Chapter 17 of 33 from Armin van Buuren

Arranging

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A great dance track takes its listeners on a journey—from tense and intriguing breakdowns to high-energy drops. Here’s Armin’s approach to crafting exciting musical journeys.

Topics include: The Intro • Find Ways to Tease Your Main Melody • Building Tension Before the Drop • Always Keep the Beat • Automating the Drop • Arrange With the Dance Floor in Mind: "Sunny Days (Club Mix)"

Armin van Buuren

Armin van Buuren Teaches Dance Music

Learn how to make dance music from the platinum-selling producer voted No. 1 DJ in the world five times by DJ Magazine.

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[INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC] - Trance music is all about release. It's about energy. It's about emotion. And you can bring that out by arranging it carefully. So obviously you have dynamic moments. You have breakdowns. And you have big drops. It's like a wave. You know, you're a surfer. You're waiting for the next wave and when the wave comes, that's the drop. It's the kick in the bass. You want to be on your board and the wave needs to take you to the beach. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] A lot of my tracks start with a filtered kick. Just so one the first time that I'm mixing in a track, the kick and the bass, I really hit it. So for example, on this particular club mix of Sunny Days, you can see that I basically copied the kick. It's the same kick track, except for the fact that I don't have that big low end going on that the Bark of Dog plug-in is giving me. And I roll off a little bit of the low end. So you can see everything below 95 Hertz. Something like that. And basically, I've done that-- I could have automated that on the same kick track. But it's just easier also to see for yourself, like OK. Kick intro. I named the track kick intro. And also what I've done, I've done a volume automation right before the drop. You can barely hear it. It's still almost 4 dB I roll off right before the kick and the bass hit. So what that does is this. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] Volume goes down suddenly. The kick is filtered. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] Softer. Softer. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] So when you're mixing in the club mix of Sunny Days coming out of another track, you can use that little trick to really announce the fact that you're bringing in another record. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] You want people to sort of recognize a song and there are several hints you can use by already teasing what's going to happen in the breakdown, or the big chord progression. In this case, I'm introducing the pluck sound to announce the chord progression right before the drop. This is where the big drop is. And in this particular case, I'm already teasing with the chord progression that's going to happen here in the big breakdown. But I'm not introducing the plucks and the pats yet. It's just a baseline that's following the chord progression. So what makes this track interesting to me is that the chord progression is already going on before we go into the breakdown. Then we introduce the melody only in the breakdown. And we have the big payoff with the melody coming. It's not a standard way of working, but a lot of trance tracks traditionally have the big drop, the big melody, and the chord progression going when the kick and the bass hits back on the drop. That's not a standard thing because now there's a lot of trance tracks that have a lot more minimal approach to things. Like to be in the moment track. That has a completely different drop than this particular song. This is more of a classic trance structure, if you will. Because it really pays of...

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Every week, Armin van Buuren puts 41 million listeners into A State of Trance on his radio show. In his first-ever online class, the platinum-selling DJ breaks down his hits—and builds a track from scratch—to show you how he produces, performs, and promotes dance music. You’ll learn his technical process for using samples and plug-ins, mixing, recording vocals, and building a DJ set. Your crowd is waiting.

Join Armin in his studio to learn how he layers sounds, produces tracks, and prepares for his live sets.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class, along with exclusive audio stems from Armin's projects.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Armin and his label will also give feedback on select student work.

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Armin van Buuren

Armin van Buuren Teaches Dance Music