequency, LFO etc are represented by numerical values. Modulation is changing the value of one element by the value of another element.


-Sine Wave at 440 Hz: Tone = x

-Low Frequency Oscillator of 0.5, or 1 oscillation every 2 seconds. Value = y

If the value of the Tone x is modulated by the value of the oscillator y, then the pitch will rise and fall like a police siren as per the diagram below.


Fig 4: The LFO pictures has a value of 0.5, 1 oscillation every 2 seconds.

Another example is to set the Mod Wheel on your keyboard to control the pitch. The value of the pitch can be adjusted at a specific parameter to create a drastic (+12 semi tones) or subtle (+ 2 semi tones) modulation.

MOD wheel > +2 semi tones > Pitch MOD wheel > +12 semi tones > Pitch

Modulating Expression

With analogue instruments, the timbre of the sound varies according to how soft or hard you play. These subtle nuances can be programmed into synths using velocity modulation. If velocity was the source and filter Cut Off was the destination, you could set it so that the harder you hit a key, the more a filter would open.

8. Electronic and Analogue Instruments for the Dance Producer

Timbre Elements

The pallet of sounds available at the disposable to the modern Dance Music composer is vast and can be daunting to a beginner. By categorising various instruments into descriptive categories, the production of new and unique sounds can be achieved.

The term instrument in the book refers to a source of sound that can be used in a composition. An example include a computer generated Bass Synth, a sampled phrase of music or a vocal stab.

Individual Sound

To find your own sound and individuality as a producer, you must create your own Synth sounds, drum kits and sound effects for use in your songs. There is nothing wrong with using Synth presets or using SFX from sample CDs, as long as they are used to compliment your own sounds.

VST V’s Hardware Synth

There has been much debate on the quality of sounds created by VST Synths (Steinberg’s Virtual Studio Technology) or if they can match the authenticity of hardware Synths. If the tune gets the crowd dancing, they don’t care how the song was made. They don’t care if an authentic 808 was used to record the Kick or a Sound Font sample bank of an 808 Kick. They don’t care if the latest 192 KHz surround sound 64 stereo channel mixer was use for the final mastering or if was mixed on a home PC. It is important that the quality of the recording is clear, well balanced and the song has a great vibe.

Pallet of Available Sound Sources / Instruments



The lower notes on a keyboard. If Bass sounds

are played higher up the keyboard, they can be

used as Lead.


The mid to higher note on a keyboard. If Lead

sounds are played lower, they can be used as Bass

sounds. This book defines a Lead as an

instrument played with a single note only.


This book defines a Synth, as any Lead sound

played with more than a single note, i.e. harmony.

The difference between Synth and Strings; with

Synths, the rhythmic qualities are more important

that harmony.

Strings / Pads

String are sounds with the harmonic component

serving a more important function than rhythm.

Pads are Strings with only 1 chord, i.e. their

purpose is atmosphere instead of chord


Wavetable Synth

Any other instrument that doesn’t fall into the

above categories, e.g. Piano, Organ, Brass,

Rhoads, Harp, Sitar or any other sampled

orchestral or analogue instrument in a Wavetable

Synth or SoundFont.

Music Samples


Real samples of analogue instruments.

Music Samples


Real samples of analogue instruments, with

additional filters and DSP.

Vocal Samples


Real samples of human voice.

Vocal Samples


Real samples of human voice, with additional

filters and DSP.

SFX Analogue

Analogue noise, e.g. dog barking.

SFX Digital Signal Computer Generated noise, e.g. swoosh, laser, etc.

Pre Beat

A combination of rhythmic inputs and effects

(more details below).

Timbre Matrix


Pads. Not all timbres are relevant to each instrument category. Chapter 9 describes how to generate each timbre using basic tools such as VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator e.g. sine wave, square wave etc), ADSR (Attack Sustain Delay and Release) cut off filters, and DSP (Digital Signal Processing, e.g. distortion).

• Most categories can overlap, e.g. Distorted Bass and Growling Bass.

