Transition sections that are too long…

If you have a transitional state between two sections that have similar rhythm, pace, tonality, register, texture, etc; it doesn’t take much time to move between them. However, if you try to move between two very different sections, more time will be required (for the same rate of change). The time required to move from one state to the other is somewhat proportional to the “distance” (or difference) between the two states.

Sometimes it’s important to have a long transition in order to put some distance between two sections.

The problem is that a linear transition gets boring very quickly. Alinear transition is one that just goes straight from A to B. For example, if you have a dark and resonant synthbass sound in section A and a bright and harsh synthbass sound in section B, then a linear transition would be one that (among other things) just gradually opens the filter, like a straight line – slow and predictable.

And that’s exactly why a linear transition is boring – because it’s predictable.

If reducing the length of the transition is not an acceptable solution, another alternative is to break it up.

  • Change the “curve” of the transition – Rather than move predictably from A to B, perhaps start the transition with a very low rate of change, and gradually increase (the rate of change)… This would have an effect of the transition section intially not sounding like a transition – but more static (unchanging). Depending on the context, this can either create tension (possibly good) or boredom (probably not good). Slowly we hear more an more changes happening (the changes speed up), “climaxing” with a very (or more) dramatic change at the end – just as the next section begins.
  • Put breakpoints in the transition – Rather than simply starting at “State A” and moving towards “State B”, you could add animation between the two points. For example, the transition moves from A, but when it gets about halfway between A and B, it goes back to A again. Then we start moving towards B again, but this time get about 75% before moving back again. and maybe a third time we finally reach B. This can be particularly interesting if the listener already has some knowledge of where the transition is going (s/he has already experience B in some form). another interesting effect of this is that it can distort the listener’s sense of time as well, but this is more difficult to control and excecute well. This technique could also be extended by including “fake” transitions to a different state (not A or B) – this will also manipulate the listener’s expectations.
  • Insert contrasting sections in the transition – Four bars of transition, then four bars of something completely different, then the four next bars of the transition, then another four bars of something completely different, etc etc etc. Of course you can vary the length of each “mini-section”, you could have each contrasting section be something relevent from another part of the piece. You could effectively interleave two different whole sections – even have two transitions coming from different states but both moving to the same final state.

Of course, these ideas aren’t restricted to transition sections – you can use variations of these ideas to add interest to any long section. You could even apply them to only some elements of the arrangement (for example, make the synth parts go through a transition, but keep the drums and bass consistent).


    • Amy Bennett
    • July 22nd, 2009

    Hi Kim,

    Thanks for this informative blog, I stumbled across it today and passed it onto my other music technology education colleagues. I’ll certainly be reading from now on.



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