Recreation and Analysis of Calvin Harris – I’m Not Alone

Practical EDM Analysis 2: Calvin – I’m Not Alone (Original Mix)

I)             Structure

[Figure 23. Screenshot of Calvin Harris – I’m Not Alone (Original Mix) Waveshape in Ableton]

Although this track conveys the same structural syntax as the previous analysis object, there are a few distinctive differences.

[Figure 24. Zoomed in Screenshot of Calvin Harris – Happy Violence (Original Mix) waveshape in Ableton]

As can be seen from the above image (a zoomed in version of the previous waveshape) the track does not start on the first beat of the bar, it comes in a beat before. The song lasts three minutes and thirty seconds, one and a half minutes (53 bars) shorter than Dada – Happy Violence. Thus the entire structure is condensed, however more interestingly it does not start with drum beats. The track starts with a vocal and guitar riff and the drums do not begin until the 33rd bar, one minute into the track (section 5). This is contrary to the previous track where the instrumentation ended at 1 minute as the chorus started. The structure also bears obvious similarities to the timing. It develops through addition and subtraction of layers and follows the four bar – change pattern similar to the previous analysis object. It breaks down in a similar fashion, for example it develops from a couple of layers to seven layers and finishes with six layers. The breakdown (chorus) sections of the track at bars 25 to 33 and 81 to 89 closely resemble the breakdown sections of Happy Violence at bars 33 to 48 and 81 to 112. They both eliminate the percussive and low-end bass instruments keeping the listener in suspense, waiting for the song to drop back into the drums and bassline.

(Figure 25. Table shows the instrumental layers over time in bars)

II)           Tempo

[Figure 26. Calvin Harris Top 5 Selling Tracks On Beatport29-12-11]

Clearly 128bpm appears to be the go-to tempo used by these professionals whether consciously or subconsciously. Another interesting finding was C Minor appears to be a popular key choice among both producers.

III)          Timbre

Timbre: Synthesizer Chords

The synthesizer patch was taken from a tutorial video by electronic dance music producer enthusiast, Timofey, (2010) who worked out how to produce the same sound. Timofey’s recreation was produced using three oscillators playing simultaneously; a white noise wave and two saw tooths.

[Figure 27. Ableton operator synthesizer, highlighted area shows the oscillator circuit]

The author then tweaked some of the settings to produce a patch which seemed to more closely resemble the original sound. Timofey’s version lacked the edge that Calvin Harris’s original track had. This was combated by adding a fourth oscillator (oscillator c) producing white noise. Although Timofey’s version already contained a white noise oscillator, this different type of white noise added a harsher edge giving the track more bite.

[Figure 28. Ableton operator synthesizer, highlighted area shows the fourth oscillator]

[Figure 29. Ableton operator synthesizer, highlighted area shows frequency setting]

The filter frequency was set slightly higher to allow the bright high end of the white noise to shine through. This helped it to sound closer to the original recording and also enhanced clarity.  (Hear the recreation on the blog).

[Figure 30. Ableton’s in-built reverb unit]

A reverb unit was inserted on the channel which created a sense of space. This effect unit makes a huge difference to the sound of the channel, it sounds dry and ‘box’ like when it is turned off. The in-built chorus adds a slight shine to the reverb. This is a quintessential sound effect for this particular synth, without the reverb unit the synth sounds too dry and loses its distinctive character.

[Figure 31. Sidechain compression in Ableton]

Finally a compressor was inserted and from the image above it is possible to see that it is applying approximately 2db of gain reduction. This dynamic processor glued the sound together and maintained a stable and punchy dynamic.

Timbre: Synthesizer Melody

[Figure 32. Ableton operator synthesizer, highlighted area shows the oscillator circuit]

A modularised synthesis method was used to create the melodic synth patch. It was created from a sine wave and two saw waves.

[Figure 33. Ableton operator synthesizer, highlighted area shows LFO]

The unusual shimmer like sound was created using a sine low frequency oscillator (see image above). The rate was set high and the amount was low creating a slight bend to the sound. The track had a wide spread creating a wide stereo image and the filter was left open to 4.18 kHz. The filter was inserted to filter out an unusual high pitch distortion which occurred when the sine wave was added to the oscillator chain.

