production - arrangement blocks



since this forum is "producers, engineers and hardware" - how bout some food for thought about production. I'm really interested to see what some of you have to say about this one.

My subject heading "arrangement blocks" is the new approach I have been taking to production and in some ways mixing. The reason I bring up the whole analogy with blocks has to do with the way alot of people put together songs piece by piece, especially in (insert the DAW of your choice). This also works for me since I like to visualize sounds, and with waveforms on a screen in concession on a DAW - this block theme fits together quite nicely for me.

When I was first attempting to make albums - my approach was to let the band do their thing, minus the solos and vocals - which I would overdub. Now I look at all ther different "blocks" of the song. Blocks for example could be the drum beat or guitar riff intro - the first verse - the first chorus - the second verse - second chorus - bridge - solo - outro. You get the picture.

I then attempt to take each block, and have the band practice the arangment for each - finding it is easier for them to tune in on one part at a time - kind of like reading a chapter at a time, opposed to tackling the whole book at once (where as you end up skipping pages here and there). Having the musicians work with the blocks one at a time seems to give them a good idea of where the song is going to go, and often the vibe or tonality of the song changes during this process (and for the better I must add).

The hardest part to this is not in the recording, punching, or cross-fading, but in getting all of the "blocks" to work in sucession. Almost like having different tracks of an album work with each other. Its good to have some blocks drop you off - and have you be picked up and raised by another block - but alot of the time its necessary to keep the same tone with the next block - especially between a verse and chorus.

I have been one to want to record the band at once, and all blocks at once at the beginning as a reference point. Then recording each block individually - and piecing them together as needed. This can cause problems for me especically with the drummer since not all drummers i work with are totally cool playing to a click.

I guess what I am getting aroudn to, does anyone take a similar mental approach to assembling songs - and which route do you find easiest/most intuitive for recording/piecing together the "blocks"

hoping someone may not think I am a nutjob since when I try to pick apart alot of modern "hit" rock mixes, they seem that whoever is doing them is taking an approach of a similar decent - or is just really good with their punches :roll:

mixerman - don't let me down here

take care -Jason C. Crouch


Well-Known Member
Feb 10, 2001 a way, you've discovered the wheel. People have been cutting and pasting together songs since the dawn of tape recording and razor blades.

The "rehearsal block theory" has also been in existance since the dawn of time [take it from the "pre-chorus", run the "chorus", stop. Now try it!! Lets see how that works with the song].

What it sounds like you're doing is recording pre-production rehearsals, then trying to paste the sections together to become a song. It's a way to work, one that I personally don't particularly enjoy, but it's certainly a valid production technique (as long as the artist is into working that way).

If you're getting better performances that way, great. I've never seen/heard a band be able to give their "all" with the 'start/stop' method, but it can lead to a more "perfect" take. From my experience, there is usually one full take of the song that has "it"...the others may also be good takes, but don't quite have "it"...seems you've found a way that works for you that gets around that, and perhaps creates "it" (I dunno, haven't heard your work).

When mixing, I know I'll usually work on the song as a whole for the basic ingredients, then name 'cue points' and cycle those section by section.

As for the problem of "drummers not being totally cool about playing to a click"...if you change the 1/4 note "cowbell" click to something like an 1/8th note "shaker", it usually helps. Another one that usually works pretty painlessly is to get a sampler, and program a full percussion part [like take two bars and loop them for each section...or if you want to do the whole song in one take, then you can program the different loops/sounds to follow a map of the song].

Best of luck.


Well-Known Member
Feb 23, 2001
Jason, blocks like you describe are used in dance, film/video/stage production, Voice over work, you name it, even launching the space shuttle. If it doesn't have a negative effect on performance, and enhances the net result, then cooool.

I like the "wheel" analogy that Fletcher used, I kinda look at it like this, picture a machine with rotating wheels, the wheels rotate at different time signitures, some are large and take more time to rotate, some small, that rotate quickly, in the center may be a 4/4 wheel, the left may carry 1/8 or 16th (hats) note info, the right some variation of more fractional rotation, with a whole note tambourine. When running, it should sound like multible synced clocks ticking, and should cause you to notice the influence. The bridges and chorus' would have a distinct difference, or just be fuller. I hope you get my drift, this is the "what are you smoking" post, isn't it?