How to Create a Track Like The Gorillaz: Deconstructing the Virtual Band’s Most Popular Hit


The Gorillaz are a virtual band from the UK whose music has proven to have that rare timeless quality that allows listeners of all generations to listen.

With a handful of wildly successful albums, world tours, and sound that perfectly captures the imagery of the fictional characters that make up the band, the band seems to have landed on the recipe for success, at least on the production side. .

Producers of all skill levels and genres can learn a lot by studying music styles and techniques Gorillaz use in their tracks. So let’s dive into one of the Gorillaz productions in hopes of learning what the recipe for success of this musical production is.

The drums of a piece of Gorillaz

The drum group in the majority of Gorillaz tracks is quite minimalistic. Classic breakbeat patterns are a fantastic way to lay the foundation for rhythm.

Here are the main takeaways we will discuss:

  • Why the texture of drum hits is as vital as the groove itself
  • How to Mix Digital Drums and Acoustic Sounds to Create Genre-Mixing Patterns
  • What a simple layer of humanized syncopation can do to elevate your entire drum groove.

Let’s dive in…

The texture and character of the hits are more critical when creating drums like the Gorillaz. Producers should aim to find hits that match the vibe of a rock and roll kit; it should sound acoustic and live. Kicks should be punchy and hot, hats should be dusty and thick, and collars should have some weight.

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Once the base of the drum groove is created using live-sounding drum samples, spicing up the beat using hyper-digital accent hits and ghost patterns can be the perfect way to bridging the gap between authentic and virtual percussion that the band is so well known for. You can see these hits play every other bar in the image above and hear them for yourself in the full track breakdown below.

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But even these loops will get repetitive pretty quickly, so adding in accidental drum hits can be a fantastic way to make a drum loop less… loopy. Take a look at the image above and see how adding a short 1/16th note fill to the 6th bar of the loop suddenly adds enough variation to sustain interest over a longer period.

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The final step is to add some humanized syncopation to the main drum loop. Clapping samples, wooden blocks, and other similar sounds are a great way to add a more accented swing to loops and give your listeners an extra layer of percussion to latch onto.

The theory behind a Gorillaz track

Once a basic rhythm has been established, it’s time to start talking about the harmonic structure of the production. Gorillaz’s music has a very cascading quality and rarely comes across as formulaic and predictable despite its roots in electronic dance music production (which thrives on repetition and predictability). Producers of any genre should always try to replicate this in their music, so let’s see how it’s done.

Here are the main takeaways we will discuss:

  • How to end and start a loop with a root chord can play with expectations.
  • What a basic bassline sequence to imply a more complicated chord structure
  • Stacking simple loops is key to creating more complex and exciting interactions and harmonies.

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So let’s dive in…

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With the drum line in place, the next piece of the groove puzzle will be the bass line. The Gorillaz often rely on more acoustic timbres for their basses, such as bass guitars, but you can replicate their style using any plucky instrument you prefer.

Point Blank unpacks this further in their video below, but “Feel Good Inc”‘s main bassline features two layers, a heavy bass guitar and another funkier guitar. These elements play the same riff; only the most rudimentary notes of the Eb Minor scale create a harmonic foundation for the rest of the music to use as a springboard.

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Once the bass line is written, the rest of the track is simply about piling up simple loops to create complex interactions between the different layers.

Sound selection becomes all the more critical, as you need to do your due diligence and find sounds that “make sense” together. We already have a mesh of digital sounding drums and warm acoustic bass, so let’s look for a guitar plugin to help round out the sonic palette of the record.

The strummed guitar helps establish a rhythm while providing complementary timbres when played against other instruments in the composition.

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With the simple rhythm section in place, we need to complete the composition with more delicate elements for the ears to help keep the track fresh and provide more options to play with when it comes to creating a dynamic arrangement and fabric.

In the full list of tracks below, Point Blank the instructor is looking for a crystal clear guitar pluck sound that plays what is essentially a two-note riff that plays over the syncopation of the drum pattern. Look at the notes the guitar is playing below and pay special attention to the simplicity of the sequence.

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The last elements of a piece of Gorillaz

Finally, we need one more piece of the puzzle. Most of the instrument choices and sound selections leading up to this point have been rhythmic, slippery, washed-out sounds that complement the track’s sonic palette perfectly.

Using Sylenth1, the Point Blank instructor creates a glissando-like synth that plays higher notes to create a dazzling digital soundscape above the rest of the acoustic synths. Are you beginning to understand how vital it is now to choose contrasting sounds in your productions? Good! Because it’s the secret sauce to good songs, mixes and productions.

Pro tip: The notion of contrasting sounds goes one step further, as the Gorillaz often like to spice up certain sections of the arrangement with unique-sounding chord explosions and off-the-wall sound selections to change the mood between verses. , refrains and bridges. Watch the full breakdown below to see how they achieve this during the arrange stage.

Watch the full track breakdown of a Gorillaz track

There are simply too many minor details that go into creating a track like the Gorillaz, and while the article above is fantastic for getting the main loop and vibe to the track, there’s always more to learn.

Point Blank has put together one of the best track deconstructions available.

Here are the main takeaways from the discussion that were not covered in the article above:

  • Using Complex MIDI Plugins to Generate Intricate Ear Candy Patterns
  • How varying chord structure helps dictate the flow and story of an entire arrangement
  • Slice samples and instruments for perfect rhythm sections
  • Tips on using Ableton’s Session View to help organize a track.
  • A short and sweet analysis of voice processing to get Damon’s telephone-style voice.
  • Create catchy synth shots that help keep the arrangement interesting.

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