Eurobeat Creation Theory: Synth Riffs/”Sabi”s 2


Hopefully the last few entries on making Eurobeat have been helpful, in the very least in such a way that you could apply the use to your own DAW or MIDI Sequencer. Now that I’ve presented the basics, I’d like to go over one of the most unique features of Eurobeat— the synth-riff, or “sabi” as it’s referred to in Para Para circles.

Eurobeat has an unusual dual nature in terms of its existence as a variety of popular music; whereas most modern music employs only one variety of chorus, Eurobeat is dependent on two. One is the traditional vocal chorus (say, in this case, “The race is over, time to discover…” from Dave Rodgers’ The Race is Over), whereas the other would be the sabi (the synth-brass going DOWWW DAKKADAKKA DOWWW DAKKADAKKA DOWWW Doodledoodledoodledoodledoodledoodledoodle and so on). It is from this nature that Eurobeat enjoys two chances to grasp the listener; instead of tossing in a riff for the sake of being catchy or depending wholly on the vocal chorus, the Eurobeat structure has it integrated into the genre’s style by default, much in the same way Motown writers did a couple decades before them. As creators of such a genre, we should do very well to explore and learn how to utilize the different varieties of sabis available to a creator.

Before I begin, understand that what I will advise next will very likely not only be inaccurately described but entirely the wrong methodology. Nobody can truly teach you how to make Eurobeat; ultimately a creator has to try things on their own and agree or disagree. This will only go into detail about what has worked for me in my own productions.

“SINGLE NOTE” Riff

Examples: VIRTUAL LOVE by Mark Farina, TOO YOUNG TO FALL IN LOVE (either version), STARLIGHT by Mortimer

The title I chose for this is admittedly silly; all riffs are basically described as the single, unaccompanied notes that a listener will ‘hum’. It’s most likely the way you’d write out any riff idea first; this kind of riff specificially depends on the delivery being single-note-based. This isn’t to say that the riff itself is one single note; rather, that the riff is composed of a single note playing at a time, in essence; that the riff doesn’t depend on chords in and of themselves. These can be the most effective kind of riff if done correctly, and can make a song very dull if executed poorly.
If you plan on using this kind of riff in your song, I recommend the following:
ADD AN OCTAVE. Create your basic line first, then take the entire line and make a copy of it one octave up or down. Going up adds energy and presence whereas dropping it adds power. It’s not technically a “single note” then, but it does keep it as the same position in the 12-note scale from C to B, so it remains technically unfaulted. Feel free to duplicate this step in the opposite direction for further power, but do recall there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Do this step, then, in moderation.
OR, DON’T: If you’re making Aishu/sentimental Eurobeat, all you’ll really need is a mesh of high-reverb ‘drop-like’ sounds within a single octave. In these cases it’s not entirely necessary to add or subtract octaves, though it doesn’t hurt in most cases.
EMBELLISH THE REST OF THE SOUNDWORLD. If your riff consists of single notes, even if the delivery itself is strong, make sure you beef up the soundworld behind it to match. Otherwise the change between the sabi and every other part of the song will seem too ‘bumpy’ and jostle the listener.

“CHORD” Riff

Examples: ROUND & ROUND by Cherry, MICKEY MOUSE MARCH by Domino, WINGS OF BURNING LOVE by Odyssey

This is the kind of riff you get when you embellish the single-note riff idea you’ve written with other notes that make it a chord that (in most cases) matches the dominant chord of the song at that point. While a listener would still ‘hum’ the main line, the actual delivery is bolstered by notes within that chord. Chances are you’ll be depending more on the rhythmic delivery of this kind of synth, instead of a flow between notes. As such:
ADD A LAYER OF ‘STABS’: Once you’ve added your preferred synth-brass, go ahead and duplicate that track, and make the sound a bit more like the stabs you’d use on the ‘upstroke’. This adds a rhythmic ‘hit’ to each time the chord plays, making each one stand out. You could forgo this step but I find it tends to make the riff blend in too well for its usually-established purpose.
DUPLICATE/OCTAVATE THE DOMINANT NOTE: Much like the single-note riff, duplicating the dominant notes of your riff in this context will make it more powerful and easier to remember. This is a step that doesn’t always need to be followed, but often makes for a more successful riff.
BE CAUTIOUS OF CONFLICTING CHORDS/NOTES: If your song is in G#min and your chords go Gmaj, you’ll pick up some dissonance. While that may be what you’re going for, do note that dissonance is extremely seldom found in successful songs of any popular genre, much less a pop-like one such as Eurobeat. Ignore this step at your peril.

NON-SYNTH RIFFS

EXAMPLES: VODKA by Mad Cow and the Royal Eurobeat Orchestra of Bazookistan, a handful of other HI-NRG Attack songs

Live Music Studio has often struck me like a lightning bolt with ingenuity. They’ve used real/non-synth brass, accordions, and a handful of other non-synthesized instruments for their riffs. This, of course, means that you can take all I’ve explained above and chuck it out the window. Want to use a Theramin for a riff? Go for it. Xylophone riff? Give it a shot. Just know that it takes a stroke of GENIUS to make a song as unique as these stand out as a popular track, so if you go this route you have my utmost respect.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of possible sabis/synth riffs you could try for your tracks. It’s just what I’ve observed and tried for myself. Now, show me what you’ve got! Perhaps next time I’ll discuss track length with you all. 🙂


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