8 Tips to Consider When Arranging Electronic Music

Electronic MusicIt’s one thing to write a good song, but a song needs a great arrangement to become a hit. Arrangement is an art that requires balancing elements in a track to create interest and movement. Here are a few ideas on how to create better arrangements in your dance tracks.

1. Contrast
Some of the best electronic arrangements use contrast to maintain the listener’s interest. Skrillex and Diplo’s ‘Where Are U Now’ contrasts a minimal verse arrangement with a chorus that’s fuller and livelier. In the verse, Justin Bieber sings accompanied by a piano and soft synth line while the chorus has modern sounding percussion, a happening bass line and a mallet. Due to the song’s strong arrangement, this tune has quickly become a dance floor favorite.

2. Originality
If you have a great melodic idea to express in your track, or want to use instrumentation that’s not commonly used in dance music, go for it. It just has to be placed correctly in the track and be done well. Sander van Doorn & Firebeatz’s ‘Guitar Track’ (Original Mix) is a perfect example of this; the middle of the track breaks down in a beautiful guitar melody. The guitar is unexpected and offsets the hard synth sounds in the rest of the track. This is what makes the track original and stand out amongst the millions of EDM tunes.

3. Minimalism
If your song is starting to sound crowded, try muting tracks and find out which ones you can leave out. It’s more about how little you can make a song work with, rather than how many elements can be included in a track. If you have more than one instrument sitting in the same frequency spectrum, you may need to remove one or at the least EQ them differently so that the frequencies are balanced in the track.

4. Listen
Listen to arrangements of your favorite tracks and study them. This is the best way to learn about arranging. Listen to tracks in the genres you produce, but be open minded and listen to arrangements from other styles. You might hear a new arrangement idea or two that could be applied to your own songs.

5. Know Your Target Audience
You will need to know who your target audience is and arrange accordingly. If you are creating underground techno or house, longer club cuts will be the norm and there is more time to stretch out your arrangements. If you are crafting pop dance or pop music for the radio, a three to four minute mix will be necessary with shorter 8 to 16 bar intros and outros. It’s a good idea to create the radio version first and then create the club mix afterwards. This will help you to understand what the truly necessary parts of the song are and build from there.

6. Remember the DJs
If you’re producing dance music, it’s important that your tracks have intros and outros that DJs can mix. If you want DJs to be able to play your tracks, they are going to have to be structured so they fit into contemporary DJ sets. Historically this has meant percussive intros and outros but the digital DJing age may change the need for this.

7. Hook at the Beginning
If your song has a great hook, try putting it at the beginning of the song, before the verse. Although it’s not electronic music, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit is a great example of this.

8. The Spice of Life
Vary the arrangements in your verses and chorus by using slightly different instrumentation, switching chords or adding a new riff. Although it’s certainly not typical to hear major changes in the arrangements of the chorus, subtle changes will keep your listeners intrigued and wondering what’s coming next. Surprise them.

Tips for Using Electronic Media

Electronic MediaThe electronic media, now so integrated into our teens’ lives, has a profound influence on them. Parents cannot always control what their teens view. Since we cannot shelter them from all this exposure and information, we must teach them how to deal with the electronic revolution that is a part of their lives. We need to help them analyze and evaluate the messages they receive so that they can utilize mass media and the new technologies in positive ways.

What makes this so difficult for parents is how quickly new technology develops. It seems that every day a new means of communicating or accessing the internet become available. It can feel daunting to even try to keep up. And controlling your child’s media intake is often a thankless job. You are met with resistance at every turn, especially from your teen. Why even try? Because you will not be able to guide your child unless you expose yourself to the new technology, if not before them, then alongside them. We must tune in to their culture and to do so, we need to take time, gather information, and maintain strong resolve and determination. It is often not easy.

Parental involvement is a key to safe and balanced use. It is not what the media brings to the teen but what the teen brings to the media. Children whose parents are supportive, caring, involved, and set limits in a nurturing way are better able to handle the media. When young, children prefer to spend more time with parents who are willing to explore these technologies in a non-hurried and accepting way. When older, these teens will be more likely to listen to parents’ limits, concerns and opinions, and take those into account as they make decisions.

Steps to Follow in Making Decisions about the Media and Your Teen

  • Postpone – the longer you can hold off exposing your child/teen to violent and sexually suggestive material, the better off he will be.
  • Pick and Choose – evaluate each situation individually, for example each movie – some R-rated movies or video games are less offensive than others. Remember that teens are working on being independent, so give them freedom of choice whenever possible.
  • Set limits – introduce a little structure with regard to media. Moderation is a good policy. Tell your teen that people should not live by TV/media alone – they also have homework, hobbies, sports, friends, family. Call for a quiet hour in the house with no electronic media. An effective strategy to avoid conflict with your teen is to work with him to decide what are appropriate choices. Together you can set some guidelines: when, how much, which shows, movies, CD’s, videos, computer games, and which sites and how much access to the internet.
  • When possible, participate with your child – watch TV with her and listen to her music (especially if you think it may have some objectionable content), have him guide you through use of the internet, what sites he is visiting, and get to know who she is meeting online and visit with her.
  • Discuss what you are both experiencing in relation to the program content of the media. Seize every opportunity to discuss what you see and hear with your child. Talk about violence, the bad language, the images you find offensive. Without being dogmatic or heavy-handed, voice your opinion so that your values are clear. Ask her what she thinks and provide her with time to respond; listen non-judgmentally to her thoughts and perspectives.
  • Rent video games and sit with him while he plays. Check out magazines that review games and look at ratings on the package. Negotiate with your teen about which ones he can have.
  • Check movie reviews and ratings.
  • Give your teen some privacy and tell her you trust her to abide by the rules you have developed.