• Sounds in the matrix below that have n/a are technically possible but don’t particularly benefit from the specific timbre.

The sound examples below are examples are instruments with the minimal filters required for classification, and therefore are not necessarily ready for use in a song. Chapter 13 lists a few simple filter techniques to turn any basic sound into a pro quality sample, ready for your tune.

Master Timbre Description Bass Lead Synth Strings /


Acid Stab High resonance with zappy,

laser qualities Yes Yes n/a n/a Cut Off Band Pass Cut Off filter

modulated rhythmically. Yes Yes Yes n/a Detune Pitch varies subtly, creating

an uneasy feeling n/a Yes Yes Yes Didgeridoo Dynamic electronic Bass with

organic Didgeridoo qualities Yes n/a n/a n/a Distorted Distorted, gritty and dirty

texture. Yes Yes n/a n/a

Dynamic velocity Velocity of note modulated

inversely to cut off. Yes Yes Yes n/a Electricity Sonic qualities of electricity. n/a Yes n/a n/a Fall Pitch fall, subtle or dramatic,

short or long. Yes Yes n/a n/a Garage Warble Bass Warble, wobbly garage Bass Yes n/a n/a n/a Gate Gate, i.e. volume controlled

by rhythmic input. Yes Yes Yes Yes Growling Bass Lots of harmonics for

rhythmic Bass - Note held long

Yes n/a n/a n/a

Harmonix Phatt Bass with lots of hi

frequency, with micro gating Yes n/a n/a n/a High pass High pass filter Yes Yes n/a n/a High Pitch Using higher notes on the

keyboard n/a Yes Yes Yes

Low Frequency Using the lower notes on the

keyboard n/a n/a Yes Yes

Motion Complex cut off motions, non

repetitive Yes Yes Yes Yes

Motion Regular Step or Sine wave LFO

motion Yes Yes Yes Yes

Motion Increase LFO increases frequency Yes Yes n/a Yes

Phatt Strong, clean but heavy

sound Yes n/a n/a n/a

Portmento Portmento, or glide from one

note to the next. Yes Yes n/a Yes Pump / (Duck Gate) Instrument with duck gate n/a n/a n/a Yes

Resonance Tone with high resonance and low cut off for, warbly drum and Bass sound


Retro Rave Retro old school timbre Yes Yes n/a n/a Rise Pitch rise, subtle or dramatic,

short or long. Yes Yes n/a n/a Scratch Scratching timbre (cut off or

VST variation) in time to the beat

Yes n/a n/a n/a

Siren Siren Stab (Pitch rise and

fall) Yes Yes n/a n/a

Slow Attack (soft) Slow Attack (soft) Yes Yes n/a Yes

Square Bass Few harmonics for melodic

tuneful Bass Yes Yes n/a n/a Squeltchy Additional hi resonance cut

off to produce squeltchy sounds

Yes n/a n/a n/a

Stab Quick stab with energy and lots of harmonics, without a gradual release.

Yes Yes Yes n/a

Sub Low frequency Bass Yes n/a n/a n/a

Sweep Smooth Modulated motion n/a Yes n/a Yes

Theramin Retro sound with non static pitch that glides from 1 note to the next.

n/a Yes n/a n/a Tremolo Subtle pitch variation at a

regular modulation. n/a Yes Yes Yes Vocal Timbre Sound that has human vocal

qualities Yes Yes Yes Yes

Wowo Cut off modulated to sine

wave Yes Yes Yes Yes

Wowp Cut off rise and fall, i.e. linked

to ADSR. Yes Yes Yes n/a


Most Synthesisers and Samplers come with Orchestra in a box sounds, e.g. Harp, Violin, Trumpet etc, where actual audio recordings of each note are mapped to a MIDI keyboard, e.g. Sound Fonts. This is called, Wavetable synthesis, and it is generally more convincing than Physical Modelling synthesis. They will never be able to compete with recordings or real instruments, but the obvious main advantage is that any musician who can play the keyboard, can play any orchestral instrument as long as they have the correct Wavetable Sample Bank.

