DarkEco

(Help) Effectively Transitioning Between Sections

13 posts in this topic

One thing that i notice always becomes a brick wall for me when writing is when it comes to the transitions between say verse to chorus for example. I can write a verse by itself forever and continually build sounds upon a bass hook and have a lot of fun in the process, but when it comes to actually transitioning to a chorus i never know how to go about it and just hit the keyboard until something hooks. It's the main reason i've got 100 pieces on my hardrive that i've managed to get an intro and verse for but are now gathering dust because progressing past that feels like pissing in the wind. I've noticed i'll always lean towards a kind of "cop-out" method where i'll put some odd sound design like a stutter, pitch drop to silence or something to hide the lack of interesting chord progression. It's a habit i really want to break because otherwise my music is going to become way too predictable.

Are there any go-to rules for creating effective transitions? Hit me with all the theory! I'd say i've got an intermediate theory knowledge so i should hopefully understand what you're talking about.

 

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Super general rule of thumb: Contrast. Contrast is everything in making an effective transition between parts. The more different the sections, the more likely it'll be considered a new section to the listener's mind. if you're having trouble making something sound like a transition, drop out more elements, change more items until things sound very different from what came prior (yet has enough motivic elements to keep the track sounding relevant to your arrangement). It's a tricky balance, but contrast is the one big item that makes one section sound different from another.

A really cheap trick? At the end of one section, drop everything out, then have the next section come in at full strength again. There's really no greater amount of contrast than from going from nothing to everything. Don't overuse it or else the track sounds repetitive, but it's a nifty tool to have under your belt. You probably know this intuitively, since you use it in your latest posted track (yout Lemmings remix, at 3:15), but perhaps hearing it spelled out can help you understand how to use it in the future, as well.

There's a whole study on this particular element of music theory, called Temporal Gestalt Perception (or musical segmentation). It's some heavy reading, but if you get through it there's some useful insight on how to parse music into defineable segments. For the super technical among us the theory has issues in it's applicability (since there's no way to properly weigh how much an individual count things like timbre, dynamics and harmony as 'different enough'), but the concept is pretty sound: we hear contrast as something that separates the music into sections.

Hope that helps!

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Tapping into what Gario said, contrast and also song structure. If you're able to transition from an intro to a verse, you are probably already subconsciously doing a transition. Doing the same from verse to chorus isn't much different. You need the piece of music to drive you along to the story you want it to tell, and contrast and structure are great ways of helping you tell the story.

The reason I bring up song structure is that it can be helpful to create these transitions. If you have a verse, chances are you want to have a kind of chorus or a prechorus or a bridge after that. Knowing what you want to do next can help you think of what kind of transitions you would do. A chorus typically has a bigger sound, so you probably are going to add some extra instruments (which you may already start to bring in at the last part of your verse). A bridge is usually quite different from the rest of your song, so you might go half time, drop a lot of instruments and use a pad and swap the lead instrument around. A pre chorus is usually pretty short, so you know you have 2-4 bars to do something and make it count.

That's not to say you need to cook up a song structure up front, but it might help. My tracks typically grow organically and I would find it hard to label something as a verse of chorus, but subconsciously I do apply the concepts highlighted above.

A variation of that theme is a trick I stole from zircon... whenever you have finished a section of a song, think about whether you feel it needs to become more intense or less intense. This also depends on the story you try to tell; for a calm song I'd probably add a more intense section after a few calmer parts, for contrast, and vice versa. Of course 'more intense' and 'less intense' also imply things you can do to make them more or less intense. More intense might be making your bassline go from eights to sixteens while you have the drummer hit the ride cymbal and maybe play around with some sus2/sus4 chord variations in a different rhythm, less intense might be long sustained notes and a slower melodic line with more space between the notes.

Lastly I would say that the genre you pick also can be a great help. How to other tracks in that genre that you like transition, and is that something worth stealing/copying? A stutter works well for EDM, for rock you might have a reverse crash and for jazz you might end up with a drum break.

Hope it helps somewhat, despite not having any theory pointers for you. I just do stuff, I leave the theory to others so they can explain to me what I did ;)

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Everything everyone else said and..

• Proper voice leading will help you switch between incredibly different ideas seamlessly with little effort.

• Varying the intensity and density of the arrangement

• One bar between the sections that acts as a "fill" of sorts. In this bar, you might bring in some of the voices from the next section while ending the previous section on a V chord or some other cadence. Utilizing contrary motion between these new voices as they rise/fall to toward the new harmony (generally the tonic chord) is very effective.

