Jump Up DnB Tutorial Day 6: Arrangement, Melodies + Fills [7 Day Song]
Hi! I’m Dave from boyinaband.com and welcome to day 6 of the collaborative 7 day song Jump Up Drum and Bass Tutorial, featuring the insane skills of noisestorm!
Yesterday we finished off the synths and looked at vocal processing, and today we’ll look at how noisestorm and I structured the song, some of the fills we’ve used and talk about our choice of notes.
Okay! Let’s begin.
First let’s look at the arrangement. Jump Up DnB, much like most DnB and most Electronic Dance music in general come to think of it, is comprised of breaks, builds and drops.
A break is where the track loses its intensity, a build is where it starts to get more intense and is generally where you’ll get the speeding up drum pattern thing in so much dance music like this [show example], and then the drop where the intense part hits and all hell breaks loose – kinda like the rapture… wait, that didn’t happen did it? Ah, gutted for those christians, you should’ve believed a more plausible version of that religion, like mormonism.
When you’re arranging the track, it’s important to build anticipation for the drops and give time after them for the listener to mentally recover, ready for the next one.
So let’s take a look at how this track is arranged.
Intro – 16 bars
Build – 8
Drop 1 – 16
Verse Break – 16 (maintains intensity)
Drop 2 – 16
Verse Break 2 – 16
Build – 8
Drop 3 – 16
Verse Break 3 – 16
Drop 4 – 16
Verse Break 4 – 16
Breakout (like the intro) – 16
Build (more intense) – 8
Drop 5 – 16
Outro – 16
The track ebbs and flows with drops tending to congregate together in pairs, they are a sociable species. This allows for a decent amount of intensity to be maintained, without dropping out too often and losing the listener’s interest. This is usually for a club mix – often a single mix will be shorter and have much fewer sections than this.
So let’s take a closer look. The intro has another breakbeat in there – this one is less processed and powerful than the main one, so it doesn’t outdo the drop when it kicks in. That nice panning pad and the church organ-y pad is in there and the piano comes in 8 bars through to maintain interest. Remember too much going on here and it’s difficult for a DJ to mix in their set. There’s a cool sweep sample at the start there which really fills out the track without adding extra melodic mess to get in the way of the DJ’s mix, always a nice little trick. The Effect was simply added with a redrum instance from one of those nice combinator drum patches we made in day 1. The sample itself I think is from a vengeance sample pack.
So that beat filters in and out, I showed you how to filter with automation in day 5, and then we hit the build.
The lead and arps come into play here to build anticipation, and the break drops out to signal a change in the song. The bass filters in, the toned down pad drops out to leave space in the mix for more anticipation and that bass, and we have a nice reverse effect sample building to the little fill before the drop. I’ll talk more about this in part 2.
The drums do the stereotypical tried and tested speeding up of the kick as well. This leads us into…
The drop! Here we are. The main beat with the elements we built in day one are all here – the one shots, the breakbeat and the hi hats. These drums are much more intense than those in the intro so it feels like we’ve arrived at the main chorus of the song. The bass riff is fully opened up on the filter, the high pad joins the lower pad in filling out the track to really brighten the drop so it feels bigger, and near the end we have another reverse and that quick high pitched pad building to the verse break.
The vocals and fills keep it interesting and catchy – you’ll notice slight variations in the fills for each drop. If you don’t add these variations, it’ll start to get very repetitive.
The verse break drops out the crash from the hi hats, so the beat feels a little less filled out, to signal a drop in intensity. The pads also take a break for the first time, and the lead synth comes back in. The arps join it 8 bars in, then there’s a quick reverse and fill into the second drop.
Same as the first drop, only with different fills.
Then you’ll notice we have a copy and pasted version of everything so far – except the intro comes across as more of a verse break, since the drums and bass are maintained throughout. The bass is filtered down so it doesn’t take too much focus, and the arps and piano instead take the fore, with that pretty pad filling it out.
Build again, drop again with different fills, the verse break here has a variation on the piano line to keep it interesting, as well as keeping the crash going throughout it, so the song feels like it’s building up a bit.
Drop and Intro-y verse break, then we come to a full on breakout to a section like the intro again – we’ve had a lot of intensity so it’s time to give the listeners a break to recouperate. Same arrangement as the intro, same filtering and beat, but the build is more intense now, with that big pitch bend synth we put together in day 5.
A final drop with probably my favourite fill of the whole track, and then we hit the outro with the arps and soft pad, those vocals simply echoing out with a simple melody change courtesy of neptune’s vocoder and filtering down so it closes up nicely.
The arps also have a reverb on them, which I’ve turned the dry wet up as it goes on so it’s less and less prominent, kinda fading into an abyss… I love that movie. So yeah, just filtering up and fading out so the DJ can mix into the next track. And there we have it! 5 minutes of awesomeness.
One last thing to mention – some of you guys might find editing the automation of things directly messy, since it makes new track lanes and can get clunky and confusing, in which case I’d advise routing parameters to combinators, which I teach you how to do in all my other 7 day songs. Here I was trying out noisestorm’s workflow which while it might add extra track lanes, is also much faster to work with since you don’t have to faff about with each combinator’s programmer – really depends on whether you want to be organised or if you find the speed of getting your ideas down is more important than that.
Join me in part 2 where we’ll explore those fills and the notes used.
Okay, let’s take a look at those notes. A lot of these parts noisestorm did, and he has 13 years of piano playing experience so his chords are a lot more awesome than what I usually do. Just to warn you – if you think this is pretty complicated looking, that’s probably because he’s been playing music for most of his life.