Timbre: Synthesizer Bass

[Figure 34. Ableton operator synthesizer, highlighted area shows the oscillator circuit]

The bass synthesizer was created using two oscillators playing simultaneously. It was created by amalgamating square wave and saw tooth wave oscillators.

[Figure 35. Highlighted area shows the envelope shape of the saw tooth oscillator]

The saw tooth oscillator had a slightly later attack time and provided a fuller low-end buzzy type of sound.

[Figure 36. Ableton Saturator]

 Ableton’s in-built saturator (analogue compressor emulation) was inserted to add a harsher edge to the synth.

[Figure 37. Table shows synthesizer make-up]

IV)          Rhythm

Rhythm: Drums

Unlike Happy Violence there is no deviation of the original drum loop, the focal point of the track is the chords and vocal. It used a very basic 4/4 house syntax as described by Eric E as detailed in the literature review.

 Figure 38. Ableton view of layers over time in bars in drum pattern 1]

[Figure 39. Table shows the instrumental layers over time in bars]

Rhythm: Melodic Synthesizer

[Figure 40. Screenshot of melodic synthesizer notation]

By studying the pattern above, it is possible to see that the melody plays a five note bar followed by a three note bar consecutively for 8 bars. Whereas the first and last note of the odd bars is on the beat, the succeeding notes fall in-between the off beat and on beat.

Rhythm: Synthesizer Bassline

[Figure 41. Screenshot of bass synthesizer notation]

The synthesized bassline plays on the rhythm as the main melody with the addition of three notes between the second and third bars and the fourth and fifth bars. The bassline is essential in this track and provides a strong and distinctive groove. This rhythmic pattern will be employed in the pre-production project artefact in order to examine whether this sequence can be used in other tracks using different melodic intervals.

 Rhythm: Synthesizer Chords

[Figure 42. Screenshot of chord notation]

The synthesizer chords have the exact same rhythm as the melodic synthesizer.

 V)           Melodic / Motif Content

Melodic / Motif Content: Synthesizer Melody

 [Figure 43. Screenshot of melodic notation]

The first notable difference between this melodic pattern and Happy Violence is that the melodic pattern extends for double the duration; it plays for eight bars as opposed to four bars.

[Steps = semitones]

1.0          D > B  = 3 steps down

2.0          B > G = 4 steps down

3.0          G > B = 4 steps up

4.0          B >  E = 7 steps down

5.0          E > D = 2 steps down

6.0          D > E = 2 steps up

7.0          E > G = 3 steps up

8.0          G > B = 4 steps up

9.0          B > G = 4 steps down

10.0       G > E = 3 steps down

11.0       E > D = 2 steps down

12.0       D > B = 3 step down

13.0       B > E = 5 steps up

14.0       E > G = 3 steps up

15.0       G > B = 4 steps up

16.0            B > E = 5 steps up

17.0            E > G = 9 steps down

18.0            G > E = 3 steps down

19.0            E > D = 2 steps down

20.0            D > C = 2 steps down

21.0            C > D = 2 steps up

22.0            D > E = 2 steps up

23.0            E > G = 3 steps up

24.0            G > B = 4 steps up

25.0            B > A = 2 steps down

26.0            A > D = 5 steps up

27.0            D > E = 2 steps up

28.0            E > G = 9 steps down

29.0            G > B = 4 steps up

30.0            B > D = 3 steps up

31.0            D > A = 5 steps down

[Figure 44. Table  shows the melodic movement of the melodic synthesizer notation]

Examining the up/ down movement of the intervals it appears that these two tracks have a fairly analogous form. They start similarly with; down, down, up and although deviating from the same pattern they continue along a route of sequencing in mainly even steps (Happy Violence moves in twos and I’m Not Alone moves in fours).

