DA Studios: Manila Killa’s 5 tips for successful song arrangement
Welcome to DA Studios, a feature that dives into the world of production. In partnership with Point Blank Music School, DA Studios is returning weekly, with a variety of installments that will include guest posts from artists offering inside tips, detailed looks into the minds and tools of producers, diary entries from Point Blank students and much more.
Hear from your favorite artists and learn about their worlds when they leave the decks and hit the studio. Dancing Astronaut and Point Blank’s weekly series is educational for music students and informative for fans.
Visiting DA Studios this week is Manila Killa. One half of the partnership known as Hotel Garuda, he’s best known for solo efforts on the remix front — sporting takes on tracks such as Caribou’s “Can’t Do Without You” and The M Machine’s “Don’t Speak.” Bringing you insight from the production end, Manila Killa shares his top five tops for successful song arrangement.
1. The intro
The intro is the first thing you hear in a song, so it should be the part that hooks your audience. It’s always good to have elements that keeps your listener interested so that they would want to hear the rest of the song.
2. Distinguish the different sections of your song
The intro, breakdown, buildup, and climax should be distinguishable and should contrast each other to keep things exciting. For example, using “impacts” and “FX,” or cutting out low frequencies or high frequencies during the breakdown or verse and then bringing them back in the next section catches people’s ears and keeps them interested.
3. The buildup
A lot of successful songs have parts where the verse and pre-chorus are usually soft-sounding, then continually build up into a climax. Having this “buildup” in a song helps create a sense of wanting resolution in a song – and that’s exactly what serves the purpose of a climax or chorus in a song.
4. Consider the length of time each of your song’s sections are
In music, we typically follow measures in multiples of 4s. For example, a lot of my intros range from 4 to 8 measures, in which each measure adds a new element or instrument into the song. Then I head into a verse of 4 to 8 measures, then a pre-chorus of just 2 or 4, and finally a climax of 8. I try and keep the length of measures for each section of my song varied to make sure the song isn’t stagnant and boring.
5. There is no “formula” or “recipe” to having the perfect arrangement
Depending on what YOU like and what YOU want your song to express, you’ll want to structure it your own way. For example, Porter Robinson’s “Sea of Voices” is really just an intro and a climax, while M83’s “Midnight City” has a distinct intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc. Different arrangements create different effects based on what emotions you want to express. Most of the tips i’m giving come from my upbringing as a kid who listened to tons of pop music and watched a lot of music videos on MTV in the late 90s / early 2000s – so my tips may not apply to everyone, but it applies to the typical pop or “mainstream” song structure.”
For more expert tips, visit Point Blank, the award-winning music production and DJ school with classes in London, Los Angeles and online. Six-time ranked ‘Best DJ & Production School’ by DJ Mag, Point Blank offers ground-breaking courses taught by expert instruc-tors including songwriters, producers and Grammy award winners. Former students include: Claude VonStroke, Nicole Moudaber, Gareth Wyn, AlunaGeorge and more. Head to their site for production tips, tutorials or to sample an online course for free.