When putting together an arrangement it's always useful to be able to create tension and anticipation. This is doubly important when producing electronic tracks and creating that perfect build is nothing short of essential.
In this quick tutorial we'll look at some techniques you can use to heat things up when you need to introduce that killer hook.
Step 1 - Rolls and Fills
Arguably the most basic way of creating rising tension is to use a simple fill or roll. This doesn't necessarily have to be a drum roll, you can literally construct a successful roll out of any sound you like. Take a listen to Liam Howlett's work with synth based rolls and you'll see what I mean.
Essentially what you're aiming to do is to use your chosen sound to mimic a traditional snare roll, this means repeating the sound and increasing it in level over time. You can then increase the frequency of the hits and the level as you move towards your event horizon.
Step 2 - Rising Reverbs
Treating things with large reverbs can make them larger than life and increase the width of your entire mix. Try using this sort of effect on your entire drum buss and slowly increase the reverb level over time moving up to your transition. Get this right and it can be truly epic in nature.
Audio: This breakdown and build shows the use of reverb as a tension builder:
Step 3 - Filters and Equalization
If you are trying to introduce an element over time and want to build intensity at the same time you could try using a resonant filter. An element treated with a low pass filter can be gradually revealed as the filer opens up.
Other filter modes such as bandpass and high pass can also be useful for twisting audio in build ups. Dig out that filter plug-in and get tweaking.
Audio: This build up shows multiple elements being filtered in all directions to build suspense:
Step 4 - Noise Based Effects
Introducing noise of any kind can be the perfect way to increase general intensity in your mixes. Raise the noise levels over time and things can get pretty full. Combine your noise effects and samples with delay, reverb and phasers to push things even further.
Step 5 - Automation, Automation, Automation...
No matter which technique you choose to build the drums in your tracks (hey, you may even use all of them!) the most indispensable tool at your disposal has to be automation.
Whether you are filtering audio, manipulating noise, creating rolls or panning things around the stereo field it's all going to involve using automation. It really is the corner stone to creating a successful breakdown or build up.
So, my advice would be to learn your DAWs automation inside out, upside down and back to front!