Psytrance Tutorial Day 6: Arrangement and Structure

Hi, I’m Dave from and welcome to day 6 of my 7 day song on Psytrance. Yesterday in day 5, I explained about adding fx. Today will incorporate arranging those fx, as well as the other elements of the track we’ve built up, into a sweet structure for a psytrance song.

The first thing to say about the structure of psytrance is that it’s not got a convention. Whereas regular old “Put your hands in da air” trance has strongly defined builds and breakouts, this take on the genre provides a lot more creativity when deciding where to put different parts.

It is still about builds, however it isn’t about massive anthemic breakouts so the builds are generally there to build up a consistant tension rather than anticipation for that big dancefloor shaking riff. I’ll show you what I’ve done for my track now.

When making your decisions about where to put things, try and do your changes every of 4 or 8 bars as well, since that’ll make it sound less random than other amounts, and if you want 16 or 32 then it might start getting a tad repetitive.

Ignoring the complex looking Beat note lanes for now, I’ve got the bassline going through the vast majority of the track to keep the driving, hypnotic feel going, but with the rest of the elements in the track I’ve made it build up, stripped it back by removing a lot of what I’d built up, including the beat, then building up again a little more intensely, then breaking out more earnestly by removing the bass, and finally coming back in to the biggest build in the track, which has this sweet little filter section before kicking back in, then finally slowly stripping away the elements so a DJ can mix the track into their set.

If we look at the leads, you can see that I tend to tease the listener with a simpler version of a riff before I bring it in completely, this has the awesome side effect of being very hypnotic, since I tend to repeat the part of the riff that doesn’t change from the root note much. For instance, in the snazzy acid lead, I just use the first four notes to build it a bit, then progress into the riff that moves to different notes. And similarly with the pads, I start with just the first part of the riff, then bring it in with the second part later on.

Things like this are great ways to build up the track with an element of consistancy rather than using a million different lead synths. If that’s the sound you’re going for then great, but if you want a psytrance song that has more recogniseable hooks without becoming so repetitive it’s boring, try altering the riffs to a simpler version to build to the main riff.

Lead deux is simply the same all the way through, because I felt I’d provided enough variety with the pad, percussion and other lead to warrant that being a staple part in the background. I brought it in in the second and third build section, so it’s a more definite change from the first section. I like to feel like I’m getting somewhere with my songs, and saw-like lead synths help me de-stress in that respect.

The other pads I’ve got I start by using in the breakout sections to fill it out a bit, but then I put them in the third build so it’s even more thickly textured.

So that’s pretty much the structure, the FX are all over the place since they really fill out the track.

The reverses go from the lower pitched one to the higher pitched as the song builds, triggering them every 4 bars. I’ve also got different levels of bigger reverses that end in different hits, which similarly build in intensity. These happen every 8 bars, which generally results in them signalling the addition of a new element to the track.

I’ve kept the eerie ghost vacuum cleaner sound to the breakouts since it completely swamped the track in the more upbeat sections – you’ve got to be careful to avoid making things too messy and crowded. That goes for any genre really.

Then there’s the hits, which I’ve put signaling some of the bigger changes in the song.

For that filtery section, I simply automated the filter of the thor instance in the lead by routing it to rotary one in the combinator, right clicking said rotary and going edit automation, then drawing it in. The notes in that part follow another lazy little riff I made for the janist monk pad to add variety to the breakout which I felt was a bit lacking.

The riff doesn’t focus on the root note for a change, instead just goes up and down, and with the portamento I added to the janist monk pad when you weren’t looking, it combines to make a slow, entrancing synth sound.

And the last thing to discuss is the beat! I ended up taking out everything except the percussion from the block because I felt the workflow was simpler that way. So I drew in the block through the whole song, which as you can see, means I have the whole beat to play with, but instead of searching for all the changes in the beat by looking at irritatingly small dots, I can simply look at where the large blue parts are to see where there are any changes.

Much simpler.

I’ve added a few smaller fills to the kick and snare tracks just by drawing in a bar or two, opening it and letting loose my inner rhythmical skillz, yo. I’ve also worked by deciding what shouldn’t be in sections rather than what should, which is a slightly different take on things and while it’s resulted in me being an overall more negative person for a day, it’s cool to try out different workflows once in a while. For instance, the big blue blobs with no dots represent where I’ve cut out sections like the hats or snare, which I bring in gradually to build the track each time it kicks back in after a break.

There’s also a brief rhythmic change before the second break, which I felt gave a nice alternation to the groove to break up the track a bit. The snare fill, like I’ve done a few times is simply the same snare used on every 1/16th, but with the velocity gradually increased. Just in case you were wondering.

And I think that’s about it for the arrangement and structure! Join me tomorrow for day 7 where I’ll be going over mixing, mastering and playing the final finished song! Exciting times. Later!


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Hi! I'm Dave from and welcome to the site!

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