Call and Response

Build Better Melodies by using Call and Response

Call and Response

Many people struggle with getting a nice melody. Whether it’s lack of musical knowledge, an untrained ear, or the fact that it sounds too similar to every other song; it’s definitely a common problem.

One thing that can help boost creativity and allow you to come up with something exciting, is call and response. And it means exactly that – call, and response.

Here’s a few reasons why using call and response is fricken awesome:

  • It allows you to take control of your melody, not the other way round
  • It builds tension and keeps the track flowing smoothly
  • It sounds professional when talking to someone who doesn’t know what it means (hehe)

Below are two examples of call and response in electronic dance music.

Call and Response in Action

Armin Van Buuren & W&W – D# Fat

Quite a recent song which contains a great breakdown that makes perfect use of call and response. Here’s a short clip showcasing this.

 

The ‘call’ is very obvious in this section. It’s the intense sound that hits you after the vocal and pads fade out. One thing that’s very noticeable is that the call and response contain massive difference in timbre and intensity, we’ve got a massive lead paired with a soft piano. Also, note the variation in the piano part that appears 4 bars later.

Often songs have very subtle call and responses; this one certainly doesn’t.

Listen to the full song here

Bingo Players – Tom’s Diner

Unlike D# Fat, this one’s been around for a while. A little less ‘in your face’, yet still containing a very audible call and response. Have a listen to the clip below.

 

This call and response is less melodic, but comes across more as ‘question and answer’. The lack of reverb and trail makes it very sudden and clean; one could describe it as two friends having friendly competition between themselves.

Listen to the full song here

What makes Good Call and Response?

One thing you may have noticed is that both of these examples don’t necessarily contain call and response in a single melody. D# Fat, although melodic, has two completely different sounds contributing to the call and response. Tom’s Diner has less melodic content, especially with the synth bass in the main section.

But despite this, we can still learn a lot from them. Good call and response could contain:

  • Different pitch (octave higher/lower, harmonizing notes)
  • Variation in intensity (softer/harder, taking D# Fat as an example)
  • Different sounds (both examples have this), keeping in mind that the sounds can be similar with small variation

All in all, differentiation helps with call and response. Whether this is in the form of actual musical notation or sound design (or both), it’s important to have variation and difference.

On the next page: Building Call and Response with the Same Instrument