• Ending the section on the V or VII chord and using sound design to the lead into the next part 

• Keeping an ostinato or one element the same into the next section.

• Modulation

• Composing themes with sentence and period structures helps greatly to make clearly-defined sections.

Examples that utilize these concepts:

 

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The people above me gave you great pointers. I just have a few things to add or reiterate, and I'll use this mix of mine as an example of both compositional and textural transitions.

  • If you already know what the sound design in section B is going to be like, in transitioning from A to B, you could use some tonal instruments from B as a lead-in component. I've been trying to do this all the time now, and you can see it many times here.
    EX: 0:58 - 1:00, 1:13 - 1:15, 2:36 - 2:37, etc.
     
  • Something as simple as a reverse can connect the dynamics (or at least, contribute to it). Experiment with reversing things like cymbals, white noise hits, fingerbells, and so on. I don't think I've had a good mix where I haven't done this... but this usually needs other accompanying techniques.
    EX: 0:28 - 0:30, 1:29 - 1:31, etc. Pretty much everywhere in this mix!
     
  • You can explicitly write a part that introduces the rhythmic contrast that you'll write in the next section.
    EX: 1:55 - 1:59
     
  • Drums should always be considered as a signaling tool, particularly if you go from a section with no drums to heavy drums or vice versa.
    EX: 2:25 - 2:26, 2:37 - 2:38
     
  • Try to match up the frequency spectra of the two sections. This is kinda difficult to pull off, and is not necessarily the first thing you think of, but sometimes you're not sure why it's not quite working, and there's just a small disconnect in the frequency spectrum that works out when it's all matched up.
    EX: 1:29 - 1:30, 1:57 - 1:59

    (1:29 in particular has something interesting; the drone is swapped out for a sustained bass with almost no attack. They have similar frequency spectra, which can make it feel like nothing actually changed in the bass... and that's what I actually wanted!)
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On 30/05/2017 at 1:45 PM, Gario said:

There's a whole study on this particular element of music theory, called Temporal Gestalt Perception (or musical segmentation). It's some heavy reading, but if you get through it there's some useful insight on how to parse music into defineable segments.

Oh! I'm DEFINITELY reading this! THANKS!

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I expected no less from this community. Outstanding feedback all round. I'll definitely be researching a lot of the information here! Thanks for all the answers! 

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On 31/05/2017 at 7:27 AM, timaeus222 said:

The people above me gave you great pointers. I just have a few things to add or reiterate, and I'll use this mix of mine as an example of both compositional and textural transitions.

  • If you already know what the sound design in section B is going to be like, in transitioning from A to B, you could use some tonal instruments from B as a lead-in component. I've been trying to do this all the time now, and you can see it many times here.
    EX: 0:58 - 1:00, 1:13 - 1:15, 2:36 - 2:37, etc.
     
  • Something as simple as a reverse can connect the dynamics (or at least, contribute to it). Experiment with reversing things like cymbals, white noise hits, fingerbells, and so on. I don't think I've had a good mix where I haven't done this... but this usually needs other accompanying techniques.
    EX: 0:28 - 0:30, 1:29 - 1:31, etc. Pretty much everywhere in this mix!
     
  • You can explicitly write a part that introduces the rhythmic contrast that you'll write in the next section.
    EX: 1:55 - 1:59
     
  • Drums should always be considered as a signaling tool, particularly if you go from a section with no drums to heavy drums or vice versa.
    EX: 2:25 - 2:26, 2:37 - 2:38
     
  • Try to match up the frequency spectra of the two sections. This is kinda difficult to pull off, and is not necessarily the first thing you think of, but sometimes you're not sure why it's not quite working, and there's just a small disconnect in the frequency spectrum that works out when it's all matched up.
    EX: 1:29 - 1:30, 1:57 - 1:59

    (1:29 in particular has something interesting; the drone is swapped out for a sustained bass with almost no attack. They have similar frequency spectra, which can make it feel like nothing actually changed in the bass... and that's what I actually wanted!)

@timaeus222I finally got some free time to listen through this. Absolutely sensational remix! The sound design, clarity and playfulness in the stereo field is like ear candy. Honestly this is the sort of stuff i'd love to be able to write, but with guitar in it haha. It seems tricky though. It's like adding guitar automatically muddies everything up.

