Using A Reference Track For Arrangement
The first and most simple part of music production is the arrangement of your track. The arrangement refers to the different parts of the song, how long those parts are, and what elements are in each part of the song.
First I would like to say that using a reference track is not cheating. Every producer does it. This does not mean that we are copying the track. This is just going to be a tool that we use to help us finish a track. Now finding a reference track should be relatively easy. You want to find a professional track that is in the same genre and same tempo of a track that you want to produce. Once you have found a track you will open up your DAW and you will load that track into the top channel. After it is loaded in then you will just take 10-15 minutes analyzing the track in great detail.
The first thing that you can do is identify all the sections of the track:
the intro, the breakdowns, the build ups, the drops and the outro. This will help you build the layout of the track. In a blank channel under the reference track you can label some markers to tell you when each part starts and finishes. When the layout of the track is visually represented you will now just need to fill in the different channels and sounds of the track. Below is a picture to show you how I learned to reference the arrangement of tracks.
The next step in this process will involve you listening to the track quite a few times. I like to write down on a piece of paper all of the individual sounds that I hear in each part. So for example; when I listen to the intro I will write down a list that may look like this.
Depending on your reference track your list can be shorter or it can be longer. You are going to make this list for every section of the track. To keep it very simple you should actually cross out all the elements on your list when you are done adding them to your DAW. I promise you that If you follow these steps you will see an increase in workflow and you will be on your way to finishing your first track with a much better understanding of how a track is made.