Tutorial: From An Idea To A Song

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Tutorial From An Idea To A Song

In this tutorial I will show you an arranging and song structure related method that might help you to make a full song out of your musical ideas. Or at least move one step forward if you feel like you’re stuck in a loop. This may be a nothing new for some of you, but some may find this useful.

So: lets assume you have created a short mix in your DAW. Maybe something that you could use as a ‘drop’ in your song. It could be a 4, 8 or 16 bar loop and it could contain a melody, bass line and perhaps drums. Maybe something like this:

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Now: how to proceed from here? how to create a full song out of something like this?

Firstly, now might be a good time to start being systematic and organized (if not already). Then, inside your DAW, SKETCH a song structure first. For example, if you’re using FL Studio, go to the Playlist and add time markers to indicate what song section starts and where.

In FL Studio, the first time marker needs to be set either by choosing “Time markers -> Add one…” from the Playlist options -menu or pressing ALT+T. The following markers can be set by right clicking somewhere in the Playlist position marker -area and choosing “Add marker…”.

Adding Time Markers

If your musical style is mainstream EDM, the song structure can be divided into four main sections: intro, breakdown, build-up and drop (the breakdown, build-up and drop are usually repeated two times in a full song). Intro is usually 32 bars long, breakdown may be 32 bars as well (including build-up which is usually 8 or 16 bars) and drop could be something like 16-32 bars. Of course, the length of the sections varies, but majority of EDM songs follows pretty much the same formula.

So your song structure could look like this:

Song Structure

Now, if your idea is a drop, move it to the drop section:

Move Parts Into Sections

Next, break your mix into individual sounds and start filling the song sections with the elements you now have. For example, you could start the intro with drums (really common in EDM) or maybe just with a kick. Then, after 8 bars, maybe add hihats and/or claps followed by percussion and bass line after another 8 bars. And so on. Basically, add a new sound after every 8 or 16 bars (yes, this is very basic knowledge in EDM production).

You can fill the other sections too with your current material if you think they’ll fit there.

The idea in this method is that you’re like a painter who sketches his/her paintings. Only you’re working with audio and sketching a song instead of painting (and yeah, it’s mostly copy & paste job at this point):

Arranging

Yes, your song probably sounds ultra repetitive and boring right now. But at this point, it doesn’t matter as the idea of this method is to create a rough song structure ‘framework’ (or template) for you to work with. This may help you to see your musical idea in a larger perspective and perceive how it would work in a full song. It may also help you to see (and hear) what kind of elements the song needs next as some of the parts are already in place in the song structure framework.

Of course, you’re still far away from a full song. Next, you might want to start composing the missing sections – breakdown, build-up or whatever it is that’s still missing, add variation to your current drum and melodic patterns, add automation and more sounds in the mix, add little breaks here and there and other nuances.

Also remember that the song structure isn’t something that’s written in stone. If you feel you should change the structure down the line, feel free to do that. For example, the length of the sections may need changes depending on your musical ideas that may come as you progress.

However, keep in mind that even though there IS room for new ideas in song structure wise, it is recommended that it follows some sort of common and logical structure. Listeners kind of expect to hear certain things happening in certain positions. And if your song is aimed for clubs, it should at least have long enough intro to let DJ’s have enough time to mix it with other songs in their sets.

And finally, if you wonder where you can find ideas for song structures: listen songs in your favourite genre.

That’s about it. Maybe you’re not able to make a full song with this method, but hopefully this helps you to progress in your song building and maybe getting out of the loop. 🙂

Watch the video version of this tutorial below:

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About Author

Petri Suhonen is an electronic music hobbyist. He has been producing music with computers over a decade on such styles as trance, downtempo, ambient & experimental electronic using FL Studio.

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18 Comments on "Tutorial: From An Idea To A Song"

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Satiky
Satiky
1 year 7 months ago

Thank you for this!!
I have numerous such parts which were just created, saved and left out. Hopefully now I can make full songs out of them. I can’t thank you enough!

azeddine
azeddine
1 year 7 months ago

Thank you so much Petri..

.this is the kind of tips that boosts somone like me who has problems with arrangement……

azeddine
azeddine
1 year 7 months ago

Can you show us how you did the drop used in your tutorial…

Thank you in advance.

JDelwynn
JDelwynn
1 year 7 months ago

Hyviä tippejä, kiitos Petri!

Nice tips, thanks Petri!

Gavin Pells
Gavin Pells
1 year 7 months ago

Thanks Petri.

I have always struggled with structure and arrangement. This has been a big help.

bino11
1 year 7 months ago

this tutorial help a beginner producer thank you so much

alexh
alexh
1 year 7 months ago

All of our tutorials are fantastic Petri, thank you for all your help

Paski
Paski
1 year 5 months ago

Big thanks to you petri, your anticle really helpful to se all beginers in production most expectially Nigeria. kudos petri.

Kasper illum
Kasper illum
1 year 4 months ago

Really love your guides :).
Really no matter what genre, its very good to know the baseknowledge of all tutorials :)!
They helped me alot when caught in the evil-loop^^

Skymon
Skymon
1 year 3 months ago

Damn ! That drop is sick. Won’t you consider making a tutorial on that please ?

Dan
1 year 2 months ago

Now I can see the light at the end of the loop! Great website! Thank you! Subscribed!

Thobano
Thobano
1 year 2 months ago

hy do u have any tutorial videos on how to make a melody using FL studio

Ormix 730
Ormix 730
3 months 24 days ago

Thanks so much sir, I learned a lot with this video.

Dan
1 month 23 days ago

Thank you so much for the help! Your tutorials are so helpful for people wanting to know more, and you’re helping make more great new electronic music – yes!

Mohit
Mohit
1 month 21 days ago

Thanks Petri !!! nice explain for about song structure and good website for learning much about electronic music 🙂

Ariel Vendex
Ariel Vendex
22 days 17 hours ago

Gracias Sr. Petri, su tutorial me ha ayudado mucho. Saludos desde San Luis – Argentina 🙂

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