“Waiting for the Bass to Drop”: Correlations between Intense Emotional Experiences and Production Techniques in Build-up and Drop Sections of Electronic Dance Music

  • Ragnhild Torvanger Solberg University of Agder
Keywords: EDM, emotional experiences, musical expectancy, gravity, production


This study investigates the correlations between theories of intense emotional experiences and production techniques used in the electronic dance music (EDM) sections “build-up” and “drop”, which are designed to build tension and create a heightened emotional intensity among clubbers. This is done by descriptive and interpretive music analysis, where spectrograms and a schematic model visually represent the dominant production techniques. Through a theoretical framework consisting of musical expectancy and gravity, the analysis suggests that i) extensive use of uplifters, ii) the “drum roll effect”, iii) large frequency changes, iv) removal and reintroduction of bass and bass drum and v) a contrasting “breakdown” cause tension and anticipation, which seems to correlate with a possible intensification of emotional experience. This is furthermore discussed and more broadly related to the club experience seen as a whole, drawing on the psychological concepts Peak experience, Strong experiences with music (SEM) and Absorption.