How to add more excitement and energy to your music

So, you’ve got your song planned out, the main parts are in place, it’s humming along… but you’re just not feeling the push. It’s not making you sit on the edge of your seat – it’s making you sit back (or worse, turn away…).

What you’re missing is excitement and energy.

If your first move is to reach for a compressor, or harmonic exciter (surely an ‘exciter’ adds excitement?), or another serving of high-frequency boosts… pull your hand back. You’re on the wrong track. Using these tools will make the song more exciting than it used to be, but if you apply them throughout the whole track, it won’t make any difference to a listener who isn’t familiar with the previous version.

Similarly, you might be tempted to add more 16th (semiquaver) hihats or other percussion. And similarly, it’ll make the song more exciting than it used to be, but it won’t make any difference to the listener.

Why is this?

It’s because your song still has the same energy level from start to finish. Or, it has the same range in energy levels from start to finish. What happens is that in the first 20 seconds (or thereabouts) the listener becomes accustomed to the energy level in the song. It sets their expectation for the rest of the song. If the energy level of your song does not vary much, it will be lacking excitement – even if it has a high energy level.

What actually adds excitement? Change.

A dynamic song structure will add more excitement than any compressor or hihat rhythm. Think about the highs and lows, the ebb and flow, tension and release. I won’t go into too much detail – I’ve already written plenty about structure here:

Another way to add excitement is to use rhythm. A ‘four-on-the-floor’ rhythm commonly used in dance music is about as unexciting as it gets. Even if you have to use this for your kick drum (due to stylistic constraints), there’s a lot you can do with the other instruments to add excitement. Add excitement by making musical events (notes, phrases, sounds etc) come in earlier than the listener expects. This can be in the form of accents that come ‘before the beat’, or repeating patterns that shift and change leading up to significant moments in the song.

Drum fills are a good example of this – they add excitement leading in to a significant moment. They work because the listener hears the drum elements (typically snare, kick and crash cymbal) earlier and more frequently than expected. They shake up the listener’s expectation that the previous rhythm would continue. Experiment with  taking a similar approach with other instruments too – shake up the established patterns at key points in the song. Making them faster and denser will help add excitement. Also, think about other techniques too – change the pitch, the timbre (brightness – open that lowpass filter!), the harmony (minor/major/etc), the interaction with other parts… there are endless possibilities.

With a bit of practice, you’ll soon be adding so much excitement to your songs that your listeners will have trouble sleeping at night…


  1. Yet again you post something which is a very worthwhile read.

  2. Hey Kim,

    Excellent post! Please keep these coming. I really enjoy reading them and find inspiration in them.

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