Drop (music)

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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. [1]


Excision (producer) mixing a heavy dubstep drop. Excision Lost Lands 2018.jpg
Excision (producer) mixing a heavy dubstep drop.

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. [2]


The drop "...grew out of '70s rock". [3] 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. [4] 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

Go to: 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.


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. [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] 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". [9]

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). [10] [11] [13]

Other genres

In hip hop, the first drop and the climax are particularly emphasized using kicks, snares, hi-hats, 808 bass line and a melodic element. [14]

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. [15]


Tools and applications

In EDM, drops are created on applications such as FL Studio, Ableton, or Logic. [16] 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 Splice's Serum, to create unique electronic sounds and effects. [17]

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. [18] 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. [19]

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. [20] 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. [21]

Drop quantities

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. [22]

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. [23]

Live performances

Live mixing

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. [24] 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. [25]

Special effects


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. [27]

Physical effects

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. [28]

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. [29]

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. [30]

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. [31]

In an EDM drop, each component of the break routine creates a different intensity peak as they vary in structure and instrumentation. [31]

Related Research Articles

Trance is a genre of electronic dance music that emerged from the British new-age music scene and the early 1990s German techno and hardcore scenes.


Hardstyle is an electronic dance genre that emerged in the late 90s in the Netherlands and Belgium. Hardstyle mixes influences from techno, new beat and hardcore.

Tadao Kikumoto is Roland's senior managing director and head of its R&D center. He designed the TB-303 bass synthesizer and the TR-909 drum machine. He was also the chief engineer of the Roland TR-808 drum machine.

Electronic dance music (EDM), also known as dance music, club music, or simply dance, is a broad range of percussive electronic music genres made largely for nightclubs, raves, and festivals. It is generally produced for playback by DJs who create seamless selections of tracks, called a mix, by segueing from one recording to another. EDM producers also perform their music live in a concert or festival setting in what is sometimes called a live PA.

Dance music Music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing

Dance music is music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing. It can be either a whole musical piece or part of a larger musical arrangement. In terms of performance, the major categories are live dance music and recorded dance music. While there exist attestations of the combination of dance and music in ancient times, the earliest Western dance music that we can still reproduce with a degree of certainty are the surviving medieval dances. In the Baroque period, the major dance styles were noble court dances. In the classical music era, the minuet was frequently used as a third movement, although in this context it would not accompany any dancing. The waltz also arose later in the classical era. Both remained part of the romantic music period, which also saw the rise of various other nationalistic dance forms like the barcarolle, mazurka, ecossaise, ballade and polonaise.

Electro house is a genre of electronic dance music characterized by heavy bass and a tempo around 130 beats per minute. Its origins were influenced by tech house and electro. The term has been used to describe the music of many DJ Mag Top 100 DJs, including Benny Benassi, Daft Punk, Skrillex, and Steve Aoki.

Future house is a house music genre that emerged in the 2010s in the United Kingdom, described as a fusion of deep house, UK garage and incorporating other elements and techniques of other EDM genres. It is high in energy, generally consisting of big drops, 4/4 beats and is sonically bass heavy.

Future bass is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in the 2010s. It can be described as music that "takes the ecstatic drops of dubstep or trap, but provides a warm bounce rather than a lumbering bruteness. Basslines are provided by harsh, detuned synths that buzz and purr instead of gulp and whomp." The genre was pioneered by producers such as Flume, Lido, San Holo and Cashmere Cat, and it was popularised in the mid to late-2010s by artists such as Illenium, Louis the Child and Mura Masa. 2016 was seen as the breakout year for the genre.

Big room house or simply big room is a subgenre of electro house that gained popularity in the early 2010s after artists like KSHMR, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Hardwell, Nicky Romero, Blasterjaxx, Martin Garrix and R3HAB began infusing it into their musical style.

True Feeling 2017 promotional single by Galantis

"True Feeling" is a song by Swedish electronic dance music duo Galantis. It was written by Candy Shields, Wrabel, Jimmy 'Svidden' Koitzsch, Galantis and Henrik Jonback, with production handled by the latter three. The song was released through Atlantic Records and WEA International on 12 July 2017, accompanied by the announcement of the duo's second studio album, The Aviary.

Muzz (musician)

Mustafa Alobaidi better known by his stage name Muzz, is an English drum and bass producer and DJ. He first gained attention with his release on UKF, "X No Way Out" in 2010 and continues to release music, most predominantly on Monstercat. He has also worked with other labels, such as UKF Music and Liquicity.

Trap (EDM) or EDM trap is a style of electronic dance music (EDM) that originated in the early 2010s. It blends elements of trap music, which is an offshoot of Southern hip hop, with elements of EDM like build-ups, drops, and breakdowns. A variety of artists spurred trap's move into pop and EDM.

Kneel Before Me 2018 dubstep single

"Kneel Before Me" is a song by American DJs Slander and Crankdat, featuring the British rock band Asking Alexandria. It was released on August 9, 2018 by Monstercat and Sumerian Records.

Sell Out (Marshmello and Svdden Death song) 2019 song by Marshmello and Svdden Death

"Sell Out" is a song by American electronic music producer and DJ Marshmello and Los Angeles-based riddim producer Svdden Death. It was released on February 8, 2019 by Marshmello-owned American record label Joytime Collective.

Matthew Lucas, better known by his alias Peekaboo, is an American dubstep producer. Although he began as a multi-genre electronic music artist, he is mostly now known for his particular style of dubstep, also known as freeform bass and space bass. His sixth extended play Wrecking Ball debuted at #10 on Billboard's Dance/Electronic Album Sales chart in early 2019.

Adam Puleo, better known by his alias Wooli, is an American riddim and dubstep DJ and producer. He is known for the songs "Island" and "Another Me", with the prior being a collaboration with American dubstep producers Seven Lions and Trivecta and the latter being a collaboration with Seven Lions and Canadian producer and DJ Excision. "Island" peaked at the No. 20 position on Billboard's Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales chart in early 2019. "Another Me" peaked on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs at the No. 46 position in late 2019.

Bass music is a term used to describe several genres of electronic dance music and hip hop music arising from the 1980s on, focusing on a prominent bass drum and/or bassline sound. As one source notes, there are "many different types of bass music to fall into, each putting a different spin on one of music's loudest elements". Typically, the bass sound is created using synthesizers and drum machines like, for example, the influential Roland TR-808.

Must Die! American electronic musician

Lee Austin Bates, better known by his alias Must Die, is an American electronic musician, DJ, and producer. Born in Houston, Bates is associated primarily for his music in the dubstep genre. Bates is known for the track "VIPs", a collaboration with American musician Skrillex, released on the label Owsla. Bates has collaborated with artists such as Skream, Eptic, Zomboy, and Boyinaband, and has produced remixes for Svdden Death, Seven Lions, Excision, and Slander, among others.


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