A drop or beat drop in music, made popular by electronic dance music (EDM) styles, is a point in a music track where a sudden change of rhythm or bass line occurs, which is preceded by a build-up section and break.
Originating from disco and 1970s rock, drops are found in genres such as EDM, trap, hip-hop, K-pop and country. With the aid of music production applications, drops can vary in instrumentation and sound. Electronic instruments and tools for making drops include oscillating synthesizers, vocal samples, a drum beat, and basslines.
Certain drops can include a "beat-up" (so-named because it is a point where the volume of the foundational kick drum beat is increased, after it has been faded down during a break or buildup) and "climax" (a single, striking drop done late in the track). There are also types of drops which deviate from the standard, such as "anti-drops" (songs in which the chorus is more minimal than the build-up) and consecutive "superseding-drops".
Drops are performed in music festivals and concerts, as pyrotechnics, visuals, and lighting are designed to correspond with the music. At EDM festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival, drops are accompanied by confetti explosions, fireworks, and light flashes.
The drop "...grew out of '70s rock". A subtype of the drop, the bass drop, was used in the Miami bass subgenre of hip hop music in the 1980s. The bass drop was produced using the Roland TR-808's deep drum machine kick drum sound. Since then, the TR-808 bass drop has been incorporated into a number electronic dance music genres, either produced by a TR-808 or using a sample of a TR-808 bass drop. The EDM drop has continued to evolve over time, circulating through different sub-genres.
Electronic dance music
Many genres of EDM have more than one drop during a track, especially if the song is built on a "dance-pop" verse/chorus with vocals; a drop may be heard somewhere during each chorus as the high point of that verse/chorus cycle. Some songs tend to emphasize a single drop as the beginning of the high point, or climax, of the track; in vocal sub-genres this occurs most in the last repetition of the chorus, while in nonvocal genres it occurs in the last quarter of the track.
- In trap, the drop incorporates a dense vibration accompanied by a hard bass style.
- In pop electronic music, the drop initiates a heavy bounce effect to be used for large audiences. Billboard magazine states that in 2016, the "pop-drop" is the "...post-chorus musical interlude that blends techniques from electronic dance music to hip-hop, and it's taken the chorus' place in pop music.
- In trance, eurodance, hardstyle, hardcore, house and other dance genres where melodies and chord progressions are emphasized, it is known as a climax. This is where the main melody and accompanying beats enter with the drums and usually a syncopated bass line, giving the track a 'bouncy' feel.
- In dubstep, the drop involves a heavy full bass line and commonly a "wobble" or "vowel" bass accompanied by a strong shuffling beat. There can be emotional melodies combined with varies of common dubstep bass lines. Melodic Dubstep is a sub-category under Dubstep that includes powerful chords, with the use of different light melodies accompanied by the heavy bass line, to create harmonious melodies.
- Electronic music DJs sometimes perform a "double drop": beatmatching two tracks where the drop, and hence the respective climaxes of both tracks, occur at the same time.
Pop-drop is an element in a pop music track which, from a traditional perspective, serves as a kind of "post-chorus interlude", but is also regarded as the new climax point in pop music songs since the mid-2010s, downgrading the chorus to a building element of the drop section. It has been described as early as December 2016 by Switched on Pop author Charlie Harding in the Billboard magazine, claiming 2016 to be "the year of the pop-drop".
Artists having included pop-drops in their songs include Rihanna and Calvin Harris's "We Found Love" (2011), Ariana Grande's "Problem" (2014), Justin Bieber's "Sorry" and "What Do You Mean", and The Chainsmokers's "Closer" (2016).
In metalcore subgenres, bass drops are often utilized under the first chord of a breakdown, to emphasize the breakdown and give it a pronounced presence. A bass drop in this genre may be done using electronic drums with a sample pad triggered by the drummer or a backing track, either of which is sent to a venue's PA system.
Tools and applications
In EDM, drops are created on applications such as FL Studio, Ableton, or Logic. These are digital audio workstations built with electronic music-making capabilities that allow producers and DJs to fine-tune sounds for their music. Within these applications, producers can use built-in sound kits, custom sounds, or purchasable online wavetables, such as Xfer Serum, to create unique electronic sounds and effects.
