Production Analysis – Tambourine

Well.. well.. well.. if it isn’t your pal.. me!  I know its been some time since we’ve hung out but if you think about things it really just means I’ve been working on ‘awesome’.  Well, a few awesomes actually.  One such awesome is a parody rap project.  My friend Dee came to me and said “hey, i need you to help me make some bouncy stripper rap for a show my burlesque troop is doing.”  Bouncy stripper rap you say?!  For burlesque you say?  Holy shit!

I must be doing something right in my life if this is the offer that’s fallen in my lap.

That being said, I don’t know a lot about bouncy stripper rap.  To get started I asked for some inspirational tracks.  One such track “Tambourine” by Eve (produced by Swizz Beatz) seemed like a good choice for a new song analysis.  An analysis of a pop tune?  All I can do is promise you something much more obscure next time.  With that… time to get started…

Eve – Tambourine

Before we get crazy: watch the video.  Then watch it again and again.  This song is only 3 minutes, we’re not talking a big commitment here.  And hey, its a pop tune, how hard could it be?  Plenty hard.

This track doesn’t necessarily invent any new wheels but what it does do is it manages to feed North America’s unrelenting swath of attention disorders.  The track is a quick roller coaster constantly finding new ways to present a handful of core ideas.  Not a second of the 3 minutes is wasted or even repeats itself – at least not in whole.

Coming most recently from EDM the one thing I found most interesting about this song approaches phrasing.  If there are 8 bars each pair of 4 will be unique.  However this also applies to ever 4 bars as well.  And every two bars – that is, every two bars something interesting will happen.  Some of them repeat to a point whereas other components of the song continue to change throughout the song.  I will illustrate this point later.

Elements and Structure

This song features drums, lead vocals (eve), supporting vocals (i think this is Swizz Beats), a tuba, some sort of synth, a bucket o’ effects (like sirens), the jamaican dude, some clicking thing and perhaps a couple of things I’ve missed.

This track is dense, every piece finds a place to fit and doesn’t compete with any other element. Listen back a few times, you’ll see what I mean.

Structurally this is a pop tune.  That means there are verses and choruses.  They even follow one another in expected fashion.  What I found interesting was the  take on the chorus (its the section that involves the jamaican guy).

As I mentioned above, within each section there tends to be a lot of variation.  Each section is comprised of some grouping of 4 bar pieces.  Choruses are 8 bars (two 4 bar sections that are reasonably distinct) and the verses range from 8 to 12.  No two four bars will be the same, the ones that tend to be the most similar have the higher impact transitions (silence is a popular tool in this track).

Here’s the structure with the bar counts:


Song Components


The intro in this song warrants having a discussion on its structure alone.  The section is 17 bars and appaers to me have three main components.  A clicky-thing occupies the first 4 count.  Following that is what I call the first drum riff (drums1).  Drums1 gets 8 bars, then the main beat of the verse comes in, I call this drums2 (4 bars).  Followed by final 4 bars of drums1 agains we end up at the verse.

The structure looks like this in my mind:

Count (1) + Drums1 (8) + Drums2 (4) + Drums1(4)

With that being said, within each of the sections there’s plenty of variance.  Drums1 features a chanting jaimaican, a bun of drum rolls, the producer working the hype, fun clicking sounds, and plenty of sound effects.

In the second 4 bars of the first Drums1 section Eve comes in with something that seems like a chant.  She very carefully dances her vocals within the other parts and as a result leaves a very subtle contribution to this part.  This chant announces the change from Drums1 to Drums2 where the whole beat kicks in.

Drums2 is the beat used by the verse.  Its got the big kick drum pattern and all that fun stuff.  In the intro this is quick, 4 bars later we enter the Drums1 riff again.

This time when we’re in Drums1 things are difference.  First we here a chant with the background vocals “shake! shake!”.  2 Bars into this section Eve’s voices comes back in with a shorter version of a chant we heard the first time this riff played.

Verse 1

Verse 1 comes in with a big impact.  First off we’ll notice that the drums changed.  You might also notice that this is a riff you’ve heard before (told you so).  It also starts with some synth chords making everything seem really intense.

Now remember how I just said everything changes every two bars in this song?  Well it does, and not only that every 4 and 8 bars plays off each other.  This verse is a good example, allow me to illustrate.

Verse 1 is 8 bars.  There’s a primary theme that repeats twice, each section is 4 bars.  For each 4 bar section is broken down into a standard call and response.  The general pattern is that the first two bars feature a held chord and the 2 two bars feature a staccato chord only at the beginning of the bar.  Also, every two bars some sirens start playing and play for two bars.

Futrhermore, of the two section, the first four bar section is granted some silence for the last couple beats that the second section doesn’t have.  Yep, so every two bars is different and blocks of 4 manages to be unique too.  There are some other elements that change that I didn’t point out yet (namely the backup shouting dude).  He also tends to change up what he’s saying every two bars and lends himself to transitions as well.

Pretty cool right?  Well the chorus continues this trend of rapid change…

Chorus 1

Like the verse this section is 8 bars.  One big difference here is that of the two 4 bar sections, they are both reasonably different from one another.  The first 4 bars features the drums similar to the intro where there are a lot of drums rolls and the chanting.  The second four bars features the signature clicking riff.

Further variation is added to the chorus every two bars via standard means (the shouting dude).  The last two bars of the chorus also feature the lovely subtle Eve chant.


Verse 2

Verse 2 throws us a left turn when it first comes in.  You might notice something seems missing?  Remember those chords?  Yep, totally gone!  Its an old producer trick – bring the song down a little so that the up parts seem more.. “up.”  The first four bars of this verse rock the more downtempo version.  The transition is met with what you might almost consider a breakdown.  This is a unique cut up of the beat and the vocals.  Its a really cool effect.

After the cool mini breakdown the verse continues onto its next 4 bar section.  This one features the synth chords/stabs.  Notice how the verse seems to have gotten more intense?  Yea, he did that on purpose.  This section repeats in another 4 bar section that’s more or less the same thing.  The big difference in the final 4 bar section is the transitionary element (the “1..2..3…”) and with that we enter the second chorus.

Chorus 2

The second chorus is very similar to the first chorus with only minor differences.  The primary differences I notice are that the shouting gentlemen is shouting different things.  There’s also a new transition into the verse with Eve and a “yo, yo, yo” in growing intensity.  The same 2 bar, rapid change rule, still applies here.

Verse 3

Verse 3 is a lot like verse 2 structurally.  It starts out without the synthline, like verse 2.  The main difference in verse 3 is that each 4 bar section features a unique transitionary element (like a pause in the music, or a special couple of beats for eve to do something epic too).

Chorus 4 and Out

Once you’ve seen the rest of the song there’s not much here that should surprise you.  Changes every couple of bars, re-use of sections we’ve heard before.  There’s some cool stuff with Eve and the chanting dude going on but hey, no sense in writing all of that down here.


I think this song is a great example of ‘rapid change’.  This is very different than what I tend to do (i like to draw things out, no secret there), but when you are going for pop music, things have to be quick.

I never really understood just how much variation could be weaved every two bars until I examined this song in detail.

Swizz Beats is very careful not to let anything be repetitive but he also managed to steer clear of anything obvious.  I really had to dig to find all the moving parts of the song.  Prior to that digging I would just get lost in them, always finding something new.  I imagine this is his intention.  Its also a good lesson.

Hope you enjoyed the article – until next time…