Electronic Pop Music: The Structural Basics | Luke Silas | Skillshare

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Electronic Pop Music: The Structural Basics

teacher avatar Luke Silas

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (19m)
    • 1. 01 INTRO

    • 2. 02 LISTEN TO SONG



    • 5. 05 NOISE FX


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About This Class

It’s fun to listen to, and even more fun to make! Let’s take a little time and look at some of the techniques, tools, and concepts I use to produce danceable, emotive pop songs. We’ll be examining different ways to start a song, covering the basics of synthesizers, using dynamics to build, and more!

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Luke Silas


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1. 01 INTRO: Hi. My name is Lou Silas, a musician, composer, producer writer. I make music under the name Knife City. I play and write in a band called On Amount of Beauty, and I am a composer for a commercial music licensing company called Jingle Punks. Today we're going to talk about the way that I structure out of pop song. There is a definite field and formula that really works, and it's effective. So we're gonna talk about how I achieve that through just structuring arrangement, dynamic building and little effects and flair, right pops? 2. 02 LISTEN TO SONG: So let's take a listen to something I've been working on for a little bit now. Granted, I'm not gonna use this time to show you how I arrived at these sounds. I wanted instead focus on how the song is building on its own, how each individual element is helping move along to this dynamic big chorus. So let's take a listen. Starting off with just these bass and drums will swell into this verse section trying to establish motion. Here is what's important having a lot happening while not showing very much, if that makes sense. And that's what we wanted to demonstrate how to achieve that feeling, of course, so we can go through and look at these individual elements and see how they're helping the song progress. 3. 03 VERSE STRUCTURE: so we can start by going through the individual elements of what's happening here. Uh, the verses all moving in all moving towards this big emotional release of a chorus. So, uh, let's start with what I started with which ones? Thebe base. So this basic sound and baseline are the product of me kind of sitting and messing with it for about an hour. Um, yeah, it's moving. It is rhythmic, it's almost percussive, but it's also moving melodically along. So the next thing I added was these drums, and already you can feel the kick in the base working together, they're rhythmically similar, but not exactly the same. It's all creating this kind of overlapping rhythmic action, which is already separated from the high outs, my main instruments drums. So I'm thinking like a drummer, of course, but everything is filling up its own space. Next thing added, was this Bellison. After that rhythm is laid down, then you're free to start moving melodically. You can hear some motion in there. Also, let's talk a little bit more about that bell synth because there's a lot happening within the instrument by itself. Uh, everything that I'm using here is built into life, everything for that bell sound. So it started off way more simple. Start off as just this, which in the context of the song, it's moving. But I wanted to have it moving a bit more. So I started with adding that DeLay, which again is a built in audio effects that I kind of messed with automated toe, have it pitching up like that and to have it growing with song a bit more automating this filter. So not only is it covering a new melodic ground, it's even growing with the song, uh, simply through adding frequency there. The idea of structuring a pop song like this it's It's difficult because it should all be as additive as it is subtracted. You know, the big release is achieved through adding sounds that weren't there before, adding frequencies that weren't there before and adding concepts that weren't there before . So you're just growing this song. That's all it is. So the next thing that I added was some more melodic stuff. We have the base, we have the percussion and we have that synth. But I wanted to build them a lot of concept of of it a bit more. Uh, so I had this other sends on top. It's a pad that you can hear also filtering it so that power is building up. It's a good build, but it wasn't quite there. So a buddy of mine, another fantastic musician, sat down with it. And he added, These guitarist, it's another layer that's moving, nearing the part but adding another texture. All of this is coming together to make one effective. Billed as things enter the picture As they work together, they coalesce into this big old chorus rating. Let's talk a little bit about the course now. 4. 