If your music isn’t getting the play counts you want or attracting the fans you expect, it’s likely because there is no emotional pull to your productions. In fact, I would imagine this is the sole reason why, out of the 60k songs uploaded to Spotify every single day, only a tenth of a percentage even gets more than a few streams.
Writing music that elicits a feeling from your listeners and an emotional response from your fanbase is the secret sauce to a lasting career as a music producer.
Nobody knows this better than Corren Cavini, whose melodic acumen has garnered him support from the likes of Eelke Kleijn, David Hohme, and many other top-tier talents in the music industry.
And with Corren closing out the year hot with a string of phenomenal releases and a couple of massive bookings at ADE, we decided it was high time we sit this guy down and pick his brain about how he manages to write emotional and compelling dance music that pulls at your heartstrings and moves a crowd all at the same time.
What’s the most important thing to think about when adding emotion to your chord progression?
To me it’s not really a question of adding emotion into a progression; the very core of my creative process is about searching for the right combination of chords and chord voicings to tell the story of whatever it is I’m writing that song about.
That’s what I think is the most important thing to think about in music in general; what story am I telling with this song? How do I put what I feel into something that other people will hear?
To give an example: I wrote ‘Haunted’ when I had anxieties I couldn’t seem to let go of. The track has some sound design tricks to give off that ‘Haunted’ vibe, but it’s mainly the chord progression that decides its emotion.
Why is it so difficult to write highly emotional chords?
Accessing your emotions and writing music about that can be incredibly scary. That process is very personal and intimate, and for me, that’s where the crux is for writing music.
Of course, it still helps a lot to have knowledge of music theory and be able to play an instrument, but once you’ve crossed that bridge of the emotional process it gets a lot easier.
There are a lot of plugins out there that can help with this nowadays; for example, I really like XFer Records’ Cthulhu. That helped me when I wrote ‘My Mind’, one of my most emotional tracks in which the harmonic main synth was programmed with help of Cthulhu.
Listen To ‘My Mind’ By Corren Cavini Below
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How do you remain objective about the emotion in a progression after hearing it on a loop in a studio session?
When something really comes from the heart, that’s a feeling that does not really get lost – Ever.
The most interesting moment for me is to see the reactions when other people hear it; that’s when you know if it hits them in the same place where you wrote it from.
The beautiful thing is that the same piece of music can mean very different things to different people, but I have really noticed that the tracks that mean the most to me also resonate the most with others.
Where do you think producers go wrong that results in emotionless chords?
I feel like maybe some producers are more focused on chasing a certain impact to make with their music, rather than putting their heart and soul into the song they’re writing.
When you focus on the feel of the song first, the impact will follow.
How does sound design relate to adding emotion to your chord progressions?
Once you have found the right chords to tell your story, you can still express those in very different ways. You can emphasize different sides of that progression by spreading it across different instruments and tweaking those as you go. A synth with a very open filter is a lot more energetic, whilst an organic instrument played softly can express vulnerability.
For all your theory nerds out there – My This Never Happened debut 1635 is a good example of this concept; it is the same progression (I-VI-III-V in Fm = Fm-Db-Ab-Cm) all throughout the track, but in certain parts it’s quite energetic in that lead synth whilst it’s also very emotional with the piano in the break.
When do you know a chord progression is truly finished?
For me, that’s the moment when you see people react to it for the first time. I remember when I played ‘A Crying Synthesizer’ live for the first time I saw people tearing up, and that’s when I knew I succeeded in telling that musical story.
Share One Production Secret About Adding More Emotion To Music That You Wish You Would Have Learned Earlier.
Step outside of your main chord progression for a certain part of a song. In Tempranillo, the main progression is in Fm but when it needs to be more uplifting around 2:32 it goes to Ab (the relative major to Fm).
That lifts the emotion up, and from that moment I start a different progression that slowly builds until it stays at Cm7, the dominant 7 natural to Fm, which really gets the tension as high as possible until it drops back into the main progression at 3:03.