Full four bar melody (interval size)

Full four bar melody (up / downs)

[Figure 45. Table shows the melodic movement of the melodic synthesizer notation]

Melodic / Motif Content: Synthesizer Bassline & Plucked Synthesizer

[Figure 46. This is the notation for the bassline and plucked synth and does not change for the entire duration of the song]

[Steps = semitones]

1.0               A > A  = 0 steps

2.0               A > B = 2 steps up

3.0               B > B = 0 steps

4.0               B > C = 1 step up

5.0               C > C = 0 steps

6.0               C > C = 0 steps

7.0               C > C = 0 steps

8.0               C > C = 0 steps

9.0               C > C = 0 steps

10.0            C > C = 0 steps

11.0            C > D = 2 steps up

12.0            D > E = 2 steps up

13.0            E > E = 0 steps

14.0            E > G = 3 steps up

15.0            G > G = 0 steps

16.0            G > C = 7 steps down

17.0            C > C = 0 steps

18.0            C > C = 0 steps

19.0            C > C = 0 steps

20.0            C > C = 0 steps

21.0            C > C = 0 steps

22.0            C > C = 0 steps

23.0            C > D = 2 steps up

[Figure 46. This is the notation for the bassline and plucked synth and does not change for the entire duration of the song]

[Steps = semitones]

1.0               A > A  = 0 steps

2.0               A > B = 2 steps up

3.0               B > B = 0 steps

4.0               B > C = 1 step up

5.0               C > C = 0 steps

6.0               C > C = 0 steps

7.0               C > C = 0 steps

8.0               C > C = 0 steps

9.0               C > C = 0 steps

10.0            C > C = 0 steps

11.0            C > D = 2 steps up

12.0            D > E = 2 steps up

13.0            E > E = 0 steps

14.0            E > G = 3 steps up

15.0            G > G = 0 steps

16.0            G > C = 7 steps down

17.0            C > C = 0 steps

18.0            C > C = 0 steps

19.0            C > C = 0 steps

20.0            C > C = 0 steps

21.0            C > C = 0 steps

22.0            C > C = 0 steps

23.0            C > D = 2 steps up

Full four bar melody (up / downs)

[Figure 47. Table  shows the melodic movement of the melodic synthesizer notation]

Full four bar melody (interval size)

[Figure 49. This is the notation for the chords  and does not change for the entire duration of the song]

[Steps = semitones]

1.0               A2 + B3 >  A2 + B3

2.0               A2 + B3 > B2 +D3

3.0               B2 +D3 > B2 +D3

4.0               B2 +D3 > C3 + E4

5.0               C3 + E4 >  C3 + E4

6.0               C3 + E4 > C3 + D4

7.0               C3 + D4 > C4 + D3

8.0               C4 + D3 > E3 + G4

9.0               E3 + G4 > E3 + G4

10.0            E3 + G4 > B3 + G4

11.0            B3 + G4 > C3 + E4

12.0            C3 + E4 > C3 + E4

13.0            C3 + E4 > D4 + C3

14.0            D4 + C3 > D3 + C4

Full four bar melody (up / downs)

Unfortunately the results of the interval sizes do not bear strong similarities with the Happy Violence track. However, analysis of more tracks could provide insightful.

Melodic / Motif Content: Chords

[Figure 50. Table shows the melodic movement of the melodic synthesizer notation]

Summary of Analysis Experiments

The most challenging aspect of the recreation was the synthesizer patches. The remake of Calvin Harris – I’m Not Alone was made easier through the online tutorial, however the accuracy of this attempt is questionable as it is was not possible to produce an exact replica of the original track. This could pose a threat to the validity of the project however a more credible approach has not yet been discovered – it is hoped that a new method will be used during the actual analysis stage of the investigation. As well as the challenge of recreating identical sound, the analysis methodology used to collect data from the synthesis patches may not be efficient enough to produce a similar synthesizer patch. However, the melody and structure did not prove problematic and were easily recreated with certainty. As stated above, the analysis of the interval sizes did not highlight anything, but it is possible further analysis of other tracks could prove more insightful. This analysis will be carefully assessed to determine the best method for dissecting the data. Finally the information collected from the analytical research, in the form of numerical data, will be assessed to find the average for the synthesizer settings i.e. number of oscillators, envelope size, etc. The analysis methods will be refined, however, it is hoped that some of the data recorded will be suitable for application in the project artefact. The results of the analysis were tested in the electronic dance music pre-productions in the following section in connection with objective 4.

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