Basic Trance music arrangement in FL Studio
Once you have the drums, bass, and synths for your trance track ready to go, arrange them into a song in FL Studio. Although there’s a lot of room for creativity when you’re arranging, following a few basic guidelines for the track’s structure will make your production more effective and playable. The most important guideline to remember is to always make each section of the track an even multiple of 8 bars in length. Practically speaking, this means you’ll be working with 8, 16 and 32-bar loops.
The first step in arranging your trance track in FL Studio is to group and merge clips together; this makes it easier to quickly lay out an arrangement. Open the Playlist window for your track, then click the “Select” button at the top of the Playlist window. In the Drums channel, select a full eight-bar loop. Click the down-arrow button in the upper left corner of the Playlist window, select “Edit” and click “Merge Pattern Clips.” FL Studio combines the eight separate patterns into one. Repeat the process with any other clips that you want FL Studio to treat as one loop.
Next, group any automation clips with the pattern they’re modulating. Drag and drop the automation clip on top of the pattern, then select the two clips and press “Shift+G.” The automation clip is now overlaid on the notes, meaning that you can move or duplicate them simultaneously. Do the same for any other patterns that have associated automation clips. Now, you can start laying out the song structure.
The intro to your track should be simple. The more minimal the intro section is, the easier it is for a DJ to mix it into a set. Paint an eight-bar loop of just drums, then bring the bass in on bar 9. Paint in 16 bars of just drums and bass, then add a riser at the end of the section.
Bring in the first melodic synth on the 25th bar. Don’t use the main lead synth yet — you’re saving that for the peak of the track. Instead, trying using an arpeggiated, plucked synth sound, or a short synth stab. Add in the bass and the drums, then stretch all three parts out to 32 bars. Put a short, one-bar riser at the end to lead into the breakdown.
Introduce the lead synth — but not the lead riff — in the breakdown. Cut out the drums, base and first synth, then draw in a 16-bar melody on the lead synth channel. Make the melody build up slowly to the main riff. Add a riser at the end of the breakdown to lead into the peak section of the track.
Bring the drums and bass back in after the breakdown, and introduce the main synth riff. Let the lead synth play out for at least 16 bars; this is the first peak section of your track, and the one that the listener will remember.
After first peak section of the track, take a short 8- or 16-bar break from the main riff. You could re-introduce a variation on the first synth in this section, or cut out the drums and bass again for another breakdown. Taking a short break from the main hook makes it all the more effective when you re-introduce it into the track.
Bring the main riff back in for another 32 bars. After this second peak section, start removing elements of the track. As with the intro, keeping the outro minimalistic makes it easier for DJs to mix your track. Add 16 bars of drums and bass after the second peak section, then cut out the bass and let the drums play on their own for at least 8 bars. When you’re finished, the track arrangement will look something like this:
Now that you have the basic track arrangement laid out, refine it by editing the patterns and adding effects. Go back to the breakdown section, then click on the Lead channel in the mixer. Add “Fruity Free Filter” to the channel, then set the filter’s cutoff to 800 Hz. Right-click the “Cutoff” knob and select “Create automation clip,” then drag the newly created automation clip on top of the breakdown melody. Draw an automation curve from the lower left to the upper right of the automation clip. This tells the filter to slowly open up over the course of the breakdown, letting all the frequencies through at the very end.
Making a short cut at the end of a drum loop is an effective way to signal the end of a section. Go to the end of the second break (when you re-introduced the first synth melody) and shorten the end of the drum and bass loops by a bar or two. Cutting the drums and bass in this way makes them more impactful when you bring them back in. Try making the same sort of cut at the ends of other sections (between the intro and the first section, for example).
Play back your track all the way through, making adjustments as needed.