At this point, you should have a decent sounding song with all the vital components. You might even find yourself listening to it over and over. That’s great, because that’s what this current section is all about.
Create variations throughout our song to keep it exciting and interesting. The last thing you want is the listener to start to get bored or lose interest in a section of the song. This is a fine balancing act. Too much variation and the song will start to sound chaotic and unorganized. Too little and it will sound sterile. See the feedback section later in this guide for more ideas on how to strike this balance by having others critique your song.
Where to Begin?
I like to start marking sections that I think will benefit from having variations in my verse(s). A common practice is adding variations at the end of every 4th, 8th and 16th bar. This is something you will want to experiment with to find the right fit for your song.
Once you have an idea of where to start adding these variations, you want to consider the different kinds to add and how long they should be. I prefer to look at the main elements such as the drums, the melody and energy flow.
A very common and effective variation is to use drums or percussion instruments. Think of a snare or tom roll, a sudden break in the beat, or even the use of a well-timed crash cymbal. You can look back to some of the various beats you created and take something from those or create all new filler patterns. I am also a fan of cloning a beat pattern and making subtle adjustments. Do this a few times and your rhythm elements will be much more interesting.
Consider the shift in pitch and velocity when creating these fillers. This can make a big difference in the effectiveness of these additions. Snares tend to pitch bend upwards, especially at the end of a buildup. Kicks tend to have subtle velocity shifts when you do variations too. In fact, fillers are… filled… with these fluctuations which give character.
Also, during these parts, pulling out other elements can be a good idea. It helps the fill stand out. Usually the removal of the leads or other melodic content will allow the listener to focus on the variation. This quick shift in focus keeps them engaged and eager to continue hearing more.
One last thing to remember is that fillers drastically lose effectiveness the more they are used. You will want to avoid repeating these variations and make a few new ones as you go. In many cases, very simple fillers are ok to repeat from time to time. The more complex sounding, the less impact it will have when repeated too soon.
Another very effective variation is the use of flourishes. I am generalizing here, but it is the rapid change in the melody with the intention of creating renewed interest. These come in all shapes and sizes and typically are applied to the last quarter or eighth of the melody.
Some ideas to try out:
- Double the notes.
- Shift the octave up by one.
- Quickly drop down or up the scale.
- Remove every other note.
- Add double notes that are one octave higher.
- Play fewer and longer notes.
- Play more and shorter notes.
I think you get the idea. These are just a few examples, but will help get you thinking in the right direction when creating your own musical flourishes.
Energy Flow Sound Effects
Beyond the drums and melody, there are a ton of other ways to add variations throughout your song. I will share a couple that I like to use.
Since sound effects come in so many different flavors, it can be tough to narrow down the ones worth using for variations. To try and make it a little easier, I tend to think of the sound effects that I would use to manage energy flow. These can be noise effects, like swooshes and sweeps. Or it can be one shot hits with lots of effect processing on them. Another kind can be effect flourishes, a series of effects layered together to create something new and exciting.
In the end, your goal is to make sure it fits the overall song and sounds great. More importantly, it needs to keep the song interesting and add excitement. This is a great chance to experiment and come up with some interesting new ideas going forward.
Note: You should complete your basic mixing and effects processing at this point. You will want to do a final mix after this next step, but when we move forward, it is under the assumption that you only have minor tweaks left.