04 CHORUS STRUCTURE: all right, so let's now take a listen to that transition into the chorus and hear what's happening in there. There's obviously a lot more content being covered there in low end and high, So let's start with the base here. So once the chorus comes in, that pluck is out of the picture and they have two new instruments coming in. One is a sub that's just covering low end, that is, some harmonic will end. And then there's this heavier, more mid range E base. I wanted them to be less active there. Just to take attention away from that, like that is not the focus of this section. It's just supposed to be a bigger feeling, So the activity is moved to different areas that, first of all, we have a lot more in the guitars way have these two tracks that air following the baseline . And then there are these tracks, which are adding a bit more counter. Nothing that sounds fantastic on its own, but it's all there to serve the greater purpose. They're all working together to make this over arching melody. The drums air almost exactly the same. The only thing I've added his knees. It's the simple 16th note toe. Keep it. Driving forward. That little action is important just to again. It feels like it's pushing you off a cliff into a car in love. Whatever you wanna call it, um, some very simple sound effect happening there. It's the big old white noise down shifter. It's kind of, Ah, Elektronik and pop music trope in this point, just the used noise effectively having that extra sheen. The very top end is, Yeah, it's another great felt, not heard trick. And then in the synths, plenty of new stuff getting added. This is continuing. Do what was doing them in the first. But on top of that, there is a brand new melodic part, which is making kind of a hook for this song. Okay, it's big, it's sweeping. It's articulated enough to have some kind of human feel to it sounds like a lot of work, I understand, but that that's that's what's going on there. Uh, I have these new long cords that were being played out, which I've tucked back with a bit of reverb and a cute out a little bit again. These aren't up front. They're just really kind of felt on top of everything in the middle of everything, and that's and that's really what's happening in this course. The only thing that's happening on top of that is this plucky arpeggio hated sound, which is adding both another melodic and rhythmic element. But when you here it without it and then you here with it, it's not entirely visible. But it's There's a lot of implying happening here. You're just wanting to bring this new feeling to it, so everything is working together towards that. 5. 05 NOISE FX: so I wanted to add another couple of little things to help that transition and just a small little sound effects. So let's go over a couple of techniques that I used to make that happen. So in the chorus coming in, we already have this noise down shifter happening, which I made out of a little operator instrument. Super simple. So let's make another one to lead up to the chorus. You know, making New Midi instrument Open up a new instance of operator Right here I want to make it a white noise synth, which on its own sounds sorry like this not entirely useful but will make it useful making you midi clip and add in two bars of white noise. Sounds great. We're done kidding. So what makes that effective swell for white noise is manipulating frequencies within. That's all adding that high end to build up, and we can do that pretty much. All within operator. It has this built in filter right here, so let's start with it down here not very audible, but we're going to automate that filter up so that it opens up as the note plays nice. That's tucked back sounds OK. I like that. It's definitely it could stand to be a little bit brighter just to really add that sparkly high end energy sheen, if you will. Someone added in this e que here find the region that really needs brightening was all appear in this high end. Well, I'm not a multi going to cut the low end of it, just so it's not filling up space unnecessarily. We're not worried about it below, let's say like 250 hertz to 45. We really want the effect of it. Bring it down volume a little bit. Who? So that sounds pretty good, and it's helping move it along. From this point, you can add a great number of facts to make it even more individual. In that, I like adding a touch of reverb, adding a very light delay to it. Anything toe make it a little bit more spacious. I want to add one other thing to it, which is will be another operator. Instrument involves a little bit of ah, fun sent manipulation. Some going Teoh, keep it a sine wave. I'm going to just add in one bar of this note which is C being played. We're going to make that into a little bit of a riser on top of the white noise that's already happening. Just add a little bit more attention. No, Uh, let's take that up, octave, bring it down and volume and we wanna have that swell also. So instead of having instead of automating the envelope, I'm going to automate the volume here, bring it up like this. It's very light. It's very subtle, but it's adding this tension to it, so I can am feedback almost, and we don't want it to be that up front, either. So let's put some light reverb on that. Tuck it back in the next a bit more and Syria subtle. It's something these are all things that you can try your own tricks at. The idea is basically having these little build ups and breakdowns, so sound design is open. Ended is just couple of building blocks to start with 6. 06 PROJECT OVERVIEW & FINAL THOUGHTS: Okay, so now that we've gone over some of these techniques that I used to build up a song let's talk about your project here. Let's say that an ad company comes to you and wants to use a pop song of yours in a new ad campaign they're running. It could be any style and tempo, but they wanted to be very clear. Sections, intro, verse, chorus. They want to build constantly throughout the track. They wanted to have some cool sound effects in there. Keep energy up, and they want to have a strong rhythmic space. All of this is stuff we've gone over. And all of it is something that, uh you now, you know, kind of how to do. So, uh, yeah, upload works in progress. I'd love to hear it all. And, uh, thank you so much for hanging out here with me today.