Negative or subtractive sequence arranging.

I often say that the arrangement is the most important part of a song. For some people it’s also the most difficult task. Anyone can make an incredible short loop but developing it into a 4-5 minute song takes some practice, thought and planning. A trick my friend Miro Pajic uses which he calls “negative arranging” consists of copying every track’s parts across the entire 4-5 minutes. Next, he goes in and deletes parts instead of starting blank and adding clips/parts as he progresses. I don’t personally work this way but I was surprised to see Miro is not alone.

As I was doing my nightly troll though the Ableton forums I came across a post by uber Live geek Tarekith. He posted a link to his guide to song arranging and it’s definitely worth a read. He also uses the “negative arrangement” style but he calls it, “subtractive sequencing”: click to read

This is a technique I call subtractive sequencing, where we start with all the song elements and remove bits and pieces to form the structure of the song. –

Have you ever tried this technique? Personally I fill up Session view with many tracks, clips and scenes and drag them into a blank Arrangement view.

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Oliver Chesler

"Hello my name is Oliver and I'm going to tell you a story." I have been recording music since 1989 under the name The Horrorist. I have released over 60 singles and 4 full length albums. To hear my music please go to:

9 thoughts on “Negative or subtractive sequence arranging.”

  1. Interesting, inasmuch as I wasn’t aware there were other ways to go about it. I guess coming from tape-based production techniques, I’ve just copied over mute-group arranging to the modern age. But how he described it in his article is essentially how I write electronic music and always have.

  2. I’ve always written my tunes in this way…. I guess its because I find I need to know where the peak of the tune will be before I start arranging – it kind of establishes a boundary and keeps me focussed on the original idea. If I don’t have a definite idea of what the meatiest bit of the tune will sound like, I just keep piling on the salami until the bread crumbles….

  3. i make tracks basically the same way, get the bones of the track finished (the main loop) and then work backwards from that, removing certain elements as i go until i have a beginning.

  4. I use a similar but different method – loading a scene with all clips I would possibly need, and having the track mutes mapped to my midi controller. That way I’m only working with one scene and I can add and subtract parts with easy keypresses.

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