Welcome to the third in the series of tutorials from Ski Oakenfull covering a variety of aspects of electronic music composition. We want you to get involved in this series so if you can think of well known track for Ski to deconstruct musically in the next tutorial then hit us up on twitter with:
#emcrequest @point_blank + your suggested track title
Today he breaks down the chord sequences in the club anthem ‘Insomnia‘ by Faithless:
You can learn more techniques like this on Point Blank’s new online Electronic Music Composition Course which has been developed by Ski himself. The course will show you how to develop the musical aspects of your tracks in an easy to understand way without getting bogged down in scales and theory. Watch the course preview below for an overview of what to expect:
Ski is a composer, producer and virtuosic keyboardist signed to Sony as a solo artist and his list of accolades is lengthy – with releases on various labels including Talkin’ Loud and Ministry of Sound and his own label, Primaudial Records.
Hello. I am Ski Oakenfull, at PointBlank Online. I am a producer, composer, and keyboard player. I have work with bands and artists like Incognito, The Bays, and Joe Nigro. You are watching Electronic Music Composition.
If you enjoy this EMC series, do not forget, you can take a whole course of content like this called Electronic Music Composition at PointBlankOnline.net. Thank you for sending in all your requests. We hope you enjoy the one we have gone with, which came by Twitter, from Marian Sdraila.
In this video, we are going to look at an all-time classic dance track by Faithless called ‘Insomnia’. There are three main elements that I want to check out, all of which are interesting in their own rights, and illustrate certain elements of music composition. The first one are these synth stabs that come in the intro, I am just going to give you a quick play of those. We will have a look at the chord that is being played there. The next element is a string line that comes right at the start of the tune, so let me play that to you. Then there is the monster Pizzicato riff that comes in, in the middle and then builds for the outro, as well; it is very well-known riff. I am going to give you a quick play of that.
First of all, let us have a look at these synth stabs. I am going to play them to you one more time. First of all, let us establish the key signature of this track. I am just going to play along. We are in B minor, and this is the scale. It is 2 chords, they are actually the same, just played an octave apart. Let us play them. What that is, is a B minor 7. If we start off playing a B minor triad, root position triad, it is these notes here. If we add a 7, we got this note here. This is still our root position chord. If we go to the first inversion, we are basically using this note as the bottom note, so we are going up to play the first inversion. Then we go up again, to play the second inversion, it is going to be these notes, so we are still using all the notes of the B minor 7. It is best then just going down an octave.
I have just sketched in a beat and a bass line using factory sounds on Logic, so I am just going to play along now. You can see that is working pretty nicely. I want to have a look at this intro section, because you got this really nice string line. There is something quite interesting about this in that it is actually going from major to minor, and you saw the key signature earlier was B minor. Let us have a look at this first note of the string line. It is actually this note here, which is D sharp. As I played to you earlier, the notes in B minor scale are these. If I play a B minor chord, just a triad, this first note of the string line is actually D sharp. There is a bit of a clash there, and what that does is create a bit tension. I will just play it to you one more time. Then it resolves down to this D, which is in the B minor chord. It is basically going from a B major to a B minor. I will just play along again. It goes up to an F sharp, then it goes down to a B, then that chord comes in, the synth stab. It is only playing the top chord, but interestingly, that chord is a B minor 7, but there is still this clash going on. All the other notes fit really nicely, but this first note really adds some tension.
Let us get to this very well-known monster riff. I am just going to give you another play of that. What is being played are only 2 notes at the same time. There is not really a chord being defined by those 2 notes, it is s more just a riff. Let us just play along with that, and see what is happening. There are quite subtle changes there. When I was listening to it, I was listening out for the top note and the bottom note, as well. What happens is it is 4-bar riff, and every bar is slightly different. In the first bar, it goes like this, so you can see that this bottom note actually moves down. In the second bar, the B stays where it is. In the third bar, the top note changes, but the B still stays where it is. In the fourth and final bar, the B goes down again, and then up. There are very subtle changes there. What is really interesting is when the bass is played along with it, and the bass is always playing the same note, it is creating slightly different chords. For example, we got this first bar, and then, third bar.
The basic chords are B minor, F sharp minor, and G major, but sometimes, when this A is in the bottom note, this third chord is actually a G sus2. Let us play along. Again, I have just sketched in the beat, just trying to play along with that. Let us slow down a bit now, because it is definitely going quite fast. Let us put it at 115 BPM. That was my breakdown of ‘Insomnia’. I hope that has given you a better understanding of the musical elements of this track, and I also hope you can enjoy playing along with the chords.
If you are into this, then head over to PointBlankOnline.net and check out the EMC course. Remember, if you want to suggest tracks for us to look at, tweet the track name the hash tag on the screen. We will feature as many as we can. See you next time.
At PointBlank Online, you got two methods of interaction with your tutor. Firstly, you got the weekly online masterclass, which is in real time. Also, we got feedback on your assignments, and that is known as DVR. The online masterclass is a one-hour session you get with your tutor every week. You can ask questions about related content; you get instant feedback, and also demonstrations on the fly from the computer desktop with our streaming technology.
DVR stands for direct video response, and the concept is really simple: You upload your Ableton, Logic, or Cube-based project file to your tutor, he downloads it, and then pushes record on the screen-capturing software, and evaluates your work, basically giving you one-to-one feedback. You see all of the mouse movements and any parameter change made by your tutor. It is like sitting in the studio, over their shoulder, watching at what they do while they work. We have found the DVR process has truly revolutionized the way we teach online, and the results speak for themselves.
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