Using Risers to Build Excitement

Risers are extremely useful FX sounds used in all electronic genres to create a dramatic moment before a hook or drop. This tutorial will cover several quick techniques for layering engaging, exciting riser sounds that will build excitement and anticipation in your audience. Specifically, risers can take your track from this:

To this:



To get this effect we’ll be layering and editing three riser files, and adding a clap. To begin, I loaded 050 Extreme_Medium_Riser from the Extreme Risers and FX sound pack. Disabling your DAW’s snap feature will allow you to move the files freely. It’s okay for the riser’s tail to overlap into the next section, this will make for a smooth transition, but for an impact, crop at the drop. 


Tip 1 Riser Rhythm

One handy technique for making a riser fit into a track is to just have the volume move quickly up-and-down to match the rhythm of the song. For this you’ll need an LFO generator linked to a volume knob, perhaps your DAW has this set up in a tremolo plugin. The LFO generator I’m using comes from FL Studio’s unmuted Peak Controller, and to get a volume knob I opened FL’s Stereo Enhancer plugin. Adjust the LFO speed and depth to taste.


Tip 2 Layering

Another technique is to layer multiple risers and fx sounds to make for a more interesting sound. To do this I brought in the Sci-Fi style 012 Extreme_Medium_Riser and lined up the end of the sound to the drop. I didn’t bother cropping this time because the tail of the sound drops off abruptly already. When layering it’s a good idea to use two very different sounds that complement.


Tip 3 Stretching

One way to get a new sound from a riser file is to timestretch it in either direction. One of my favorite techniques for maximum drama is to grab an extra large riser and squish the audio--stretching it shorter. This results in the pitch rising extremely rapidly. In the image below, the grey is the original, about 19 bars long, and the pink file is my squished 6-bar version (also cropped at the drop).

Tip 4 Shift Risers Back

Another technique that works well in some tracks is to have some of your rising elements disappear for two beats, one beat, or any number of beats before the drop. This makes the track quiet again and makes for a nice contrast when the chorus kicks in. You can have a lot of fun with this area of a track, for example, you could extend the time before the actual drop. The listener will be like, “c’mon, when’s it going to start?” Lastly, to add impact to the drop, I took the Industry Clap 2 from the excellent and free drums sample pack (see top of webpage). I also pitched it up a few cents and lathered on a lot of reverb for a DIY effects sound. This particular sound helps a lot because the risers gave the listener a lot of very high-frequency content, so in a way a clap or cymbal may feel like a completion of the risers.


Author Bio: Sean Duncan is an electronic music producer and freelance writer from Seattle, WA. 

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