This is the first of a new tutorial series breaking down current tracks to help you understand how they’ve been put together. Spending time critically listening to lots of other music is a really important practice. It increases your understanding and fills up your creative tank with ideas.
Today we’re going to take a look at Duke Dumont’s Ocean Drive. We’ve analysed and laid out the arrangement for you in a video so you can see how the structure develops as you listen back to the track. You’ll want to go full screen and HD quality to see what’s going on.
Break it down
The first thing to notice about this track is it’s simplicity. The number of different musical elements is very stripped back and the arrangement is a classic verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus.
The chorus sections are repeated 8-bars sections to get that hook properly stuck in your head and to quicken the pace from the verses.
Nothing complicated at all going on here.
This is an 8 bar section identical to the verse but without any vocals. All the elements are put through a reverb and filtered. The filter gradually opens before turning off completely when the verse kicks in giving plenty of contrast.
There is one main bass/lead sound which plays through most of the track. This is possibly a couple of synths or oscillators playing the same notes at different octaves to fill out the spectrum. Remember the less parts you have playing at the same time, the bigger they can be.
Very simple drums with just a few elements. A shaker which sits quite low in the mix is used to add energy in the chorus sections.
4. Backing Vocals
This track is really driven by the vocals and the backing OOh’s underlie most of the track in some way, providing some lovely pad-like harmonies. At this point they are used to build the energy towards the chorus.
5. Vocal Transitions
Most of the sections are bridged using a vocal transition, either a rising ‘oooh’ or ‘hold on’. There are also some more percussive vox samples to add variety and contrast at the end of 4 bar sections.
6. Drum Transitions
Nothing fancy to see here, just some textbook reverse cymbals.
These lend a funky disco/80s feel to the track. There are some riffs and licks that give it the groove and chords which underpin the track.
What can we learn?
A great song does not have to be complicated and that’s clear as the light of day from analysing Ocean Drive.
It’s a radio-friendly track but nonetheless a classic verse/chorus structure is an easy way to get contrast and interest into your music. Songwriters use this all the time but many aspiring producers overlook it. That being said, structuring your music is a creative decision and not every track is destined for the radio, but you can still begin by writing a 3min track and creating a club mix afterwards.
Using the same arrangement layout as another track is a great trick because it gives you a framework and you can still create a totally original song. Download our Ableton Live template for Ocean Drive and use it for your own projects.
Simply open it up in Ableton Live and replace the midi clips with your own music. If you don’t use vocals, then simply use synths or other instruments instead of vocals.