Strategies for Song Structure

I use iPhone exclusively and tend toward a modular approach using mostly AUM and AB/IAA/AU output to separate channels and mixed in Reaper later on. I control most of my synths and drums with Aleph Looper and Xynthesizer. Since I don't have a hardware midi controller yet, I tend to do a lot of: Record track to wav while other tracks are playing, and then sometimes load that wav back into AUM's file player to save CPU. This generally sounds pretty good, but the thing I'm having the hard time with is structuring songs.

I do like Aleph's song mode approach, but one thing that kills me is not being able to see it laid out visually. I've tried sketching song structures with a pen & paper, but I haven't really found a style that works for me very well. I recently saw someone break a famous track down structurally in a spreadsheet which was an interesting approach that I may try. The only time I really miss a traditional midi alongside waveform DAW piano roll is in the beginning planning phase and at the end while doing volume/panning/mixing.

I'd like to read some strategies you all use to plan out song structure.

P.S., Is there any way to get Aleph Looper and AUM to start at the same time? I wish I could just hit play in AUM and start Aleph and Xynthesizer. I always have to give myself a 1 bar head start which can get confusing later on while trying to structure the song.

Comments

  • 18 Comments sorted by Date Votes
  • Hi just curious. Can you post the spreadsheet.
    Be interesting to see.
    Thanks

  • @Tarekith said:
    Here's one way to approach arranging:

    http://innerportalstudio.com/articles/ArrangingSongs.pdf

    Thanks for the link.

  • I use AUM and ignore the timeline, so there is no real thought of song structure, only the sound that is filling the physical space. I'm currently working on a song in Cubase on a desktop however, and am struggling with it, as my brain is having trouble adjusting.

  • @Nicebutfun said:
    Hi just curious. Can you post the spreadsheet.
    Be interesting to see.
    Thanks

    I don't know where I saw it, but I will keep looking around for it. iirc it was from a post by somebody breaking down the structure of an existing song.

  • @1P18 said:
    I use AUM and ignore the timeline, so there is no real thought of song structure, only the sound that is filling the physical space. I'm currently working on a song in Cubase on a desktop however, and am struggling with it, as my brain is having trouble adjusting.

    Yeah, this is about the only kind of project I've been able to finish on iOS: Structureless ambient drift. Which is great, but I've had an itch to do some traditional four on the floor stuff with these tools to see how it sounds.

  • @gleandibson said:
    ...but I've had an itch to do some traditional four on the floor stuff with these tools to see how it sounds.

    You can still can still come up with structure when filling the physical space with sound, you just have to use audio cues rather than visual ones.

    Another thing that helps in the "fill the space" approach is to distinguish between lead and backing tracks, with backing tracks usually more rhythmic and setting the tempo, and lead tracks taking the lead (imagine that!). Backing tracks also can provide those aforementioned audio cues.

    Obviously that's all just kind of generally speaking. You can mix things up. The world is your oyster.

  • edited February 2017 Vote Up0

    I dont structure the songs on ipad, i just make loops with it(i do for example think that x loops are for verse and y loops for chorus etc), export to ableton and create the structure there. And i use blocs wave to record the loops on and export from it, since it has ableton project export.

  • I'm always interested in new ways to arrange and I'm hoping there will be more apps that can do this in unusual ways in the future other than the traditional timeline approach. Fingers crossed Kymatica comes out with something and Loopy masterpiece might be on the horizon.My current approach is to use AUM to record sessions which are then moved over to Ableton Live since the session view is the most sophisticated arranger I've used.

  • Aleph's song mode is pretty close to something useful to me. I like working with different sized blocks. If it had a way to get the blocks to trigger wav samples and toggle midi play/stop on instruments that have their own built-in sequencers loaded into AUM (like Elastic Drums or Xynthesizer), it might be my primary tool.

  • wimwim
    edited February 2017 Vote Up0

    If you're exclusively iPhone and already comfortable with bouncing to audio, MultiTrack DAW
    https://appsto.re/us/15qOt.i might help you with arranging. It would allow you to import your audio clips and would provide you a timeline for copying / arranging them.

  • edited February 2017 Vote Up0

    I just think in terms of loops of 4 or 8 bars. Copy, paste, change, by adding or subtracting elements or changing one little thing here or there. But basically i just think of a succession of loops and the rate at which elements in those loops change or evolve. It's the simplest way imo, and if you keep the rate of change in mind, it will sound legit and not blocky. It's just a way to think about music.

  • @Tarekith said:
    Here's one way to approach arranging:

    http://innerportalstudio.com/articles/ArrangingSongs.pdf

    great read, thank you! :]

  • i did something strange, that i still use for composition: a way to get scales. I have another way to get chords from this:

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