Energy is usually defined in terms of strength and power. We can apply these meanings to the EDM production context also.
The energy in music is the amount of perceived power or strength in a song. If you’re in a club for example, and at the start of the night, the DJ starts playing.
The songs that would typically come first are the lower energy songs, with the energy increasing as the night goes on. The easiest way to recognize energy difference is in the song’s tempo. High energy songs are usually faster than low energy ones.
A 150 bpm dance song will most likely have more energy than a 105 bpm chillout joint. However, there’s more to energy than tempo. How we perceive energy in the song is quite relative.
Here are some tips to give your EDM production more energy
Do energy mapping
For example, if a song maintains high energy from beginning to end, it’s likely that you will get bored before the song ends. This is why you should vary the energy levels in your song. An efficient way to do this is by sung an energy map.
An energy map is a visual representation of the energy levels in a song. It’s best to learn this concept by first drawing the energy map for different EDM songs you know.
- Pick a song and divide it into its different parts; intro, chorus, verse, and so on.
- On a scale of 1-10, rate the energy levels of the different sections of the song.
- Make a visual representation (possibly in the form of a simple graph) to show the energy map.
Make sure you’re listening with a very good pair of planar magnetic headphones. This is important so that you will have correct judgments of the energy levels.
Map out your song
When you do this for a number of songs, you’ll notice how the producers use different energy levels to keep you interested in the song till the end. I would advise that when you’re about to start making a song, have a sketch of the energy map you have in mind for the song.
If you don’t have any ideas, pick a great song that has a similar style to the song you want to do, and use the energy map for that song as a guide for yours. Also, note that the energy map is a guide and not a set law that must always be obeyed.
Less is more
As expected, your energy map will show high and low energy levels in your song. For the high energy levels, you may be tempted to pack lots of instruments on top of each other to make it sound “big”. This method can be counterproductive.
Sometimes, less is more. When you’re tempted to do such, consider other options, such as removing one or two elements from the preceding section of the song, just to increase the contrast.
Also, some careful arrangement or mild EQ sculpting of the already available instruments will be enough to give you the energy you need.
As an example, rather than increasing the number of kick samples or cranking up the gain, try and see if the bass is masking the kick from being heard.
If this is the case, no amount of kick samples you use will give you more energy. It will simply make your music a lot more clumsy. Also organizing the samples is really important.
If you’re working on a high energy dance song, you may consider starting with the most powerful parts, then working your way back.
Start with the climax
At times, starting with the intro and working from left to right may not work so well for some producers.
For such people, by the time they reach the section that is supposed to be the climax, there’s nothing more to add. If you start with the climax, it can sometimes be easier to lay the less energetic parts.
There’s something that makes energy even more exciting. It’s tension!
Tension is the creation of expectation or anticipation in your music.
Think of risers, rising snare rolls, reverse cymbals and other obvious elements that make people expect something more in the next bar.
While some tension moments are pretty straightforward, since they go as expected, others may linger for some time making the listener anticipate the drop even more.
Tension as a topic will take a whole other article, but it has to be mentioned here because of its importance.
There are different ways of building tension in the music; chord progressions, the melody and the more obvious risers and drum rolls. Listen to these elements when doing the energy mapping of your favorite EDM songs.
Lastly, think about your music as a whole performance or composition, rather than just a repetition of loops.
It helps you to keep things fresh and organic until the end of the song.
When you think of music like this, one thing that’s sure to happen is that you have more variations of the loops you’re using, or you’ll be using more automation.
So, when producing, do it as though you were performing in front of a crowd. You would always want to keep them on their feet, wouldn’t you?
I hope you guys found this post helpful.