Build-ups are considered key features of modern electronic music. They certainly appear in other genres. However, in EDM, Techno, or House, they’re inevitably a part of a track’s core structure. Their function is basically that of creating tension and a feeling of excitement, which leads to the drop. They vary in complexity, sometimes involving many elements and automation moves. Nevertheless, there are several simple techniques you can use to keep the number of elements and complexity of the build-up low, while still creating an effective transition to the drop. We will show you one of these techniques.

In our SoundBridge: DAW, we have created a short sequence. The build-up part has a few elements we can process in order to create more tension before the drop. Let’s take a look and listen to it.

SoundBridge:DAW sequence for build-up processing

As we can hear from the audio example above, the build-up lacks could use more tension as it develops. We will fix this by applying a few effects. Let’s bring the focus on processing the drum group channel, which you can see in the picture above.

Drum group effects for the build-up

First, let’s add a few effects on the drum group channel. The first one will be a simple filter. We will use low and hi-pass filter slopes, and increase/decrease their values by writing automation lines as shown in the picture below. For this purpose, the filter we’ve is FabFilter Simplon, but you can find many alternatives for the same task.

Drum group filter automation
~Drum Group – Filter Automation

After that, we will add a reverb effect and again use automation, this time for its Dry/Wet parameter, in order to create some more space as the build-up progresses. As for the reverb effect, we have used the FabFilter Pro-R with a decay time of 2,5 s.

Drum group reverb automation
~Drum Group – Filter & Reverb Automation

The final effect we will add on the drum group channel is a transient shaper effect. We will use it to control the sustain of the overall group. Again, we will automate and slowly increase the value of the sustain parameter as shown in the picture below. For this task we used an effect called Transient Master by Native Instruments.

Drum group sustain automation build-up
~Drum Group – Filter, Reverb & Transient Shaper Automation

Now, we can hear that our build-up, just with the drum group channel processing changed a lot. Now let’s compare the unprocessed and processed versions of it.

~Full Mix – Unprocessed Build-up
~Full Mix – Processed Build-up