Song Arrangement Tips for Beat Makers
A song goes through many different stages as it’s being created, and song arrangement is one of the most critical parts of music production. We already know that making a beat involves taking different elements—drums, melodies, loops, synths and other instruments—and putting them together to create your finished track. Serato Studio helps you get your ideas out quickly by structuring your songs in loops and scenes. But what happens after you have your initial idea? How do you take a loop you’ve created and turn it into a full song? This is song arrangement, and it’s something that beginner beat makers often have a hard time wrapping their head around, which is why we’re here to help.
At its core, song arrangement is taking all those elements that you know will be part of your final song, and then breaking them down, shuffling them around and rearranging them into their final composition. It’s deciding what will make up the intro; which elements will be included in different sections like verse, chorus, hook or bridge; and how the song will end. Song arrangement can be technical, but it’s a highly creative process as well. So if you’re sitting on a bunch of eight-bar loops and you’re not quite sure what to do next, here’s some things to keep in mind as you begin to arrange your track.
Listen to some reference tracks
Reference tracks are a powerful and essential part of the songwriting process because they offer a benchmark for your own production. Listen to a few songs that are in the same vein of what you are aiming to create. Pay attention to how the beat changes throughout. Count the bars of each section and write them down. It may also help to listen to some songs that are outside of the genre you are aiming to create. You’ll notice a big difference in the structure of a hip-hop song versus a house track.
Decide on your core element
Just like every movie has its main character, every song should as well. Hone in on the element that you feel is the star of the show in your beat. Chances are you already naturally know what this is from the construction phase. Perhaps you chose a really haunting sample, or maybe you have some really unique drum programming. Once you start arranging you can be sure to highlight your main character element by featuring it during those sections of the song where you want to command the listeners attention, like in the hook.
Take some things away
Removing parts of your beat is an important part in song arrangement. Some call this Subtractive Arrangement, and Serato Studio makes this quite easy. You can copy your main loop to a new Scene, and from there, start experimenting with removing different elements.
For instance, during the intro maybe you want to have your main melody isolated with no drums so that the melody can draw the listener in, and when the first verse comes add the drums for a stronger energy. Or maybe there’s a section where you want to do a dramatic breakdown, so you’d want to remove everything except for the bass line and some minimal percussion elements. Once you have your different Scenes, you can drag them into Song View and start shuffling them around. Use what you’ve learned from your reference tracks for this process.
Use FX to enhance your arrangement
Leveraging FX can really create a dynamic final arrangement. Lots of modern pop and electronic music incorporates extensive FX usage, and it results in compositions that really build in energy over the course of the song. The possibilities here are endless: it could be something simple, such as putting a riser sound effect before the chorus, which creates the build ups we often hear in electronic music. You may also want to add some FX to repeating sections to differentiate them from each other. Maybe you want the second verse to sound a bit different from the first, so you could automate a low pass filter to sweep upwards in the first few bars for a dramatic effect.
It might take some time to get the hang of it, but like anything related to music production, song arrangement just takes practice. The best thing about music is that there’s truly no rules, so just lean into your creativity, find your flow, and always have fun.