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.

This entry was written by Oliver Chesler, posted on August 4, 2008 at 1:26 am, filed under Ableton Live, song writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.


9 Responses to “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. Tom says:

    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’m definitely going to try the subtraction method this week. Imagine if it cut my arranging time down drastically.

  4. Charles Cushman says:

    Great post, I missed this over at ALDJ, I just shared your blog comment back over with them.

  5. Sean Cooper says:

    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.

  6. Wow. I hope this kills my writers block.

  7. vo1k1 says:

    Very interesting post. Arrangement and construction are fascinating IMHO. Definitely an area worthy of more discussion. Kudos on the link!

  8. DJ Chima says:

    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.

  9. maestro says:

    this is how i do it!

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