Do you ever wonder how they do it? When you hear that song that just kills you with it's goodness? It doesn't happen to me everyday, but when it does, it hits me like a ton of bricks. So I thought I would share this with you, you lover of music, you songwriter, you producer.
Writing a great song isn't the easiest thing in the world, but sometimes if we listen with the right mind set and ears we can sneak a peak, lift the vail, and understand the creative decisions that were made. And when we do, we are blessed with new ideas and influences for our own music, and it will push us all to create better art. It can help us to write a great song.
This week i'm choosing Do I Wanna Know by the Arctic Monkeys. Here we go!
It starts with the kick drum, and maybe some claps, definitely some kind of cool percussion sound with lots of reverb... for only two measures, then come the guitars, panned left and right. Anyone who knows me, or has worked with me knows I'm a sucker for panned guitars, they just sound so good! So the guitars start this riff, and as you will discover, this riff is really the basis of the song. It's cool when a song doesn't stick to the classic chord changes kind of vibe, and instead is based solely around this cool melodic idea. The band does it really well here. What is really like about this one, and what I think separates it from the rest is that it is a four bar phrase, which is long, and makes it more interesting for me. Then the vocals come in, and I really like what they did with the subtle reverb/slap back on his voice, it is, on the surface, pretty clean and it sits nicely with the drums/percussion/guitars. I almost forgot the bass! The bass entered with the guitars, but is tucked in nicely, a round-ish tone, that doesn't scream for attention, and is just sitting there (great!). Also notice that it is cherry picking certain notes of the guitar riff, and not playing the whole thing.
Nice BGV's (back ground vocals), and you gotta love that the tambourine on beat 4. There is also a tremolo guitar that they added to both the right and the left speakers, as well as a feedback sound in the right. Both of those sounds continue through the chorus. The tambourine goes to beat 2 and 4 for the chorus, as well as another guitar gets added right down the middle, which is interesting to me. The vocals are nice here too, they take the BGV mentioned before and sing the main melody an octave above, along with the lead vocals. And lastly the drums open up a bit more, with crashes on the cymbals. It's interesting here that they really keep the drums way back in the mix, with the exception of the kick and the percussion I mentioned in the intro (which goes all the way through the song).
2nd Vs/Pre Chorus
Almost always my favorite thing to really mess with. It's almost like the second verse is really the place to pull out the special stuff, try some way to make it different, pull a little bit of the magic out. This is of course not the rule, but I am always listening for how other artists/producers treat the 2nd verse. They do it really cool here, yes the percussion stays, but they drop the guitars out all together for the first half, just leaving the lead vocal, and that unsuspecting bass. They also add some BGV stabs, at the ends of phrases, a cool idea. The tambourine gets added to the 2nd half of the verse on beat 4, as well as the guitar riff. similar to what it did in the prechorus. There is a nicely timed little pause that leads right into the prechorus, and I didn't mention this at the first prechorus, but the fuzzy/feedback guitar leads the song really nicely into the prechorus, and it's even more obvous going into the second prechorus because of that pause. Again, all the same instruments that were present for the first pre chorus are present here at the second.
Again, all the instruments that were there in the 1st are there again, there is a cool piano or guitar upper register octave thing that is playing on the down beats, as well as a slinky guitar melody that is way back in the mix (which doesn't get added till about eight measure in). There is also a great call and response happening throughout the first eight measures, that is a little different from the first chorus. There is still the octave above BGV. At first, you're thinking ok, cool, they added some more elements to the music, but this chorus is just like the last one, then the next eight measures start and you realize, oh shit, they are repeating the pre chorus here, but with the chorus treatment, that is pretty cool. Then they do what I think is my favorite part of the whole song, throughout the next eight measures, they combine the two, the pre chorus melody/lyrics, the chorus melody and lyric, they both kind of circle each other, while the guitars/bass/drums and all the other wonderful sounds are swirling all around. Pretty rad move there arctic monkeys, I like your style. All thats left is the vamp out, with the slinky guitar melody repeating (which is actually two different guitars, one backwards, and one playing a melodic, single note staccato part), and the big guitars. The drums slowly fade, and your left with the kick, claps, and guitar riff... Pretty awesome.
You tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpOSxM0rNPM
Give it a listen and tell me what I missed? What song should I do a case study of next?