Although a Violin or Trumpet sound mapped to a keyboard sounds quite fake due the subtle intricacies of the real instrument, a sampled Wavetable Piano can be hard to distinguish from the real thing, especially when layered under drums.

Fig: The list of Wavetable synthesisers is vast. A few examples are listed below.


Trumpet, Trombone


Glockenspiel, xylophone etc samples




Rock Organ, Church Organ, Jazz Organ.


Rhythmic chords




Harp, Violin, Viola


Pre Beat

Pre Beat samples are a combination of rhythmic inputs and effects. Due to the nature of quick rhythms, multiple effects and a range of ideas, they build anticipation. They are most effectively used during a breakdown before the drop, hence the name.

Pre Beat Example.mp3

There are 7 categories of Pre Beat, most of which are used in the example above... Fig 1: Glitch samples micro sequence.

Sequence of tiny glitch sounds using grid size less than 1/16, e.g. 1/24, 1/32, 1/64, 1/96 etc. Glitch sounds are short drum samples with extreme fitters to completely warp the sound.

Audio file Pre Beat 1 MS.mp3

Fig 2: Glitch samples rhythm.

Glitch sounds are used in a standard drum pattern sequence.

Pre Beat 2 Glitch Rhythm.mp3

Fig 3: Extreme DSP

A drum beat is filtered through an extreme filter, e.g. Phaser, Distortion, Flanger etc.


Fig 4: Polyrhythmic Stabs

Any stab e.g. Trumpet, Bass, Vocals etc. A Polyrhythm is sequencing 2 different rhythms together, e.g. 5 vocal stabs (5/4) on top of a 4/4 beat

Pre Beat 4 Poly Stabs.mp3

Fig 5: Machine Gun Drum

Rapid and repetitive sequences of percussion in different time signatures.

Pre Beat 5 MG.mp3

Fig 6: Irregular Drums and Glitch.

Combination of irregular Drum pattern and glitched Drums.


Fig 6: Left and Right Glitch

Use extreme pan to add an extra dimention.

Pre Beat 7 Pan Trix.mp3

Music Samples (Unprocessed)

Sampling other peoples songs and adding them to your own is a common practice in modern production. The sample can be used as the main hook of the song or be used to fill out an original production.

If you are concerned about being sued for infringement of mechanical recording rights, copy the sample using your own instruments.

The following represent the main classification of unprocessed samples. Classical Sample loop Loop of classical music

Modern loop Funk, Pop, Rock etc

Individual instrument Flute, Harp, Sax, trumpet etc.

World Anything else that doesn’t fall into the above category.

Music Samples (Processed)

To give samples a more distinctive electronic music edge, apply the following techniques.

Sample with filter Take a section of any unprocessed sample, and add a DSP filter (see chapter 13).

Sample time loop

Sample time loop.mp3

Sample time loop

Sample time loop.mp3 A sample, with certain fractions of a second looped at different lengths.








Glitches.mp3 A sample that is processed by a variety of filters rhythmically, i.e. each occupying a fraction of a bar.


The Electric guitar, is one of the most versatile instruments available for the modern producer. Almost any genre of music can include a guitar riff without it sounding out of place.

Distorted Distorted and overdrive.

Delay Delay, effective when remaining on 1 key.

Retro Tremolo

Gated Gated fast or slow Wah Wah Funk based riffs

Vocal Elements (Unprocessed)

Vocals can add distinction and professionalism to a song. They can give personality to an otherwise faceless, digital composition.

Choir Human

Rap Female

Rap Male

Singing Female

Singing Male

Shout Female

Shout Male

Vocal Elements (Processed)

An unprocessed vocal element may be sufficient for your tune, but if the addition of a vocal line adds an unwanted Pop or Cheesy vibe, you may wish to take back the electronic edge with some nifty processing.

