Dua Lipa recently released her new single “Physical” from her upcoming album “Future Nostalgia,” which is the perfect description of the sound of this song. It mixes 80’s dance music seamlessly with a full and vibrant modern production. Naturally, we wanted to recreate it to show you how you can get similar sounds in Soundation.
This track has a very danceable tempo at 147 BPM and the kick/snare core is a fairly simple repeating pattern. The complexity lies in the layering of various claps that weave in and out to accent certain parts. The verse features a shaker panning from side to side, the build-up to the chorus is just a ticking percussion sound, and in the chorus, there is a cymbal and 8th note hi-hats. The drums were recreated in Soundation with the SPC drum machine and one-shot samples from the free sound library.
To make a powerful and huge chorus, it needs to start with a bang. A trick to do that is to use impact samples that take up a lot of space. In this recreation, we used a noise drop, deep boom, and a clap with a long reverb tail. Together they have a lot of depth, width, and cover all frequencies between bass and treble. This fills out soundscape, and even as the sounds fade away, the energy lingers throughout the chorus.
The bass is playing a chugging 8th note pattern on the notes A, F, C, and G. We used two saw wave synths, The Wub Machine and a VA Synth. Layered on top of the synth bass is a heavily processed bass guitar. This instrument plays a slightly different pattern that deviates from the bass every third note or so, introducing a melodic riff. This melodic riff is also supported by a heavily processed VA Synth. The effects are essential for the sound design of these sounds.
The chords make their first appearance in the chorus with the progression Am, F, C, and G. To get the full and luscious sound, we layered a chiffer lead, a brass pad, and a string ensemble. Each instrument is playing in a different register, covering the whole spectrum. This way, you get separation between the instruments and create more complex textures.
The lead instrument is a synth flute. Modeling a flute sound with a synth can be hard but there is a much easier way to get the same sound. In the GM-2 there is a preset called “shakuhachi,” which is a Japanese flute. If we layer it with The Wub Machine we can get the same lead sound as in the original. The key to the fat synth sound is unison, which will add more voices and detune them slightly from each other. Imagine five singers singing a melody instead of one, that’s what it’s doing.
A fantastic way to spice up a production is to add ambient background vocals. We can hear this in the verses of the song. If you’re not a singer you can still achieve this effect by customizing vocal loops. We took a Splice loop, chopped it up and pitch-stretched it to the right melody. To make it more ambient you can add reverb and EQ out the high and low frequencies. For a controlled delay, you can duplicate the channel a couple of times, offset the clips and lower the volume for each channel.