The post Mixing à la Studio One had a great response, so here’s another tip that relates more to making better music than making better-sounding music. We’ll focus on the all-important intro, because the most crucial part of any pop song is the first 10 seconds. If the intro doesn’t grab the listener’s attention, someone else’s song is only a click or two away.
However, you don’t always have to rack your brain coming up with a great intro—it might be hiding in plain sight. Stealing a bit of the chorus for the intro transfers some of the chorus’s excitement to the beginning. It also foreshadows where the song is heading. My most recent single, I Feel So Alive, used the following technique to replace a “meh” intro with something far more compelling.
Studio One’s Ripple Edit feature is ideal for chorus larceny. Ripple editing is a common video editing technique (see the blog post Basic Video Editing in Studio One). But let’s look at ripple editing with audio. Fig. 1 shows how ripple edits affect cuts.
Figure 1: In track 1, the section in red is going to be cut. Track 2 cuts the section without using ripple editing, so the cut section disappears. Track 3 cuts the section but uses ripple editing. The part after the cut moves to the left, to close up the “hole” left by the cut.
Fig. 2 shows how ripple editing affects pastes.
Figure 2: In track 1, the section in red is going to be copied at the beginning of the Event. Track 2 copies the section without ripple editing, so the copied section ends up on top of the original Event. Track 3 copies the section with ripple editing. Copying at the beginning of the Event moves the Event to the right, which opens up space for the copied audio.
Let’s Use Ripple Editing to Steal a Chorus
I often do song intros last. By then the song has solidified, so the intro can provide an appropriate introduction. Fig. 3 shows a song’s original arrangement. It started with two verses (shown as Verse in the Arranger track), followed by a chorus. It needed some kind of intro. At this point, I’d normally choose Edit > Insert Silence at the beginning, add enough measures for an intro, and come up with something suitable.
Figure 3: The original song arrangement. It needed a compelling intro before the verse.
This song contrasts soft verses with a hard rock chorus. No matter what I did, creating an intro based on the verse always seemed too chill to qualify as an exciting intro. Then when the verse went into the chorus, there was a sort of “where the heck did that come from?” effect. So, I stole the first part of the chorus by:
1. Using the Arranger track to cut the chorus in half.
2. Enabling Ripple Edit (Ctrl+Alt+R).
3. Alt+dragging the first part of the chorus to copy it at the song’s beginning (fig. 4).
The Ripple Edit function pushed the song to the right to create a space for the “half-chorus.” Now it could provide the intro. (Instead of using Ripple Edit, you could cut the chorus section, copy, select all, move the song to the right, and paste. However, Ripple Edit is faster.)
Figure 4: The first half of the chorus is now providing the song’s intro. Ripple editing has pushed the original song start to the right, to make room for the “half chorus.”
After copying and moving the first part of the Chorus, I renamed it to Intro. Additional edits ensured that the music in the new intro would lead smoothly into the verse (fig. 5).
Figure 5: The final arrangement.
The main edit was replacing the leftover lead vocal from the chorus. Fortunately, a vocal phrase from later in the song sang the title. After filtering it heavily and adding some echo, it had an intriguing vibe. It also exposed the listener to the title (repetition can be good!). Adding a short lead guitar part foreshadowed the lead that comes in at the end. Moving some drum beats around, and tweaking the bass line, completed the needed edits to create an intro.
You can hear the results in I Feel So Alive, which is posted on my YouTube channel. The intro plays the “stolen” part of the chorus before going into the verse. If you keep listening past the verse, you’ll hear the chorus come in—as previewed by the intro.
Finally, let’s close with an important tip: Whenever you use Ripple Edit, turn it off as soon as you’ve made your edit! If you forget and leave it on, the next time you cut or paste, you may be dealing with unintended consequences.