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Music Theory - Modern structure


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Hi guys,


What I'm looking for is Structure guidelines, for modern music, there are so many sub-genres i can't wrap my head around what defines what. eg Psy Trance, Dream Trance, Uplifting Trance, House, Deep house, Progressive house, EDM, Trap, Funk, and so on.


So are there any structure guidelines / templates to help in understand just exactly what defines what and what goes where. The things I've seen online are extremely generic and way too vague eg trance = intro, breakdown, release, outro.


As for ears, unfortunately for me they don't work as well as they should - C'est La vie.




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It's all a bit much blabla imho. Genre's are generally not based on the structure of the music, but on the "feel" or "sound". You should perhaps try to seek out two or three tracks that are said to be exemplaric of each genre, and then 'distill' your own understanding of what the 'ingredients' are. And hopefully cook something new from it.

Also note that some genres contain other genres: all you summed up are subgenres of Dance, like metal, grunge and punk are Rock-subgenre's. Also, all you named (except funk) are subgenre's of EDM.

Lastly, those genre-names are mostly lawless and non-musical: there's no method to the madness.

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Thanks Erik for the reply,


I understand what your saying Erik, but I just can't help feeling there must be more.. It cant be just if it feels sounds ok. I mean what I make something, what then? - Let others decide for you want genre I'm doing.....lol... That just feels so illegitimate.


I did listen to some tracks too, but the differences between two separate psy-trance tracks seemed at least to me - to be wildly different. Which only confuses me more.


And then I think to myself well the person that made PsyTrance for example, or from house to deep house, must have had some goal, some idea what and where to change, something that clearly differentiates it.


I did also try some templates online today, but my goodness they are of such very low quality, you really can't learn anything structure wise let alone production wise. None even seem to use the markers for intro,chorus etc. So sadly those don't seem to be of any real learning value beyond the tune they make. (Which is a huge tip to anyone that makes them - make them better - -put a read.me in there too - use all of logic's tools and features to make it easy to understand - you'll be #1 in sales !! )


I thank you for your comments Erik, hopefully others too will have some suggestions to, I really really hope so. (ie read desperation!)

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If you're into a genre, you will know instinctively when a piece of music fits it. More importantly, you will know how to push the limits of that genre to make music that stands out from the crowd.


If you can't tell what differentiates genres, I would take that as a sign that you need to do a lot more research. Not looking at guides or templates, but listening to the genre-defining music and most popular artists.


For sequenced dance music, rhythm and synth sounds define genre far more than structure.

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Thank you Mr Sleaze for you comment, it's valuable in the way that it somewhat verifies what Erik says.


If only that you'd never say it, for example, if one wanted to create Sonata's just listen to them to understand them, you'd say you need to look at the Romantic period, and see how it was structured into exposition, development, and recapitulation. Simply put - you need learn the rules then you play the game.


Also to me, and maybe it's just me, hey who knows maybe people in this genre just bang anything together, except that you're last comment about synth sounds, while understandable, does imply that there is form - a structure - otherwise the comment would make no sense, do you see that? A wrong synth sound would destroy the genre? The implications too are given by this rather simplistic analogy - I rather be a person who understands HOW the es2 works than be one that just uses presets.


So thank you again Sleaze, valuable insights.

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  • 1 month later...

There' nothing wrong with doing covers of songs you want to emulate... Do a detailed critique of it..

What instruments do they use, what is the sonic pallette.. How many parts are there.

What kind of music phrases or figures are they using..


I sometimes use graph paper.. and map out each part by bar.. Gated chords come in for 24 bars at measure 17 , then come in at 65, etc..

Bass is alternates between 2 motifs,

drop outs at bar 97, then again 170. etc etc..

Listen as much as posible to songs in the genre you like..


Read and study.. Be analytical about it.. The thing with music is you want to learn a process, break it down understand it, digest it..

There is a book - called 'This is your brain on music' by Dan Levin.. excellent..


While learning a new skill, the procedure or act of executing it, is processed and moved to different areas of the brain.. When it finally is absorbed it is send to another part of the brain and called up like a subroutine.. While you are exectuting a process, say playing drum fills. it is now a subroutine.. Your ears, and your eyes if watching track arrangement page or score, can look ahead, and see what it coming up.. And can perform realtime permutations to the process your 'muscle memory' is executing..


Another way of putting it. Commit the scales to memory backwards, forwards, inversions, etc.. Once it is totally engrained.. you will play from 'muscle memory' that is your analytical brain section is free to be doing other tasks and calculations..


If your serious about music you want to learn as much as you can. If you can afford courses take them.. Also look online for free courses.. I spent the first 1/3 of my life wanting to be a 'pure musician' playing from the heart', no artificial restraints or rules to follow..

Later I took a bunch of online Berklee Music courses.. What a fool I was to have waited so long.. The quality of my music advanced tremendously. I wished I had done it earlier..


But everyone has their own path.. I had one friend give up music at 45.. Cause he was self taught.. and wouldn't go beyond that.. He realized he just kept writing basically the same song over and over even though it was different..


The point is you learn the rules and tools.. They are available to you, you decide whether you are going to follow them in a certain situation, or modify them to suit your needs.. Sometimes you create something new by blending two conflicting rules.. The point, you have more options to work with..


I worked at a night club and would laugh at all the DJ wanna be producers.. They would take songs, edit splice them, and then throw on gated chords, or use the current instrument of the month to 'get that sound'.. They are not creating.. There is a whole genre of that music and it has it's place and it is 'valid' for some.. Others would consider it not to be music at all.

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