Ambience e.g. Reverb for stadium / church

Auto Tune Extreme The Extreme Auto Tune, which forces natural pitch changes into accurate tones has been overused.

Cut up Phrase cut up into syllables and re-arranged into a rhythm

Choir Vocoder Harmonise several individual Vocoder voices to create a robotic barber shop. Crackle Emulate the static nose interference of an old Record

Delay 1) Short e.g. 60’s Vocal

2) Multiple delay, forming Polyrhythms.

3) Feedback Loop, i.e. more than 50% feedback. Distortion Bit crusher, to remove quality and emulate Police Radio. EQ Emulator the voice heard on Telephone

Gate Useful for screams, or long whoooo’s

Glitch A sample that is processed by a variety of filters rhythmically, i.e. each occupying a fraction of a bar.

Jungle Jungle voice, speech slowed down. Modulation Flanger / Phaser

Muffled Indistinguishable vocals Robot / Vocoder See Vocoder

Pitch FX Use Pitch warp for comic chipmunk vocals.

Reverse Delay Reverse sample, add delay / reverb, and reverse again.

Squidgy Use Cut off modulated to LFO with high resonance to add a high frequency. Spread and EQ narrow Use a stereoscopic EQ to spread certain frequencies to the left and right


Speed Up Make Rap lines even faster.


9. Electronic Instrument Creation Understand Your Studio Tools

Understand the diversity of each VST or Hardware Synth in full. Be aware of all the available parameters and how each can shape the sound. Read the manual and load tweak the factory presets to fully comprehend the sonic variation. Optimise the sonic quality and interest of each instrument. Adding 10 average sounds is not as good as adding 1 amazing sound.

Timbre Creation

Each of the timbres listed below in the timbre matrix can be created using subtractive synthesis, either hardware or software.

The timbre element are classified based on single unique qualities. They can be combined to create more complex sounds, e.g. combining a sub Bass with a duck gate compressor produces a sub bounce.

Experiment with all of the values contained within to create your own variations.

Timbre VCO 1 Cut Off Cut Off Type


ce LFO 1 LFO 2 Modulation / Notes

Acid Stab Saw 10% Low 90% n/a n/a Cut Off Modulation to ADSR Attack = 0ms

Decay = 1000 ms Cut Off Any 50% Band

Pass 10% n/a n/a Use track automation or record the movement of the cut off filter to produce a filter rhythm.

Detune Any Any Any Any 1/2 n/a Set the LFO to oscillate randomly, I.e. not sine or step. Pitch modulated to LFO.


Bass Square 50% Peak 90% 1/1 1/4 Cut Off Modulation to LFO1 and LFO2 Distorted Square 10% Peak 75% n/a n/a n/a Add Distortion


velocity Any not constant Low 50% n/a n/a Velocity modulated to Cut off, i.e. note played softly = low cut-off note played loudly = high cut-off Electricity Any not

constant High 50% 1/4 1/2 LFO 1 = sineLFO 2 = random

Cut off modulated to LFO 1 and 2 Fall Square 10% Peak 75% n/a n/a Pitch Modulation to ADSR

Attack = 0ms Decay = 1000 ms Garage

Warble Bass

Saw 50% Low 25% 1/8 n/a Cut Off Modulation to LFO 1 Gate Any Any Any Any Any Any -Depending upon your

sequencer, the set up may vary. 1) Choose an instrument (destination) with a side chain input.

2) Select the instrument to be gated in the side chain (source). 3) The destination instrument will play the source.


Bass Square 10% Peak 75% n/a n/a Add Distortion Harmonix Saw 100% Peak 90% n/a n/a n/a

Hi pass Square 75% Hi 10% n/a n/a n/a



Frequency Any Any Any Any Any Any Play below C 3

Motion Square 50% Peak 25% 3/1 1/1 Cut Off Modulation to LFO1 and LFO2

Motion LFO

Regular Any not constant Low 25% 1/4 n/a Cut Off Modulation to LFO1 Motion

speed up Any not constant Low 25% dynamic n/a Cut Off Modulation to LFO1.LFO 1 value increases from 1/4 to 1/32

Noise Any 50% Peak 10% n/a n/a Phatt Square 10% Low 23% n/a n/a Portmento

Bass Any Any Any Any Any Any Increase portmento / glide setting so one frequency bends gracefully to the next.

