For me, melody is the key to any great dance record. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a rhythm lover too – I played the drums throughout my teenage years – but when it comes down to electronic dance music, whatever the genre, you just can’t beat those chord progressions that give you that warm feeling inside. As a DJ, there’s nothing better than watching a dancefloor fill up when you drop a track with a melody that’s catchy and instantly recognisable.
As a writer and producer too, nine times out of ten I’ll start at a piano trying to work out something that just stands out a little more than the rest. I come from a classical music background – since I was a kid at school learning the piano, right through to graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London with a music degree in 2011. So it might make sense that melody is crucial to a great record for me. At a time where house music is so dominant on the radio in the UK – with so many tracks often staying on one chord throughout – or when pop music is at it’s best using just three or four different chords throughout the record, I thought it would be interesting to explore some current dance records that have a bit more edge to their musicality.
Here’s a quick run down of ten of the best dance tracks with killer melodies. I’ve kept the focus on the more recent side of things, but these chord progressions and toplines are some of the best out there.
1. Arty – Kate (2015 Mix)
Arty is best loved for his lush melodies and chord progressions in the progressive/trance world. When I saw he was doing a re-working of ‘Kate’ I was so excited to see what he was going to do with it. And he delivered!
2. Prydz – Opus (Original Mix)
The amount of times I’ve sat down and thought, “if only I could write a record like Prydz…” The chord progression in this one is just madness. Opus is a classical music term, but it also means “an artistic work, especially one on a large scale”. How he gets away with putting such intricate chord progressions in a dance record – I’ll never know.
3. Michael Woods – Drop Zone (Original Mix)
Again, another record with crazy chord progressions. Nearly all tracks in this genre will stay in the same key throughout the record, but this one from Michael jumps around all over the place… And it works so well! A proper musical journey.
4. Orkidea – Beautiful (Alt+F4 Mix)
I was introduced to this one by the legendary Dave Pearce whilst we were in the studio together in Brighton at the end of last year. It’s an older one a bit before my time, and for me the record overall is a bit average, but the breakdown is so sublime and uplifting.
5. Dinka – Elevation (Original Mix)
I’m a huge fan of Dinka’s work. She’s gone a little quiet recently, but this one is one of her best. The chords in the breakdown might be a little cheesy… But they get me everytime.
6. Deadmau5 – Pets (Original Mix)
One of the masters of chord progressions in electronic song writing. This track never really blew up in a massive way – but its musicality is next to none.
7. Parker & Hanson – Gravity (Original Mix)
This tune has a beautiful classical feel to it. That piano is killer!
8. Ilan Bluestone – 43 (Original Mix)
Now here’s how you write melodies for the club kids. The chord changes at the main drop take it to a new level.
9. Kidnap Kid – Moments (Original Mix)
A really recent track I got sent – it’s not as varied as some of the others in this ten, but the piano chords work amazingly well alongside the rest of the production.
10. Deadmau5 – Strobe (Original Mix)
Back to Deadma5 again, with one of his most well known and excellent records. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve turned to this one when in need of some inspiration in the studio.
Adam’s weekly radio show TURN:ED ON is broadcast on over 20 stations worldwide, and is available to listen again in the podcast section on iTunes from every Sunday. He is also resident at the legendary Popcorn @ Heaven, every Monday night in London.
Words: Adam Turner