Creation of the build-up and drop
The composition of a drop is preceded by a buildup, which is accomplished through a transition from the verse into an interlude of repeating sounds, increased drum speed, and substantial volume growth. For example, in Calvin Harris's "This is What You Came For", the buildup consists of a repeating vocal line, accompanied by a rapidly increasing snare drum tempo, and swells of synthesizers rising in volume. The repetitive vocal lines and increase in volume and tempo create tension that is broken by the full capacity of the drop. Some build-ups end with a bar of silence that adds to the dramatic flair of the drop.
The drop of a song may consist of a fuller bass, an affected vocal line, swelling atmospheric synthesizers, layered leads, hard-hitting drums, and white noise. The drop is the loudest and most unique portion of an EDM song. The buildup and verses are meant to bring focus to the drop. This is exemplified in "This is What You Came For", as the drop consists of a catchy vocal sample of the previous lyric "you" chopped up and heavily processed to create a repetitive and enchanting melody. This is complemented by a bass vox, layered house synths, and a high-hat focused drum beat. As the climax of the song, the drop in EDM diverges from the notions of pop songs that are vocal-heavy, and shifts it onto the electronic sounds.
Within EDM, drops are recurring and typically happen two to three times per song, each accompanied by a verse and buildup. This can lead to reprises to add variety in style of the different drops.
There are instances where there is only one drop accompanied by multiple buildups. An example of this is Illenium's "Sad Songs", which features an initial build-up that does not drop immediately, rather leads into the next verse, reserving the primary drop for the second build-up. This is a popular technique that builds to the suspense of the final drop.
Drop mixing is a transition technique which involves a sudden switch from one song to the next. There are two ways in which this can be done: "dropping on the one", where the transition occurs at the beginning of the bar, and "dropping at the four", where the transition occurs at the end of the bar. DJs use this technique at the location of the drop: the build-up of one song transitions into the break of another song. This abrupt change in melody or tempo can be used to draw the audience's attention to the performance. A similar drop technique commonly seen in trap and dubstep performances is drop swapping, where the build-ups of two songs are simultaneously played and then swapped at the climax.
- Visuals are displayed when DJs perform live sets. They are shown on giant screens and are included to emotionally affect the audience. The patterns, advanced choreography, and colors incorporated in visuals have to tie with particular drops.
- Lights are utilized in live sets due to their available color schemes. Heavier bass-line drops are associated with darker colored lights. Emotional sequences are displayed through lighter colored lights.
- Multiple add-on accessories are launched when drops are in effect. Dubstep drops include fire effects. Bounce-genres, including Trance and House, incorporate fog machines. Big room drops utilize confetti.
Substances, particularly MDMA and LSD, are commonly taken during EDM festivals as they enhance emotions and energy, especially when accompanied by giant visual screens and bright light effects. These substances reach their peak intensity during build-ups and subsequent drops. There is a large controversy surrounding substance use due to the intense reactions they can cause.
Effects on the brain
The brain commonly interprets music through predictions and recognition of melodic patterns. This does not apply to a drop as it subverts musical predictability. For this reason, different regions of the brain can be stimulated more than others during a drop.
During the pre-drop, the precentral gyrus and postcentral gyrus, whose functions are related to the recognition of tempo, pitch, rhythm and intensity, show the highest level of activity. Activation in this area correlates with the formation of emotions such as tension and anticipation. A large amount of activity in the PreCG and the PostCG during the pre-drop thus reflects the listener experiencing these emotions ahead of the climax.
The interior and middle frontal gyruses are more active during the post-drop. The IFG and MFG tissues are related to the person’s musical skills and processing, such as the ability to interpret complicated melodies or recognize pitch. Higher activity in these regions is related to the identification of each drop element. In addition, IFG and MFG post-drop activity is associated with an increase in dopamine secretion, which leads to more positive responses to the music.
Effects on the body
The body’s natural reaction to music is movement, mainly by means of dancing to the beat of the song. These include head and hip movements, tapping feet, and waving arms. The effects that music has on the brain stimulates the listener’s tendency to dance, so a large objective of a DJ’s performance is to exploit this phenomenon. In a group setting, strong musical elements such as bass lines can cause an interpersonal synchronization response where the pleasure created from music is transported to the collective movement of people. Dancing in a group can create changes in behavior, enhancing social bonds between group members and generating relaxation and euphoria.
In an EDM drop, each component of the break routine creates a different intensity peak as they vary in structure and instrumentation.
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