Beat (Show sidechaining note as well)
Main loops is the conventional DnB uhn-tsch…uhntsch beat, which is having the kick on the first and 6th ? note in the bar and the snare on the 2nd and 4th ¼ note. It’s important to know the difference between ¼, ? and 1/16 notes when dealing with music that’s this fast, since chances are you’ll be switching between them a lot.
The last bar also has an extra kick so it has a slight variation.
One other thing you’ll notice is this note on every ¼ note – this is the sample that is causing the side-chaining. You’ll notice it goes through practically the whole song, just keeping that pumping feel going.
C root note, G, semitone up to G#, touches on Bb, down to F then Eb and round. Touching on the notes gives it a really bouncy feel.
Main Pad (break and drop)
This is where the chordal craziness commences! In the intro, we’ve got some huge chords working their way up the C minor key here – with the root note C, the third Eb, the fifth G and the seventh Bb.
Then you’ll notice the chord progression with the lower notes on C, D, Eb and F, all play around quite nicely in the other notes doing some crazy stuff, for instance, touching on the incidental note B here which isn’t technically in the key but just sounds frickin’ cool.
That last chord holds the C note on from the third chord, which is a great way of having a bit of tension, making it feel like it wants to resolve back to that lovely first chord.
When it hits the drop, this switches up though – starting on the same chord, but jumping down with the low note of the chord on G, Bb then back up to C, but with the rest of the chord jumping higher up. These huge, extended chords are what keeps everything sounding really full and gives that almost progressive house style pad vibe.
Then the progression goes back, so there’s an 8 beat chord progression going on.
High Pad (same as main)
If you want to want to write chord progressions like this and don’t have masses of experience with piano playing, I tend to go one note at a time rather than trying to figure out the chords on a keyboard. First play with the first note, then decide where to place the next note on each chord, then the third and the fourth. That way you can see more methodically which part of the chord doesn’t sound as awesome as you want it to.
Big High Pad
Here’s a nice one, working its way up the key until it gets to G, at which point it thinks “Screw this, I’m going to skip straight to the end” and scrambles over the incidental B note, then holds the C so it feels really powerful and satisfying after that brief tense moment on the B note there. Since this synth is so high this is a really prominent and powerful progression that takes a lot of focus.
Changing from C and the Eb below to Bb and Eb, then holding that a bar and jumping down to a nice third chord F and A which is technically in a different key but since there isn’t a G# note of the key being played anywhere which would horrendously clash with it, due to it being a semitone up from it, it works. Remember, playing notes that are a semitone apart simultaneously sounds horrendously painful – good for dirty, dissonant music – not so good for gorgeous melodies.
The lead synth is nice and simple, the octave of G, then hitting the Eb. The notes aren’t as interesting as the groove to me, these don’t hit on the beat, instead hitting the 2 8th notes before and the 1 after the main beat, giving a cool syncopated bounciness.
The soft pad synth is frickin’ clever to me – three chords, the first of which holds for two bars and the second and third for one bar. You can see the first big chord is Eb and G on two octaves, so four notes really making a big, thick chord that is prominently emphasising that third.
Now the clever part that I don’t entirely understand and that might just be me overthinking it, is how every time I play it on loop, my mind picks out another note from that chord to focus on as it loops round. The chords leading up to it are so richly filled out that they draw attention to different progressions within the chord and make your head naturally reach musical conclusions that are different depending on what notes you initially picked out.
Either that or I have problems.
But yeah, the second and third chords are rooted on that C, just moving the top 3 notes up so the last chord has an octave C, which is unusual and contributes to that happy feeling when it hits, since the C is what the song wants to resolve to.
This plays as a really nice counter melody to the main progression.
The piano riff is another one I feel is more about the rhythm than the notes that makes it catchy – it uses the same patter twice, just with different notes, both ending on the same G which gives it some consistency and tensity.
Noisestorm also has the following to say about how he picks his melodies.
Usually when I pick notes, I already have my drum beat programmed in, so I make a synth, and start to play around on my midi keyboard. In this case, I made a pad, and played some chords into the keyboard, once I found some chord progressions that I liked, I then drew them into the sequencer with the pencil tool. I don’t have much theory behind my notes, but I do try to keep everything in key, and when making harmonies, I find it is good sometimes to draw in the pad notes a third above the bass, or another option, raise the semi on one of the oscs on the bass to 7, and this gives a nice tone to the sound. The notes are mostly straightforward, but they can be effective when used all together.
Lastly, let’s take a look at those fills.
recurring fill in builds, and variation at end, pitch bend on redrum channel.
example of throwing in another break in between the main beat with a filter in drop 1. Dropping out the pads temporarily and the one shots (not the sidechain though)
example of changing the main beat in drop 2, simply copying, pasting and moving the beats around.
big fill in 5th drop – combination of muting out all the elements – done by the automation of the master level of the mixers in the individual combinators – except the throwaway breakbeat with changing the one shots and finally removing the sidechain kick so the pad can have a tiny moment of freedom from its pumping hell. Na, I’m joking, pads love to be sidechained – who wouldn’t want to be repeatedly knocked down by a good hard kick for 5 minutes?
So that’s it! Some advice and examples of how to arrange your anthem mould your melodies. Join me tomorrow for day 7 where we’ll look at noisestorm’s advice on mixing and mastering, then head over to listen to the final finished 7 day Jump Up Drum and Bass song.