Soul Rebel – Bob Marley and the Wailers – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – 1970



With no use of stereo and a muddy mix (compared to contemporary mixes), this track has all the elements of classic reggae – deep bass guitar playing a riff full of pauses, keys jabbing on the off beat, funky guitar licks, busy percussion, a melodic lead vocal with lots of interplay with group backing vocals.

As a mix it



She Wants to Move – N*E*R*D – The Neptunes – 2004


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The track begins with a barking dog and then a driving punchy tom beat and a very loud hi hat. Various whispered vocals introduce the bass line.

The chorus is characterised by a distorted electric guitar line and shouted vocals.

The second verse has an acoustic guitar, which is then dropped out for the pre-chorus which features a piano line.

The second chorus is much the same as the first.

Then there’s a breakdown section and middle section that introduces a new chord sequence.

Then it returns to the chorus. The final chorus features a cymbal/hi-hat that is played so vigorously it loses it sense of rhythm and becomes a sizzle of white noise.



Rockit – Herbie Hancock – Bill Laswell – 1983


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The track begins with very ‘artificial’ sounds – signposting the style of the track – electronic drums and vinyl record ‘scratching’ in sync.

The production is essentially ‘instrumental’ – meaning it has no vocals. There are a smattering of vocal samples throughout but these also match the ‘artificial’ production style, sounding overtly processed. Instead of a lead vocal there is lead synth melody line that functions as the main hook.

Scratching is used as a lead instrument also.

Ray of Light – Madonna – William Orbit – 1998


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The track begins with a clean electric guitar part.

When the rest of the track kicks in it is a surprise as it switches from the ‘natural’ sound of guitars to electronic sounds of electronic drums and sequenced bass and keys.

At about the 3 minute mark it returns to the guitar part of the intro but this time with a vocal over the top.

Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads – Brian Eno – 1981

talking heads

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This production features a consistent bass line that doesn’t change, despite a verse/chorus structure to the song. It is a bass line that leaves plenty of space for continuous bed instruments as well as the lead vocal to work around it.

When the track begins the bass line is reinforced by a low vocal. Underneath the bass line a tinkling synth/keys texture bubbles along while the drums feature lots of off beat tom hits. The bubbling synth part is high in the frequency range and spread across the stereo field while the lower frequency instruments stay firmly centred. There is possibly reverb on the bubbling synth that fills the gaps with atmosphere.

The lead vocal enters, in a spoken style and delivers the first verse.

The chorus is differentiated by a jangling guitar part that replaces the reverbed synth part, and doubled/tripled vocals that thicken the main lyric. Additional percussion joins the chorus. Both the guitar and the percussion drop out again for the second verse. And then return again for the second chorus.

The second chorus ends with a bridge part with the lyric ‘Same as it ever was’. A new synth part enters here – a single note rhythmic part.

The end of the 3rd verse that leads into the 3rd chorus is distinct by way of delayed and looped vocals – ‘Water dissolving and water removing’. This is followed by another chorus but this time it is underpinned by the monophonic synth part. Then another chorus which sees the return of the jangling guitar chords.

Another verse, and then another chorus.

The song ends with another ‘same as it ever was’ section but this time it features a new element – distorted electric guitar droning away.

The production is distinctive because of its minimalist structure that sees the drums and bass holding the same pattern throughout, and the coming and going of melodic parts, and changes in the vocals, to provide the verse/chorus/bridge structure. Space for all the elements is provided more by their frequency ranges than by stereo or depth placement. Nothing moves in the stereo field or from front to back etc. It is only the delayed vocal section that for a moment turns a lead instrument (the vocal) into a texture or bed sound.

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