What Did I Learn?
Energy changes. One of the main skills of arrangement (along with tension) is to switch up the energy between the sections. By deleting a few notes from the original 16 bar clip you make a less busy version of the audio or MIDI. Do this a few times with a few other minor variances and you have 3 versions of essentially the same riff or pattern but with enough difference to be noticeable between main sections. These builds in energy help structure the track in terms of peaks and troughs.
In all honesty, you can probably get away with having just 2 versions (an a and a B section or chorus and a verse) but having 3 gives you more to play with.
The best way to do it is make the busiest and energetic 16 bars you can then strip back from there. What I have been doing before now is making a relatively busy 16 then looking for more tracks to add and was running out of ideas and into masking (more than one sound covering the same frequency range). The whole track doesn’t have to be as good as the main 16, keep the main 16 as the peak.
Turnarounds. These are changes in the riff or MIDI that occur in the last 2 or 4 bars of the 16 and can be done in either by note changes or processing. Not only do they defer from the repetition of the original 2 or 4 bar riff but they indicate that a change is about to occur in the next 16 bars. Previously, I was only really using FX to signify a change but using turnarounds alongside the high end ear candy really does the job of gluing 2 sections together.
What Do I Need To Work On?
Creating interest from existing elements. Rather than adding more and more tracks, modifying existing sounds will be more cohesive and hint at whats to come rather than have new sounds appearing from nowhere. As mentioned above, the ability to make a B section and intro from the main 16 bar chorus is an arrangement skill I still need to work at.