Dissecting Chill – Part 1: An analysis of In the Waiting Line
Early on I learned the value of really listening to the music to learn how to make mine better. There are so many small techniques, tiny little details, that producers and artists sprinkle all over their tracks.
When it comes down to learning these sweet techniques, there are pretty much three ways forward:
1) Be friends with an epic producer
2) Listen, and I mean, really, really, really listen to a track.
Recently I joined a band and since have been faced with learning the world of down tempo and chill in a new way. In efforts to learn both about the tastes of the band members as well as learn all things applicable to a chillout world, I asked everyone in the band to name me their favorite mellow track. My first analysis is my track, I chose In the Waiting Line by Zero 7 (need a refresher? Check out the song here). I have been a fan of this song for a long time, it just rubs me in all the right ways, as do most of Zero 7’s songs.
- Producer: Henry Binns, Sam Hardaker
- Length: 4:33
- Tempo: 79
- Key: C
- Instruments: Bass, Drums, Rhodes, Acoustic Guitar, Female Lead Vocal, Female Harmony Vocals, Various FX, Pad
The song has 7 primary parts, here they are and their lengths:
- Intro – 8 bars
- Verse – 8 bars
- Prechorus – 4 bars
- Chorus – 8 bars
- Bridge – 8 bars
- Solo – 8 bars
- Outro – 16 bars
The flow of the song is: Intro-Verse-Prechorus-Chorus-Verse-Prechorus-Chorus-Bridge-Solo-Chorus-Outro
The Intro, Outro, Verse and Chorus all pretty much play the same chords with the Prechorus and the Bridge both offering unique chord progressions in the song.
The intro is more or less the verse. Its special in that not all the instruments are playing when it starts. The drums and the bass both fade in slowly over the course of the introduction. In addition to that, they are playing some extra notes in order to make up for the lack of vocals. There are also plenty of effects here, or at least one effect that’s changing gradually throughout. Ultimately the rhodes is just playing the notes that the singer will be singing in the next part.
There are two verses in the song. It plays a mellower version of the chord progression that is the theme of the song. The bass is more mellow here than the chorus. There are fx throughout each verse.
Verse 1 has no guitar at all. Verse 2 introduces the guitar half way through.
During the verse there are no harmonies with the vocals.
The prechorus offers a new chord progression over 4 bars. Vocal harmonies added doing an “ooooo” sound. The riff provides some sort of cadence to go into the chorus where the primary chord progression will continue.
First prochorus has no guitar, second prechorus has guitar.
The chorus features a big vocal harmony part of the main lyric of the song. All the instruments are present in each chorus with subtle differences between the three choruses. In each case, the chorus is the same chord progression as the verse, however the instruments play additional notes to pick up the pace. In addition, the chorus features a very subtle pad sound. FX are present through the chorus.
The first chorus, the guitar plays individual strings. The final two choruses the guitar plays strummed chords with a reasonable pace.
During the final chorus the rhodes feels as though to improvise a little bit, adding additional notes.
The bridge also offers a new chord progression. All instruments are present minus the pad. Vocal harmonies present themselves as “aaahhhhh” sounds. Around bar 7 the bridge fades into nothing and sound effects cary us through bar 8 into the solo.
The solo is essentially the verse with the rhodes performing a solo. No vocals.
Same chords as verse/chorus. Bass plays pretty much the same line. The rhodes plays the chords but does some jamming. Jamming on various effects. Repeat vocal lines. Fade out around bar 16. Pad is present in the outro.
Some final notes
The drums in the track were consistently the same thing throughout the track. Its a kick snare pattern with a pattern of eighths on a ride. Instead of drum fills there are typically various effects employed instead.
Well, that’s the nuts and bolts of the song. I’m not going to call out every individual fx hit but they are numerous in the track. They are used for a variety of transitions as well as some general ear candy to keep the 8 bar sections moving strong. There was definitely some cool automation or synth tweaking going on with some of the effects too. At the end of the song it sounds like they are using some sort of organ being modulated with an lfo.
This song is very concise, it gets to the point and doesn’t do too much in to appease those who love a slow buildup. I think its particularly interesting how the song gently increases the emotional content as it progresses. Things like adding the guitar half way through the second verse and the small changes to the way the guitar is played between the first and second chorus. Each repeated section has something special about it and they build from less to more with grace.
The second thing that really strikes me is how Zero 7 managed to really work the theme of the song so well. They had one primary chord progression and did a couple of things to keep it from getting overly stale. First, between any verse and chorus there was the prechorus which offered another chord progression. To me this serves as a wonderful break from the main riff for my ear and when the chorus eventually kicks in, the subtle changes to the way the progression is played makes it almost feel as thought its a completely new riff. The second being the myriad of subtle changes between each verse and each chorus. Each of those sections offered something unique and spared the riff from ending up overly repetitive. I would say also, because of the way the main riff is used, the bridge serves as a necessary component, offering the listener something connected too but emotionally different for a brief period of time.
This process involved me, a notebook, and about an hour of my time. I think I got a lot of good ideas from this experiment and I’m looking forward to taking on the next track. I’ve actually got three more tracks on my list to examine, I hope you find these explorations as educational as I do.