Phrygian Mode

The second most notable aspect of the composition of ‘Au Seve’ is the harmonic interaction between the bassline and the synth melody.

The synth melody which comes in at 0:31 is in the key of F# minor. It is, in fact, just the notes of an F# minor 7 chord (see Passing Notes – Deep House Chords). Here’s how it looks and sounds:

However, when the bass line comes in at 1:18, it uses a flattened 2nd (highlighted below in red) – in this case, that’s a G.

This puts the bassline in the Phrygian mode (see Passing Notes – Understanding Modes), which gives the bassline its slightly darker sound.

Importantly, it also means that the G in the bassline plays under the E in the synth part. This very brief harmony creates an inverted minor 3rd interval. If the bassline was in the natural minor scale (Aeolian mode), the bass would instead be playing a G#, creating an inverted major 3rd interval.

The flattened 2nd also means that when the bassline descends in the third bar, the G sounds underneath the A in the melody, thus avoiding the dissonance of the A in the synth melody playing over a G# in the bass.

The interaction between the descending synth melody and the rising bassline is also a great example of contrary motion, as was astutely noted in the comments section of this recent Passing Notes.

White Noise

Finally, let’s examine a clever sound design technique employed in ‘Au Seve’: the percussive white noise bursts which follow the synth melody in places. Are they percussion sounds triggered in time with the synth or part of the synth patch? It’s not entirely clear, but it also doesn’t matter – they link the synth melody to the percussion rhythm and help to propel the rhythm of the track, especially as they interact with the snare/clap and hi-hat patterns.

Here’s how the rhythm of the noise sounds on its own:

This is particularly prominent throughout the intro, during the second and fourth bars of each repetition of the synth melody. A more stripped-down example occurs at 2:40, showing how the white noise and the four-to-the-floor kick pattern work together.

In this audio clip we can hear the hats and clap pattern on their own, then hear how the rhythm is enhanced by the addition of the off-beat noise hits in the second half of each phrase:

In the piano roll below, the hats are on the top line, the clap/snare in red, and the white noise in purple.

The interaction between the clap/snare, hi-hats and noise creates an incredible rolling percussion pattern. In combination with the kick, the synth and the bassline it’s a simple but devastatingly effective groove:

If you enjoyed this tutorial you might find our book ‘The Secrets of Dance Music Production’ a helpful resource for similar tutorials.

29th November, 2012

Comments

  • The main man’s back… Another great column that’s inspired tonight’s studio time 🙂 (Not that I’ll get *quite* this level of quality!)

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  • This is great. I love this column.

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  • Another amazing tutorial!! Sick track

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  • Fantastic article, as always from Attack, but I heard this again only a few weeks ago and and realised another reason why it was such a massive tune – the production sounds amazing outside.

    I doubt this was intentional but if you think of all the festivals, carnivals, boat parties and clubs in the world with outdoor terraces, just how much music is actually consumed this way, then something that bites through that sweet spot is going to be huge.

    Probably not the practical piece of advice for most producers but if you want to write next summers hit, test your mixdowns and masters in a field on a Funktion 1.

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  • very nice! 🙂

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  • great article!

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  • A great breakdown of a great track. Could anyone point me in the right direction of a similar synth that produces that round bass sound?

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  • Cylon, give TAL U-NO-LX a try – you should be able to get pretty close.

    http://www.attackmagazine.com/reviews/gearsoftware/tal-u-no-lx/

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  • How do you set your settings in tal … i tried allot of patches and tweaking but didnt get the layerd bass pulse sound.

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  • Yes what Jack said. I tried some pwm and pitch on the envelop to try and get it to punch the same as your bass sound. I have ended with poor results. Am stumped. :/

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  • I’ve listened to this song a million times, and have noticed a lot of what was said in this breakdown, but this really explains. Great work.

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  • The bass synth is accompanied by a relatively quiet parallel compound major 3rd sine, which is, for me, the main reason why the phryggian return to the tonic at the end of the bassline riff is so quality – it lets this harmony sing out of the accompanying 4th, resolving to major 3rd – in contrast to the darker minor harmonies that preceed it. This is similar to the ‘tierce de picardie’ that is used at important cadences in renaissance music.

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  • Thank you David Mountain for adding to this thread. It’s what I love about this site: like minded music lovers coming together to share (and best of all, expand) knowledge. And maybe one day I wil make a track like this too.

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  • Hey David,

    Great observation, I suppose the harmony you noticed of the 4th (B) over the flat 2 (G) on the bass, together with the minor 3rd (A) in the synth, would perhaps then very subtly suggest a G major 9 chord then resolving to the F sharp major. Great stuff!

    Cheers for sharing!

    Oliver

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  • You’re very welcome!

    Yes I just worked out that the particular note I’m on about is the A sharp in the F sharp major chord (not present throughout the song), which is then followed soon after by a conflicting but effective A (natural) in the vocal part in a lot of the track, all adding to the fluidity of the transitions between 8 bar sections in general I’d say.

    David

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  • amazing

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  • Wow
    I am a happy person tonight that I have found this mag.
    Every article I have read so far has been Wicked.

    I love this music theory stuff. Ever learning.

    Keep up the good work.

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  • Hi David, I am very curious to know what you used for the bass synth sounds? I would also love to pick your brain about other call and response techniques. I have been a huge fan of speed garage and two step for ever and I always feel like I can’t figure out how to use the call and response properly. I start to wonder if it’s because I’m American or something lol. I have so many examples to share and I listen over and over yet I still for some reason can’t figure it out and it’s driving me mad. Thanks! Aaron

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  • Decent example of call and response between the orchestral strings and bass on The Steppenwolf by Epoch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ogUfKP7F5A&t=3m17s

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