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Watch our Deconstruction of ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ at Ableton Loop, Berlin

Welcome to our latest deconstruction, where Point Blank’s Lead Course Developer Ski Oakenfull takes a track apart and rebuilds it piece by piece. Recorded at Ableton Loop where Point Blank featured as a partner on the programme, Ski went to town on one of our favourite tracks ever made, and perhaps the best single of the 90’s: Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’. We use these deconstructions to teach students about production techniques, arrangement and composition, and there’s plenty more where this came from in our course materials. If you’d like to learn how to use all of the techniques shown here and more, enrol in one of our Music Production courses, we’ll have you creating your own tracks in no time.

So last year at Ableton’s industry summit, Loop, we were invited to demonstrate what Point Blank is all about. What better way to do so, we thought, than have our lead course developer deconstruct one of the greatest tracks pressed to wax in the way only he can. ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ was a revelation on release in 1991 and continues to be so today, a triple-threat of the band’s vision, Will Malone’s iconic string arrangement, and Shara Nelson’s gorgeous lyrics and delivery. Interestingly, as we learn in the video, the track features no bassline.

Getting into the deconstruction then, Ski samples the break from JJ Johnson’s ‘Parade Strut’, and the vocal snippet that appears throughout from the rather obscure ‘Planetary Citizen’ by John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The string parts he composes from Ableton’s own in-built String Ensemble pack, and the bell riff he grabs from an old hotel bell. For those incredible vocals, he enlists the help of Valerie Etienne of Galiano and, lately, Jamiroquoi, who recorded some acapellas. Finally, with a few extra elements thrown in, we hear Ski’s completed version, and the results are quite remarkably similar. Listen to the original below and see what you think.

If you’re not so keen on production and rather see yourself writing these kinds of hooks or working on your voice, Point Blank can help you there too. Check out our classes on singing and songwriting. If you have any queries about anything school related, please contact us or call +44 20 7729 4884.

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** Editors note: Things have moved on significantly since this article was published 🙂 Please head to our blog homepage for the very latest track deconstructions from Point Blank.

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