Pump / (Duck Gate)

Any Any Any Any n/a Any 1) Add a compressor to the instrument

2) Change the input or side chain to receive input from a source, e.g. Kick drum.

3) Reduce the threshold and the compression reduces each time the source sample is played. 4) Mute the source to make the instrument duck without the sound of the source.

Resonance Any 10% Low 90% n/a n/a

Retro These sounds are distinctive and

complex - get sample CD Rise Any Any Any Any 1/1 n/a LFO 1 = saw up

Pitch Modulated to LFO 1 Siren Any Any Any Any 2/1 n/a LFO 1 = sine

Pitch Modulated to LFO 1 Slow Attack Any Any Any Any Any Any Cut Off Modulation to ADSR

Attack = 1000ms Square

Bass Square 25% Low 10% n/a n/a

Squeltchy Any 25% Low 75% n/a n/a Resonance Modulation to ADSR Attack = 100ms

Decay = 100ms

Stab Any 25% Low 25% n/a n/a Cut Off Modulation to ADSR Attack = 0ms

Delay = 500ms Sub Square 10% Low 10% n/a n/a Play below C 2 Sweep Any not

constant Band Pass 25% 4/1 n/a LFO 1 = sineCut Off Modulated to LFO 1 Theramin Sine 50% Low 25% 1/2 1/4 LFO 1 = random, Modulated to

Pitch, value 1/4 semitone

LFO 2 = sine, Modulated to cut off Add Portmento.

Tremolo Any Any Any Any 1/4 n/a LFO 1 = sine, Modulated to Pitch, value 1/4 semitone


Timbre Voice Re Synthesis.Sample the vocal note and map to the entire keyboard.


Wicka Wa Any not

constant Band Pass Any n/a n/a Use track automation or record the movement of the cut off filter to produce a filter rhythm. Wowo Any not

constant Low Any 1/8 n/a LFO 1 = sineCut Off Modulated to LFO 1 Wowp Any not

constant Low Any n/a n/a Cut Off Modulated to ADSRAttack = 0ms Delay = 500ms

Musical Sequence Categories: Single Note

Once you have created your ideal sound, the next step is to determine the Sequence Category. The most common Sequence Category is a Melody, i.e. any note in a scale that meet the emotional requirements of the song.

The other Musical Sequence Categories listed below offer a variety of techniques to explore, mix and match. They are all specified for playing 1 note at a time, i.e. Bass and Lead.

Fig 1: Arpeggio

The notes of a chord played individually, rising or falling.

Sequence Arpeggio.mp3

Fig 2: Arpeggio Moving

Arpeggio played with a variety of chords moving either up or down.

Sequence Arpedggio Moving.jpg

Fig 3: Hypnotic / Psychedelic Repetitive melody.


Fig 4: Jazz

Melody using Jazz scales.

[See Appendix 1 for a list of scales]

Sequence Jazz.mp3

Fig 5: Machine Gun

Melody played using 1/16th notes with modulating timbres.

Sequence MG.mp3

Fig 6: Melody

Sequence of notes that form a tune.


Fig 7: Micro Sequence

Sequence of notes using a grid of less than 1/16th bar.

Sequence MS.mp3

Fig 8: Polyrhythmic Lead

Note that is sequenced with a rhythm outside of the main rhythm.

Sequence Polyrhythmic.mp3

Fig 9: Rhythmic Repetitive

Note repeating at a regular interval, e.g. every 4 bars or every 1/2 bar.

Sequence Rhythmic Repeat.mp3

Fig 10: Rhythmic 16th

1 note played every 8th or 16th note, with many filters, e.g. cut off, resonance etc, modulating every 16th