Anyway back on topic, you're tip on using drums as a signalling tool already fixed a transition i was having trouble with. There's still something missing but it's definitely improved it. Matching the frequency spectra is something i've always naturally felt would be a thing, but implementing it is the tough bit. Using instruments from the next section to lead in is also a good call. Again something that i use now and again, along with reverse crashes. I think overall the disjointed rhythmic transitions were what was holding me back most here. Can i ask, i'm trying to move away from just acoustic drums and start using more obscure electronic sounds as percussion as well. Your percussion in this remix is really interesting. Would you be able to give me some insight into how you went about creating them? Sound library, original recordings, processing etc?

 

On 31/05/2017 at 0:31 AM, AngelCityOutlaw said:

Everything everyone else said and..

• Proper voice leading will help you switch between incredibly different ideas seamlessly with little effort.

• Varying the intensity and density of the arrangement

• One bar between the sections that acts as a "fill" of sorts. In this bar, you might bring in some of the voices from the next section while ending the previous section on a V chord or some other cadence. Utilizing contrary motion between these new voices as they rise/fall to toward the new harmony (generally the tonic chord) is very effective.

• Ending the section on the V or VII chord and using sound design to the lead into the next part 

• Keeping an ostinato or one element the same into the next section.

• Modulation

• Composing themes with sentence and period structures helps greatly to make clearly-defined sections.

@AngelCityOutlawI'm looking into voice leading right now. From what i'm gathering it's simply using chord inversions to create "steps" instead of "leaps" in the music that make in sound less jarring. Does it go deeper than this?

A lot of the other things i kinda already do without realising, although i'll need to look into the sentence/period structures your mentioning as i have no idea what that is.

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11 hours ago, DarkEco said:

@timaeus222I finally got some free time to listen through this. Absolutely sensational remix! The sound design, clarity and playfulness in the stereo field is like ear candy. Honestly this is the sort of stuff i'd love to be able to write, but with guitar in it haha. It seems tricky though. It's like adding guitar automatically muddies everything up.

Anyway back on topic, you're tip on using drums as a signalling tool already fixed a transition i was having trouble with. There's still something missing but it's definitely improved it. Matching the frequency spectra is something i've always naturally felt would be a thing, but implementing it is the tough bit. Using instruments from the next section to lead in is also a good call. Again something that i use now and again, along with reverse crashes. I think overall the disjointed rhythmic transitions were what was holding me back most here. Can i ask, i'm trying to move away from just acoustic drums and start using more obscure electronic sounds as percussion as well. Your percussion in this remix is really interesting. Would you be able to give me some insight into how you went about creating them? Sound library, original recordings, processing etc?

Thanks man, I appreciate it! :-) Yeah, guitars have a pretty full frequency spectrum, and in general, cutting some of the midrange makes them sit more cleanly in the mix.

The main atonal percussions I used were:

  • jangling coins that I just recorded myself with a Samson Meteor mic (thanks, @Chimpazilla!), with some room reverb.
  • tablas and snaps from Platinum Percussion (~$30 I think), with some glitching via dBlue Glitch (stutter + reverses)
  • Heavocity Damage "Armageddon" drums, with a high end boost, some parallel compression via The Glue, and auditorium-esque reverb.

The bell percussions were either the main ones, which I made myself in Zebra2 (the FM Variations soundbank :-D), or they were supplementary ones from Crypto Cipher Tarangs (extra layers) or Impact Soundworks' Resonance: Emotional Mallets.

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Well that all looks like a lot of money that I don't have haha. Thanks for the tips though. I think I may try recording and processing some of my own sounds by listening to some if these libraries and trying to recreate some of the samples to the best of my ability. I find it difficult to imagine percussive sounds in my head.

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Also don't forget to check out freesound.org for the occasioanal sample and/or inspiration.

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On 6/4/2017 at 5:24 AM, DarkEco said:

I'm looking into voice leading right now. From what i'm gathering it's simply using chord inversions to create "steps" instead of "leaps" in the music that make in sound less jarring. Does it go deeper than this?

A lot of the other things i kinda already do without realising, although i'll need to look into the sentence/period structures your mentioning as i have no idea what that is.

That's what she said

It does, you also want to pay attention to the specific types of motion among the voices (rather than just simply creating inversions) and from this you can get into serious counterpoint territory.

The sentence and period structures are classic ways of phrasing themes.

Here's a good tutorial about them

Sentence Structure, John Williams "Flight To NeverLand Theme":

4-Hook-analysis.jpg

 

Period structure, John Williams "Anakin Theme"

6-Anakin-analysis2.jpg

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For me, a huge transitioning tool is, like some people already mentioned, is in the drums and sound design. Using the drum fills, and of course taking sounds out and possibly replacing them or adding them back in, this time with an evolved rhythm/chord progression. 

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