Music Tech

Spotify Helps You Find The Most Dramatic Moment In Any Song

DramaBy Eliot Van Buskirk from Spotify Insights.

Music’s emotional power stems from a mix of factors, only some of which we understand. Much about music resists full explanation. One thing we do know: Some of the magic has to do with dynamics: changes from soft to loud, or from loud to soft.

The most dramatic part of a song often coincides with a crescendo (when the music gets louder). That’s when everything kicks in, louder effects and guitar pedals come into play, and the engineer pushes the sliders up to 11. Just ask the Pixies, whose quiet verses and loud choruses Nirvana channeled for ‘90s game-changer “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Spotify logoTo explore this facet of musical drama, Paul Lamere, director of developer community for The Echo Nest at Spotify, built an intriguing, cleverly-constructed web app at Music Hack Day Berlin.

Where Is The Drama lets you listen to the most “dramatic” part of any of over 20 million songs on Spotify within seconds, based on detailed audio analysis (methodology below).


You can try it yourself here. Some of our favorites from what we’ve tried so far…

Gigantic” by Pixies

This band’s quiet-soft-loud dynamic is so pronounced that their biopic is called loudQUIETloud.

Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

This one also kicks in pretty well, with a slow-building drama that builds into that huge chorus.

Mogwai Fear Satan” by Mogwai

Mogwai used to finish their live shows with this song, which showcases their ability to go from nearly silent to overpowering in an instant.

I Am The Resurrection” by Stone Roses

The dramatic part of this song catches us just at the transition from the song’s sweet, sing-songy first half, and the harder, more groove-oriented finale — a dramatic moment indeed.

Some great examples from Lamere’s post:

When will the Bass Drop” by The Lonely Island

Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin

Doomsday” by Nero

November Rain“ by Guns N’ Roses

Of course, getting loud isn’t the same thing, exactly, as being dramatic, and far from the only way in which music expresses drama.

Still, an artist, band, or producer often adds more instruments and vocals to the mix right at the highpoint of the song, and everyone (or every thing) tends to play a little bit louder, for maximum impact. And that is why Where Is The Drama works: detailed volume data from over 20 million songs, plus some clever tinkering, lets us hear the most ‘dramatic’ segment from any song on Spotify.


Writes Lamere, “The app grabs the detailed audio analysis for the song from The Echo Nest. This includes a detailed loudness map of the song. This is the data I use to find the drama. To do so, I look for the part of the song with the largest rise in volume over the course of a 30 second window (longer songs can have a bit of a longer dramatic window). I give extra weight to crescendos that culminate in louder peaks (so if there are two crescendos that are 20dB in range but one ends at 5dB louder, it will win). Once I identify the most dynamic part of a song, I pad it a bit (so we get to hear a bit of the drop after the build).

“The rest is just UI – the song gets plotted as a heavily filtered loudness curve with the dramatic passage highlighted. I plot things with Highcharts, which is a pretty nifty javascript plotting and charting library. I recommend.” (more)

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1 Comment

  1. This isn’t too hard to do; in a few of my college music courses, we learned about the “golden ratio”. Apparently at 61.8% of a song, the most “interesting” thing happens. This applies to Beethoven (I believe his usage of the ratio was 91% apparent in his pieces), Mozart, etc…
    The bridge of any pop song is usually at or around that point.

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