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How do you draw a whale? Perspective on the Chainsmokers

Closer uses a the illusion of volume to create a MASSIVE-sounding mix that will get stuck in your head all day.

The Chainsmokers
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Ab Maj
The Chainsmokers, Jordan "DJ Swivel" Young

Key Takeaways

How do you draw a whale? More specifically, how do you draw the size of a whale?

No matter what you're using, you'll always be confined by the limitations of your canvas. Meaning you probably can't just draw a 52-foot outline. A three-inch sketch like the one above just doesn't convey the size of a 52" beast that can weigh over 90,000 pounds. Do this instead... If you want to show the massive size of a whale, just put it next to a tiny fish.

Hopefully you see where I'm going with this idea... Perspective is a powerful tool in visual arts and in music.

Painters are limited by the size of their canvas.

Producers are limited by the 0DB threshold.

But you use perspective to create the perception of loudness. Sprinkle quiet sounds into your productions. They may feel unimportant, but without the reference of a quiet and distant sound, our minds won't feel the impact of a loud and close sound.

This song is an excellent example of using perspective in music production to create a larger-than-life atmosphere for your song.

This perspective tool is used not only in today's song, but in electronic music as a whole all the time.

So let's see what we can learn from the Chainsmokers.

🔄 Arrangement

  • The intro teases the melody from the drop to immediately hook your mind on that same melody that you're gonna hear throughout the rest of the song.
  • Standard pop song arrangement here. Don't fix it if it ain't broken I guess.

🎹 Chords

  • Intro: 4M(2) - 5M - 6m7 - 5M
  • Verse: 4M(2) - 5M(4) - 6m - 5M(4)
  • Pre-Chorus: 4M(2) - 5M(4) - 6m7 - 5M(4)
  • Chorus: 4M(2) - 5M(4) - 6m7 - 5M(4)
  • Drop: 4M(2) - 5M(4) - 6m7 - 5M(4)
  • Tag: 4M(2) - 5M(4) - 6m7 - 5M(4)
  • Outro: 4M(2) - 5M - 6m7 - 5M

🎶 Melody

  • The chorus melody is used as a countermelody throughout the intro and the verse. At one point it's a synth then it's the guitar then it's a weird vocal chop sound. They are subconsciously getting that little loop stuck in your head.
  • The melody is just simple, repetitive, and really good. Invest time in your melody and it will pay off. Good production can't cover up a bad melody.

🔊 Sound Design

  • Piano is the driving sound that the song centers around, but they do a great job of layering tons of extra textures and sounds throughout the song that fill out that piano sound.
  • Chord stabs: There are lots of layers building out the chord stabs that happen in the verses and the drops. Pay attention to how they use those extra stabs of energy to create movement in the beat.

🎛 Mixing

  • Use volume to create perspective. For example, the lead synth melody in the chorus is extremely loud but the snare sound is quiet and centered in the mix. This contrast creates the illusion of a massive sound. How do you draw a picture of a whale on a piece of paper? Draw a tiny fish then draw the shape of a wale. Use a quiet point of reference in your mix to create the illusion of massive sounds.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Create perspective with contrast. Use contrast in your volume, panning, and width to create a 3-dimensional mix.
  • Don't overthink your arrangement. This song uses a simple intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus arrangement and it works. Don't overthink it.
  • Focus on the melody. It's undeniable that the melodies in this song are just catchy. The melody is simple, repetitive, and simple. Get your melody right before you focus on anything else.
  • Repeat your melody with different instruments throughout your song to increase the catchiness and create novelty.
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