Tip #3: Composition =/= Addition

A very good style of progression for beginners (and therefor a style of composing) is progressive addition of elements. I’m not sure if this has a proper name. It’s used extensively in electronic music. It involves starting with a small set of elements, then adding new elements at the end of every phrase (usually 8 bars, 4 if you’re making a ADHD radio edit). For example, how many dance records start with a kickdrum on its own for 8 bars, then the snare is added, then 8 bars later a hihat appears, then after the DJ friendly 1 minute mark a bass line comes in.. etc. I’ve even heard some tracks introduce some element, say a hi-hat, then over the next 8 bars fade it out so that they can immediately reintroduce that element and make it sound new. Cheeky.

This style is good for beginners. It’s takes the idea of composition to its basics. The problem is that thats all it is… basic. The polar opposite of this style is more inline with how ‘band’ music* is produced. There’s no reason to think that the intro section of a track should have only 1 or 2 instruments in it. It could have all the instruments. There’s no reason to think that each new scene in the track should only add elements, things can be removed or replaced.

Don’t limit yourself to this kind of composition by addition! Addition has its place but is just 1 tool of many.

*The reason I call this band music is that I have a feeling being in a band is a partial reason for the difference between the structure of dance music and band driven music. In a live gig each band member wants to be involved so it makes sense that there’s an invisible pressure to have all members contributing to as many of the scenes in the track as possible. Of course, this pressure doesn’t exist in electronic music (with the exception of vocalists). BTW it’s that I think bands have a more advanced music production / composition style that EDM because they tend not to use so much addition. They have a whole set of patterns that we’ve heard a million times before but are still used all the time… e.g. chorus-verse templates


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