Steely Dan, Bob Clearmountain and The Drop

Earlier today when Peter Kirn mentioned his blogpost ‘Where’s the Drop? Web App Creepily Knows Via The Crowd’ on Facebook the first thing I thought was: how is this related to the Clearmountain Pauze?

If you’re not familiair with the Clearmountain Pauze, listen to this episode of the Pitch podcast:

The Drop is this stylistic thing in EDM where a drum roll sets in with a synth which pitch is slowly rising up over one or two measures to get to its epic peak moment. Then the whole thing Drops into a moment of almost silence and then an epic theme sets in using a simple 4 on the floor rhythm, a simple bass synth and some trancy synths playing a hook line. All party poopers seems to like it. And like the Anonymous slogan “We do not forget. Expect us.” they are expecting The Drop.

Peter asked me 4 questions on Facebook which I will try to answer:

  • When did dance music tracks start to lean heavily on this effect from pop/rock/folk?

This needs research. It is an interesting story which we should connect to the Clearmountain Pauze. Bob, that guy who also invented the always-make-sure-to-put-lots-of-reverb-on-a-snare-drum style back in the 80’s.

  • Why did they start to over-emphasize it to comic effect?

Popmusic is based around a harmonic twist which happens when going from couplet to the refrain. If you are not familiar with this sort of thing just search on The Beatles or Steely Dan. These are the true geniuses when it comes to harmonic twists and turns. But dance music isn’t about melodies or harmonies. EDM is about beats, simple beats. It often consists of simple melodies which lack the sophistication of a band like Steely Dan. And the harmonic structure of most EDM tracks are rather basic as well. Nothing like anything the great Bill Evans would play.

EDM != Jazz

It’s all about this: the beat must go on! Boom boom boom boom, all the time. But how can we add a bit of tension to it? … here comes The Drop! Which simple adds a bit of that highly needed tension to a track by using the pitch wheel to drive the synths into this epic peak where after you drop the beat for a moment the people will go mad like a  junky who needs a shot. Soon they will be shouting their heads off: BRING THAT BEAT BACK!

Tension and release. Back and forth.

Are you reelin’ in the years?
Stowin’ away the time?

  • When did people start calling it a “drop”?

This needs research.

  • When did they start calling the bit before a “rise”?

I am sorry Peter, but this needs research too 🙂

Maybe this post will be continued since there’s some interesting storytelling in this I believe! But let’s be real: what would Donald Fagen do?

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