Track 3 on the album Armin2016, is now out, called – appropriately – Armin and Me.
The song cover for Armin and Me (above) was made with psychedelic AI-generated graphics and shows the sea, sail boats and tulips. Clichéd perhaps, but the art is a nod to Armin van Buuren’s Dutch nationality.
This composition is based on Van Buuren’s form, specifications and best practice for a Trance track, though his Beat plugins were too dense and complex for me. I dispensed with them and designed my own Beats in stead. On this album I have not used any plugins or samples.
APECTS OF TRANCE
I concentrated on creating the melody on keyboard, refining it, adding layers, building it up. Everything hangs on the melody. Van Buuren can play piano and often starts building melodies from his memories of a phrase or chord in classical music – something I do too because I cannot get those bits and pieces out of my head.
The composition is 4/4 tempo, mostly in B minor, though there is a lot of variation. The second most important thing in Trance is the tempo – ideally 132 bpm, though there are some arguments about 132 vs 138. But 132 bpm is just too fast for me. So I turned it down to 128.
The bass line is played on three different types of oud, which sounds echoing and mesmerizing, and adds contrast. But the piece contains just about all the types of instruments, including synths. All that’s missing is vocals. I think that I like a full, multi-layered sound, like a wall with lots of paintings on it – lots to absorb, but also lots of highlights and interesting cameos.
This made the overall editing tricky. Both Chilly Gonzales and Armin van Buuren have said about compositions that if you can sing it, it’s good – and vice versa, and that usually a very simple melody with fewer rather than more notes does the trick. After the initial rush of composing the melody, most of the work in this piece was to refine the melody and make it as simple as possible – and stop at the right time.
If you’re reading this I’m sure you know all about DJ and music producer Armin van Buuren. I took his MasterClass. Having been a Master Trainer for many years, I am a very critical consumer and student: I have a horror of a teacher or instructor showing poor teaching methods, having inadequate subject matter knowledge, and using a badly designed curriculum, so I choose the courses that I pay for on MasterClass very, very carefully. In this case, the course started on the back leg for me because at that time, I neither understood nor particularly liked Electronic Dance Music, or Trance. Van Buuren’s course changed everything I believed about EDM – and he demonstrated exactly why he is the expert in Trance music in the world. It was worth every cent.
His full name is Armin Jozef Jacobus Daniël van Buuren Oon (actual surname is Oon – don’t you love the name? It just so DUTCH!). He has hosted A State of Trance, a weekly radio show, since 2001. It is is broadcast to nearly 40 million listeners, in 84 countries, on over 100 FM radio stations. His production company is called Armada and I wish I’d been clever enough to to think up a pun like that when I named the album and the track.
(Below )The other tracks on Armin2016
What I learned
What I got out of it was something I could think about and work with, logically. Like a student doing an assignment, I did what he said you have to do, and – after more or less getting lucky with the first two tracks, Mesomedes and PopUp – I consciously and purposely sat down and wrote Armin and Me. It’s one thing to get inspired late at night and write something in a daze of exhaustion. It’s another to sit down in the clear light of day (with a lot of coffee at hand) and make something according to the specs. It is much harder, but in the end, more rewarding. I gave myself a nice pat on the back when it was done.
Here’s the surprise: I now love Trance. I think I may have found my niche.
If I had to critique my own song in terms of Van Buuren’s course, I’d say:
“Cōdae, old thing, you got the beats and the form right, and the arrangement too. And the Sound Engineer fixed the tension and release, and the volume and reverb. And the slower tempo can be excused. But this is not Trance Best Practice. Where’s the lyrics? Where’s the vocals? There’s too much melody. Is it as danceable as it can be? Probably not. Sorry.”
Oh well, I had a good time doing it. It was a challenge. I still think that most of the Trance tracks that have recently come out are a) derivative, b) with stupid lyrics, and c) show no virtuosity on any instrument, particularly not the keyboard, despite Van Buuren’s emphasis (over and over) on WRITING A DECENT MELODY!! So I’ll keep trying to do better than that.