The top 10 dance music production clichés

Put your hands in the air. Like you just don't care.
Put your hands in the air. Like you just don't care. (Image credit: Mark Makela/Corbis)

Thanks to rapidly encroaching global hegemony and the wide availability of Vengeance sample packs, dance music has hit an all-time high in terms of creativity and innovation. If you've heard Daleri's astounding mashup of Beatport Top 100 hits you'll know that there's never been a better time to release a big-room banger that varies from the last big-room banger very, very slightly.

Naturally, a genre as mature as dance music is full of the sort subtle nuance that might be missed by the average listener, so here's a helpful guide to the top ten dance music clichés that you'll find indispensable when churning out your next chart-topping EDM anthem!

10. Trance chords

In the late '90s everyone secretly loved trance music, but - much like contemporary movie Fight Club - they weren't allowed to talk about it. Thankfully, in our more enlightened, post-Deadmau5 times, every breakdown is riddled with massive sawtooth-based trancey plucks.

Not musically literate? Don't worry - as long as your pluck preset has a perfect fifth programmed into it, that chord progression practically writes itself!

9. White noise risers

Without wanting to make any sweeping generalisations, dance music audiences are mostly composed of witless, drug-addled buffoons. So, how can these barely-conscious zombies be whipped into a frenzy of excitement? Perhaps some impassioned, right-wing rhetoric? A little old hat.

One cutting-edge solution is to use a low-pass filtered white noise sweep that opens up gradually, tickling the listeners' ears and letting them know subconsciously that something is about to happen.

8. 808 snare rolls

So, you spent your formative years in a leafy suburb, and the first time you heard gangsta rap was Estelle featuring Kanye West's American Boy. Don't worry: there's still a chance to establish your street credentials with some dirty south-inspired 808 snare rolls.

A little velocity variation and a some pitchbend and your audience will be convinced you spent the naughties listening to grey cassettes.

7. Pitched-down vocals

If the 808 snare rolls aren't giving you enough hood flava then there's only one thing for it: you're going to have to pitch down the last word of a vocal sample.

This time-consuming process involves: A - choosing a pitch-shifting algorithm that doesn't sound rubbish; and B - experimenting with as many as two different settings before you decide that the barely intelligible results are good enough.

"How about a succession of mid-range 'bass' noises that sound like Megatron being given an enema by a pair of copulating urban foxes?"

Pro-tip: the excellent and sensibly-priced DAW Reaper offers a fantastic array of algorithms that are ideal for this sort of thing, and it won't break the bank.

6. Vengeance vocal samples

Back in the day, if you wanted a vocal you had to either record it yourself, or sample it from a track by someone else. Of course, unauthorised sampling is copyright infringement, and is 100% guaranteed to result in a successful court case where the sampling artist is banged to rights.

What's worse is that it involves work in the form of searching through your music collection for something decent to rip-off! Thank heavens, then, for Vengeance Sound and its excellent selection of royalty-free vocal libraries, which can be heard on every dance track released since 2007.

5. Pitched 808 subs

The very latest in bass technology, using pitched Roland TR-808 kick drums to create a sub-bass line has only been used in every other dance track since 1987's Just Give The DJ A Break by Dynamix II.

If you're making trap, deep house or atmospheric DnB, simply download Goldbaby's The Tape 808 and you'll be blowing bass-bins before you know it!

4. Dubstep snare drop

As we've already discussed, dance music audiences don't really understand the world around them in any meaningful way, and need to be instructed in simple terms. You want them to dance when the drop hits, but how can you give them fair warning that it's about to happen?

A reverbed, 200hz-heavy snare on the beat before will do the trick. Just make sure no other sounds play concurrently or you'll diminish the effect, confuse the crowd, and be laughed out of the arena.

3. Big bass drop

The time has come for your track to shine, and it's ready to drop! You could plump for a catchy melody or uplifting chord progression, but instead, how about a succession of mid-range 'bass' noises that sound like Megatron being given an enema by a pair of copulating urban foxes?

Any musical content at this stage will make you look like Cliff Richard or something, so load up some Massive patches and get busy.

"The only way to truly convey the hopelessness of the human condition is to play one note over and over again."

2. Huge drum hits

Not a lot of people know this, but enormous 0dB drum samples are actually rather difficult for the human ear to detect, especially when blasted over a Funktion One sound system.

Thankfully, you can help them punch through the mix by sidechain compressing literally everything else in the track when they play. If you want your music to properly send the message that 'there's a kick drum playing now', it's a winner!

1. One note melody

Obviously, anyone who makes dance music has an encyclopedic knowledge of music theory, and once you've acquired a thorough understanding of melody, you too will realise that intervals are in fact a waste of time: the only way to truly convey the hopelessness of the human condition is to play one note over and over again.

What's more, if you've EQed your lead to sound good in a certain key, playing different notes with it is just asking for trouble! Keep things simple by smashing up all the notes on your keyboard apart from G3, a technique known as 'The Guetta'.