The Power Of Contrast In Music

maguire vs mcguire D.O.L. historyWhat do these two guys have in common?

There is a long standing debate as to which one actually started the Labor Day tradition.

If you’re not from the US, it’s basically a day to celebrate the people who make stuff happen.

You know, the hard working people down in the trenches each day who get the job done!

Why should this matter to you as a music producer though?  

This illustrates the power of contrasting ideas.

It’s like polka dots and stripes, breakfast for dinner, or Team Edward vs Team Jacob from the Twilight series.

(personally I’ve never watched it but I hear it’s pretty popular…)

This debate about who started the holiday has been going on for over 120 years!

So if people are willing to debate differences in ideas then creating differences in your music can help to keep your music on people’s radar.

Ever listen to Danger Mouse’s Grey Album?

He mashes The Beatles and Jay Z together, which landed him in court but that’s a story for another day…

Girl Talk is also notorious for jamming other people’s music together that seem to be light years apart from each other (like Oasis and Ying Yang Twins).

Now your music doesn’t have to be controversial just to get people to notice it.

I attended an event where multi-million record selling producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins was the keynote speaker and he talked about this concept of Beauty and the Beast that he uses in his music.

He combines raw, gritty, and dirty sounding hip hop drums with pretty sounding R&B melodies.

This same idea was brought up again by a highly regarded underground producer by the name of Daedalus who regularly plays the sold out Low End Theory annual event.

I was checking out an event at Beat Lab Academy where Daedalus talked about making music out of the differences in sounds and not the similarities.

This concept of using dissimilar sounds is what keeps people’s brains engaged.

Contrast will also help you make your music stand out in a contrast

Some obvious differences when it comes to contrasting sounds might be distorted vs clean sound, bright vs dark sounds, short vs long sounds.

You can use short fast arpeggiated notes placed over long evolving ambient sounds.

Some less obvious ways to create contrast might be using texture. For example: a wet splashing sound against a dry breaking sound.

You can also use differences in meters.

Half time or Double time are quick and easy ways to get some contrasting tempos but you can also use 6/8 vs 4/4 time.

Adding a triplet feel to a straight meter can make things feel slower and more relaxed or even give it a swing vibe.

What contrasting elements are you using in your music? Drop a comment on this page to let me know!


J.R. Noble

Pro Audio Entrepreneur

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