What's this musical technique called?
August 2, 2009 12:47 PM   Subscribe

What is the musical technique called whereby the music starts slow/quiet, builds to an, um, climax, and then, um, releases? This is most prevalent in dance/trance music. Examples within.

Lasgo, "Surrender" (YT Clip)
Basshunter, "All I Ever Wanted" (YT clip)
Guru Josh Project, "Infinity" (YT Clip)
Alice Deejay, "Better Off Alone" (YT Clip)

(Clips may take a second to load.)

I think this question references a similar technique.

Song recommendations utilizing this technique very welcome!
posted by desjardins to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In the context of that music, those are buildups using snare rushes, leading into or out of breaks. The technique is most prevalent in Eurodance, Trance and Progressive house and techno, but it used to some degree in all styles of four-on-the-floor dance music.
posted by rhizome at 1:16 PM on August 2, 2009

In what I've heard to as progressive(house, breaks what have you) you basically start out with a small amount of tracks playing. As the song progresses, additional tracks(strings, percussion, bass, leads etc.) are brought in until the buildup and breakdown. Whereafter tracks are removed(regressed?) back to a DJ friendly mix state for the next song to come in.
posted by mnology at 1:37 PM on August 2, 2009

Well in classical terms, this is generally dynamics, and specifically a long crescendo to a fortepiano. I'll see if I can find a good example.
posted by Pants! at 1:44 PM on August 2, 2009

Isn't just a crescendo?
posted by X-00 at 1:49 PM on August 2, 2009

– after the breakdown
– post–breakdown
– after the build up
– the chorus
– post–bridge
– outro

Of those terms, I'm thinking producers would just say the "chorus" or "after the breakdown". At the end of the song it's often called the "outro".

I don't know of one specific term, but maybe you'll find it here. Good luck.
posted by fantasticninety at 1:51 PM on August 2, 2009

Response by poster: Whereafter tracks are removed(regressed?) back to a DJ friendly mix state for the next song to come in.

Since my examples occur in the middle of the songs, I don't think this is the case.
posted by desjardins at 1:52 PM on August 2, 2009

I've always heard, "build," "breakdown," and "anthem."
posted by dualityofmind at 3:20 PM on August 2, 2009

In terms of dance music, a lot of people just call it 'peaking'. Josh Wink's Higher State of Consciousness is an epic example.
posted by 31d1 at 3:35 PM on August 2, 2009

My musicology lecturer always referred to this, much like you did, as building to a climax, and then the Dénouement.
posted by Admira at 3:41 PM on August 2, 2009

(The Youtube clips plays somewhat confusing, I'm sorry if I misunderstood, this is based on your textual description)

Within the dance music scene itself, I don't think there is any consensus how to name it, but this method (or rather, "formula") certainly is well known and well used and well loved. I would dare to say it is just as much a production technique as a musical technique.

"Anthem" is perhaps the most widely used expression I have heard used, but all other suggestions here would sort of fit.. I have also heard "take-off".

From Wikipedia's Trance Music entry:

"Many such trance tracks follow a set form, featuring an introduction, steady build, a breakdown, and then an anthem, a form aptly called the "build-breakdown-anthem" form."


What the correct musical term in oldskool music theory would be, I'm not sure.
posted by gmm at 4:12 PM on August 2, 2009

Oh forgot to mention, if you are looking for songs that use this technique OUTSIDE dance music, the first example that springs to mind is "Bolero" by Ravel, which builds very slowly towards climax and release. Not sure if the "release" fits your expectation, but not sure what you mean by it.
posted by gmm at 4:16 PM on August 2, 2009

Not trying to be sarcastic here, but from what I've learned in music/band classes, this is music. Music shouldn't stay at one level, it needs to be always moving and going somewhere. As for an actual name for it, I think you want 'dynamics' specifically crescendo and decrescendo (meaning getting louder and softer respectively).
posted by Deflagro at 4:19 PM on August 2, 2009

I have spent a lot of time around electronic DJs/producers, and spent some time learning to spin. It's referred to, colloquially at least, as a build up, peak or apex and then breakdown. I couldn't tell you about any technical jargon though, as I only learned this from semi-professional local musicians.
posted by sunshinesky at 4:45 PM on August 2, 2009

As said above.. in trance it's build/breakdown/build/anthem.

And uh recommendations? Every trance track ever written:P But here is a particularly awesome one that used to melt my brain on a semiregular basis a decade or so ago.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:58 PM on August 2, 2009

Traditional musicological concepts have a way of breaking down in dance music because dance music is built to be played continuously and seamlessly as part of a larger set. There is no parallel for this in Western music, where even long-form performance is focussed on discrete compositions.
posted by rhizome at 5:01 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Isn't this something a lot of post-rock bands do? I am thinking especially of Godspeed You Black Emperor.
posted by Caius Marcius at 5:51 PM on August 2, 2009

Just a couple of examples where its actually mentioned in lyrics-

BT - never gonna come back down, "he likes to bubble/bring it up"
Fatboy Slim - Build It Up, Tear It Down
posted by phyle at 9:03 PM on August 2, 2009

Paul van Dyk's "Sabotage" does this pretty often.
posted by derogatorysphinx at 9:48 PM on August 2, 2009

My time has come.

Sonic Fire - Like One, which I first heard on a (I know, I know...) DJ Inphinity mix is, imho, one of the best examples of the hands-in-the-air-preparing-to-transcend-this-physical-dimension-and-become-some-kind-of-euphoric-energy-being trance brakedown.
posted by phrontist at 11:54 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: phrontist's link has exactly what I'm talking about, and he explains it better than I did.
posted by desjardins at 7:10 AM on August 3, 2009

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