 
Television
There are many benefits to television in our children’s lives. It can be a learning tool, helping teens gain an appreciation of the world and people, and enabling our teens to relate to their peers about popular programs, which addresses our teen’s need to feel a sense of identity and membership within their contemporary popular culture.

On the flip side, there are many negatives to television. They may watch too much TV, in which the depiction of life and people portrayed is unrealistic, women are exploited or shown with no depth or abilities, sex is ubiquitous and there are no consequences for it, smoking and drinking are portrayed as cool, and often times there are quick and superficial fixes to life’s problems.

How can you help your young teen to get the best that television has to offer while minimizing the harmful effects?

  • Help him plan which shows he will watch – this can reinforce the idea that TV, like other activities, should have a purpose.
  • When possible, watch with your teen – it can be an opportunity to discuss difficult topics. Give your opinion and allow her to have her say.
  • Consider restricting TV to weekends – it is a way to teach that it is possible to relax and have fun without TV.
  • Watch advertisements with your teen – help him learn how to judge the ads, hone media literacy skills and become a critical consumer.

 
Popular Music
As opposed to the 60’s and 70’s music message which was rebellion but with peace, equality, and ethnic equity, some of today’s messages seem to be rebellion with anger: the use of words whose purpose seems to be to shock or even horrify, advocacy of violence; racist themes, and being demeaning of women. The artists/rock stars are frequently negative role models.

Even with this reality, there are some benefits to the music of today’s teens: they may decide they want a career in music or they may develop a lifelong love and interest in music. So how can we help our teens to analyze the negative subliminal messages that are conveyed in the music they listen to?

  • Listen to the music your teens listen to, watch music videos, comment about your reactions or concerns without being judgmental if he likes the music. Talk about any bad language and images you find offensive
  • Set some rules about purchasing recordings or downloading music.
  • Make a distinction with your teen between an entertainer’s music/art and his personal life. Help your teen to understand that he can appreciate the artist’s talent without idealizing or even endorsing all aspects of the person’s life, behavior, choices and apparent values. Use the opportunity to discuss your stand on alcohol, drugs, sex, violence, whatever comes up with an entertainer’s lifestyle.
  • Music videos on their own do not lead to risky behavior. The variable for a healthy lifestyle for our teens seems to be how close the teens are to their families, not solely what they watch.

 
Computers and Safety in Cyberspace
As with all the new media, there are many plusses: computers have changed the way children and teens learn and has given them access to all the world’s information. Research has become more fun and exciting; they can connect with peers across the globe; and they can share ideas and find people with common interests.

But of course there are also the negatives, the biggest ones being the worry about who our teens are meeting in cyberspace and about what sites they are visiting. There is also the concern about how much time our teens are spending online, to the detriment of other aspects of their lives. There are concerns about social networking – it can consume our teens’ lives and be their primary way of connecting with other people rather than face-to-face interactions.

What can you do to keep your teens safe and help them find a balance in their lives with computer use and other activities?

  • Remember: teens still need our guidance as they enter cyberspace, so we need to educate ourselves and stay involved with them.
  • Enlist your teen as a tour guide as you surf the net with him – ask him to take you to the sites he visits.
  • Set some ground rules for being online: which sites, for how long, when.
  • Keep computers out of your children’s bedrooms. It is better to have them be in public spaces in your home.
  • You need to establish rules for hand-held internet devices and cell phones. For example, they must be turned in to the parent at night or put on the charger in the kitchen.
  • Suggest some sites he may want to visit.
  • Get to know who he is meeting on-line. Visit with him. Make sure he knows not to give out personal information (name, address, phone)
  • Give him some privacy and tell him you trust him to abide by your rules, then leave him alone. If you find he is not ready for such freedom, set stricter rules and keep a tighter rein until you feel he can manage the responsibility and can be trusted.
  • Know how to use the parental control devices that come with on-line services.
  • Prepare your child to deal with anyone online who makes her uncomfortable – “What you are telling me is against AOL’s rules and I am going to report you.” Let her know she should let you know if something frightening happens online.

Mobile Broadband Wireless for Laptops and Smartphones

Mobile Broadband WirelessWhat is mobile broadband wireless?

Mobile broadband wireless is a technology that provides mobileaccess to the Internet using laptops and smartphones via wireless cellularphone networks. The range of mobile broadband wireless is much greater than thelimited range of WiFi hotspots that have traditionally been used for wirelessInternet access.

