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Subtractive Structure and Arrangement

Like me you’ve probably got a large collection of unfinished track ideas. How do you get the motivation to finish them? Modern DAWs try hard to help you break free of this process; Ableton with its Session View and clip triggering, Cubase with its Arranger Track and Logic, well Logic hasn’t really done anything to help with this one except the antiquated environment touch tracks and the speed and simplicity of pushing L on a region to loop it. I’ve been using a multitude of ‘contemporary’ approaches over the last few years and have come to the conclusion that the plain old vintage 90s technique of ‘Subtractive Structure and Arrangement’ is the best method for me.

Back in the 90s, Cubase on the Atari was the most common sequencer I would see in recording studios. Everyone I watched used it in the same way, building 8 bar chunks of musical elements in cycle mode to start and then filling the screen with muted copies. The structure was then created through an un-mute process. The approach worked and still does today because it allows a visual approach to the arrangement. It’s clear to see the ‘shape’ of the structure and to bind it to the time domain. Using this approach today has enabled me to rinse through a stack of unfinished ideas and shape them up into nearly complete tracks, in a fraction of the time taken with other methods. It has truly revitalised my approach to composition and I can’t believe i’d left it behind in favour of more recent approaches.

I’ve created a video playlist featuring Cubase and Ableton examples of Subtractive Structuring. Give it a go for yourselves and let me know how you get on with it, possibly you’ll find the great results I have.

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One thought on “Subtractive Structure and Arrangement

  1. Like the substractive structuring, cubase has also an arrange track feature for this! But I have no problems finishing my tracks, it is the mixing part that always sets me back. Always find it hard to get a proper sounding mix. That’s why I have 20 tracks lying around.
    Greets StayFunKey
    keep those great vids coming.

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