Study the Pros And Arrange Faster

Free Ableton Arrangement Template Based on Planetary Assault System - Twelve (Psyk's Rework)

I listened to this tune in great detail, jotting notes down below and making a template to arrange from in Ableton. Shorten your production time when you study the masters and take the guesswork out of arranging.

The screenshot above isn't the real working session of the tune, but a template I made in Ableton using silent “dummy” audio clips.

Studying other people’s music is a great way to improve your own productions. This way the process becomes internalized and you’re no longer guessing how to finish a track.

Today we’re taking a look at Psyk's rework of Twelve by Planetary Assault Systems - the original is below.  Released back in 2001 on the Atomic Funkster album. 

The modern rework is part of a remix compilation out on Mote Evolver called The Light Years Reworks.  Take a listen on SC so you can references my notes that follow. 

I love Psyk's material, especially the simple metallic sounding percussive parts.  I was hooked when I heard his tune "Arcade" several years ago, also out on Mote Evolver.  His rework of Twelve has been rebuilt from the ground up, the original is a little more "spacey" using an arpeggiated bassline and synths with a break beat loop laid over a 4 on the floor kick.  Psyk's rework is shorter, clocking in under 5 minutes, but it's heavy and effective. 

Here are some high level notes and key takeaways.

This is a fairly simple track, with some of the usual stuff happening in patterns of 8-16 bars with some deviation from the standard dance arrangement - which adding material or removing it often in patterns that last 8-16 bars long. 

What can producers learn from this?

It's ok to do a shorter, simpler track but be sure all of the parts are 100% - don't neglect those elements that are catchy and interesting.  In this track we have 2.  One is the "Twelve" vocal part from the original, the other is percussive top loop that repeats for most of the track starting at Bar 3. 

Bars 1 and 2 - this is a super short intro, I suppose this could be looped to lengthen it or maybe even ignored by a DJ instead starting with the percussion loop at bar 3.  The first 2 bars open with a kick and tom  - Bum da bum da bum, kinda of feel or its 2 kicks with the back beat kick tuned different than main kick that drives the 4 on the floor.   We can also hear a noise/hiss sound in the background for a little extra spice.  This hiss sound plays throughout. 

Bar 3 - 16 - We hear that signature Psyk percussion, kinda pots and pan vibes.  Very catchy and simple. It works so well.  This is a 13 bar section which strays from the standard pattern length of 8 or 16 bars. 

Bar 17-24 It's kinda of a wood block sound that makes an appearance. 

Bar 25-32 - 8 bar section we hear the "Twelve" vocals that repeat every bar/4 beats.  

Bar 33-44, some hi hats are faded into the mix

Bar 33-44, some hi hats are faded into the mix

Bar 45-64 a 20 bar pattern we hear some rides on the up beat or 9th note between the kick drums, placed similarly to a hi hat.  As the track approaches bar 65, some reverb is added to the percussion loop and the last 2 kicks or down beats of measure 64 have the kicks removed and a clap fill introduces the claps that start at Bar 65. 

Bar 65-80 a 16 bar section, the claps enter the mix and the rides are removed.  

Bar 81-88 - an 8 bar section.  Hi hats are back in the mix only this pattern seems slightly different than the hihats that played previously.  Subtle variation to keep things interesting. 

Bar 89-96, another 8 bar section, this time rides are back in to increase energy which usually means an immediate decrease of energy is to follow. 

Bar 97 - All the cymbals and percussive parts are removed for 8 bars.  Not a full breakdown but the removal of these elements lessens the energy signaling that more is on the way.  Going into Bar 105, we hear the last 2 kicks removed, which opens the door for the next section. 

Bar 105 - Cymbals are back in adding energy to the track

Bar 113 - Rides are in for a 16 bar pattern. 

Bar 129 - Rides are out for this 16 bar section

Bar 145 all the cymbals are out and this is the concluding section of the track.  

All in all this track is full on all the way.  I liken it do just having a great steak dinner - like wham, bam, here's an awesome steak. No appetizer, no desert no bullshit - I need something good to eat and them I'm gonna GTFO!  

Picture Don Draper popping in to a nice restaurant to get his feed on before a pitch to a new big client.  "I'll take a double Canadian Club on the Rocks and a Rare Ribeye"

Key Take Aways

Every now and then a set requires a no-nonsense track that's short and sweet but packs a punch.  If this is your style, then this track is one to model.  

  • Make sure your parts count - simple and effective
  • Feel free to use typical 8-16 bar sections but feel free to drift from the standard arrangement format
  • Oh those drums - they better hit hard.  Make good use of tactics like tape saturation, and or NYC/Parallel Compression.