This increased range enables users to roam without having to worryabout finding Internet access in a hotel, library or café, even allowingcontinuous access in moving vehicles such as automobiles and trains.

Additionally, cellular mobile broadband wireless signals aregenerally encrypted between your laptop or smartphone and the cellular systemto somewhat protect the contents of your transmissions, unlike many unencryptedWiFi signals in public spaces. Moreover, snooping attempts on cellular signalsare less likely because they generally require more elaborate equipment.

Mobile broadband wireless access is especially useful to those whoregularly rack up bills paying for hotel and coffee shop Internet access on theroad. Additionally, users of online software may consider mobile broadband accessas a back-up Internet connection in case the connection for the office goesdown temporarily.

Types of mobile broadband wirelessconnections

Cellular telephone network providers offer mobile broadbandwireless service. The newest batch of mobile broadband wireless networks arecalled “3G” (third generation) networks. Currently,EVDO is the most common type of 3G network in the United States, provided byVerizon and Sprint.

Another type of 3G network, HSDPA, is provided by AT&T and isused for the iPhone. T-Mobile also offers 3G HSDPA in some markets, but plansto expand its service nationwide in late 2008. Until then, T-Mobile’s 2G EDGEservice is widely available.

Necessary hardware

There are two primary ways to access 3G mobile broadband wirelessnetworks on your laptop: using PC Cards/AirCards or using acellphone/smartphone as a broadband modem.

PC cards/AirCards connect to a laptop via a PCMIA/PC card slot ora USB port, but several laptops already have them built in. Upon signing up fora mobile broadband wireless plan, wireless carriers often supply a card at areduced price, sometimes for free. Mobile broadband wireless PC Cards/AirCardscan typically cost from $50-$200 depending on the model and the wireless planyou choose. Laptops with built-in PC cards include the HP Compaq 6910p, theLenovo T500, the Dell Inspiron 1525, the Dell Latitude line, the Toshiba Portege R400 and the Sony Vaio TZ.

Connecting a cellphone or smartphone to a laptop is another way togain mobile broadband wireless access. This process is called “tethering.” Tethering may be available as afee-based option, added to your mobile plan; but some providers do not supportit. Even if you have a data plan that allows Internet access on yoursmartphone, many providers consider tethering a completely different type ofconnection. If tethering is not supported by your data plan, connecting to theInternet in this way can result in an extremely high mobile service bill. Be sureto check your data plan carefully.

3G-enabled smartphones should not need any additionalhardware—just activate your phone with an appropriate data plan.

Mobile broadband wireless data plans andprovider information

Mobile broadband wireless data plans come in a few varieties, such asdata-only plans for laptops, data-only plans for smartphones and combined voiceand data plans for accessing both data and voice services using a smartphone.Tethering may be another option that is usually available for an additionalfee. Currently, pricing can start at around $30 a month for various data-onlyplans and around $80 for combined voice and data plans.

Some plans specify “data caps” that restrict the amount of users’ datatraffic on the network per month. Certain providers automatically restrictaccess without the imposition of extra fees for going over the data plan cap,but others don’t, which could result in unexpectedly high mobile plan bills.

Roaming charges, which incur when using amobile voice or data device outside of standard coverage areas, such as useoverseas, can also result in unexpectedly high wireless plan bills. TheNew York Times reportedabout a man hit with $852 of roaming charges because hisiPhone automatically downloaded his e-mail messages while he was traveling inEurope—he didn’t know that he should have disabled the automatic downloadfeature before going abroad. In another story reported by the LATimes, a man was surprised by a $400 mobile bill. His plan offered freeroaming for calls received in Canada, but he did not realize that this did notcover the calls he made from Canada. The bottom line: be very careful whenchecking your mobile plan for details regarding roaming charges if you thinkyou will be traveling out of your standard network coverage area.

3G mobile wireless data plans are currently offered in the U.S. byVerizon/Alltel (EVDO), Sprint/Nextel (EVDO) and AT&T/Cingular (HSDPA)for both individuals and businesses.  T-Mobile currently providesa 2G EDGE network nationwide, but plans to upgrade its system in fall 2008.

Benefits and drawbacks

Mobile broadband wireless affords users a much farther range ofmobility than landlines and WiFi Internet access—users are not constrained by alocal ethernet cable or by the typical WiFi hotspot range of 100-300 feet.Mobile broadband wireless service is more akin to cellphone service, coveringwide areas and affording non-interrupted service where coverage is adequate,including in moving vehicles. However, keep roaming charges in mind whentraveling across borders.

A potential drawback to 3G mobile broadband wireless is thatmaximum access speeds are several times slower than themaximum speeds offered by WiFi and landlines.

With plans starting at around $30 a month for data-only serviceand with PC Cards available for free or at a discount when you sign up, amobile broadband wireless data plan may start to pay for itself. In some cases,the monthly cost may be less than the cost of purchasing Internet connectionsat hotels and cafes a few times a month. Possible productivity gains from theconvenience of 24/7 Internet access without scrambling to find an Ethernethookup or a WiFi hotspot can also enter into the value equation. A mobilebroadband wireless connection may also function as a backup Internet connection in case your main connection fails,providing further value to your practice.

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