Learn how to maximize the impact of your EDM drop. This guide outlines five techniques to make your drops sound bigger and louder.
What is an EDM Drop?
“The drop” is a section of a song with the most energy or intensity. It’s the moment when tension is released, and the beat kicks in at full force. The drop often follows a breakdown and buildup section of a song.
An EDM drop is also the climax of the song where rhythm and bass hit hardest. So, it’s crucial to make this section sound powerful. This guide offers five ways you can maximize the impact of your drop, so it sounds bigger and louder.
1. Mono Buildups
Mono buildups are an easy way to help emphasize an EDM drop. The technique involves narrowing the stereo image before the drop to make it sound bigger and wider. Using a stereo imager like Ableton Live’s Utility device or iZotope’s Imager, automate the stereo width towards mono during a buildup. Then the moment the drop hits, snap the stereo width back to 100%.
Mono builds are most effective when used subtly. It’s better to automate the stereo image slowly over time. A quick and drastic change towards mono will be noticeable and sound awkward. So it’s best to gradually automate the stereo image towards mono over 4 or 8 bars. Also, don’t go overboard with the stereo width amount. 40-60% stereo width tends to work best. These two moves will also give you more transparent results.
2. Volume Automation
We perceive louder music as sounding better. A simple way to make your EDM drop sound louder is to automate the master volume. However, don’t increase the overall volume of the drop section. Instead, lower the volume of the breakdown and buildup section before the drop. This technique will make your drop bigger and louder when it hits.
Like mono builds, this technique is most effective when used subtly. It’s better to automate the volume slowly over time. A quick and drastic change in volume will be noticeable and sound jarring. So it’s best to automate the volume over 4 or 8 bars gradually. Also, lowering the gain 1-3 dB tends to work best. These two moves will also give you transparent results.
Furthermore, it’s better to automate the volume using a plugin rather than the master fader. Plugins give you more control, and won’t restrict you from making adjustments with your master fader. For example, insert Live’s Utility device on the master bus and automate the gain control, so it lowers the volume slowly over time. Then the moment the drop hits, snap the volume back to “unity gain” or 0 dB.
3. Reverb Buildups
Automating reverb during a buildup is an effective way to create tension and make your EDM drop impactful. The technique involves creating a big reverb swell to make the buildup sound wide and spacious. Then cut the reverb right before the drop to make it sound upfront and center.
Applying heavy amounts of reverb to sounds pushes them back in the mix. This move increases the depth and makes them sound further away. So, cutting the reverb once the drop hits will make everything sound upfront and focused. This move gives the illusion that the drop is more powerful.
There are a few ways to achieve this technique. You can insert a reverb plugin on the master or certain sounds playing during the buildup. Or use a Return track or Bus Channel to automate reverb. Hall reverbs tend to work best because they have long tails and a dense sound.
For example, insert a reverb plugin on a Return track in Ableton Live. Set the Dry/Wet to 100%. Next, automate the dedicated Send control on the tracks you want to apply reverb. Add as much or little reverb as needed over 4-8 bars. Then right before the drop, cut the reverb tail off by automating the Send amount. This approach is also called a “wash-out” effect.
This technique also applies to delay. Try the same steps to create tension with a buildup of delay echoes.
4. Filter Sweeps
Thinning out the mix with a high pass filter before an EDM drop is another excellent technique. Removing low frequencies makes sounds less full and powerful. So, thinning out the mix during a buildup will emphasize the drop when those lows come back in. For example, automate a high pass filter to remove low frequencies before the drop. When the drop hits, bring back in the low frequencies. This move will give your drops more impact and make them sound powerful.
Create a filter sweep by inserting a filter or EQ plugin on the master. Ensure you’re using a high pass filter. Next, automate the cutoff frequency gradually for 1-4 bars. Then right before the drop, deactivate the plugin. Deactivating the plugin ensures the full frequency spectrum plays. Some plugins like Live’s Auto Filter continue to cut frequencies when the filter is fully open.
5. Cut Elements in the Mix
Cutting elements to create a gap of silence before an EDM drop increases its impact. Silence goes a long way. Try creating a build up to add tension and then cut everything for a half or full bar before the drop. You could also add a drum fill or big snare hit on the 4th beat of the bar to signal the drop.
Also, having too many sounds playing before the drop creates a lot of energy that can overpower the impact of the drop. For the drop to sound huge, the previous section needs to sound less huge.
Many genre-specific factors contribute to the success of a powerful EDM drop. There are also various other techniques to improve the impact of your drops. Remember that tension and release play a big part in making an EDM drop sound powerful. So, try out these techniques, combine them, and have fun!