Famous hooks dissected: The Chainsmokers, Don't Let Me Down

This gem from the unhealthy- sounding New York duo is packed with more hooks than a fisherman’s tackle box… so how does it all fit together to make a smash hit? Below, we analyse the track from start to finish to find out what makes it tick.

0:00 One of the tune’s main hooks is the first thing we hear – a sultry-toned picky jazz guitar riff, underpinned after four bars by long bass notes sustaining the root note of the underlying chords (E B F♯ G♯m). The riff picks out the third in each chord as each change happens – a good tip for generating hooks of your own.

0:13 Entering smoothly over the guitar hook, Daya’s verse melody is a very simple one, and thus very memorable, involving the notes B, G♯ and Bb. This suggests that we might be in the key of G♯m here, as these are the first three notes in the G♯ minor scale.

0:36 “I need ya” sings Daya, three times before adding “right now”. This repeated, three-note hook (E D♯ C♯) takes up the first half of this section, ending with the “now” on a B note. Stepping through scale tones in sequence like this is another useful hook-generation method.

0:48 The second half of this section, the “It’s in my head” lyric, breaks out the melody a little over a kick and clap loop. The “here when I need” line shares two notes (B and G♯) that are a major sixth apart – always a nice, dramatic interval to place into a melody.

0:54 “Don’t let me, don’t let me” mirrors the three note “I need ya” trick from the previous section, but higher up in pitch, using B, Bb and G#, before settling on the F# for “down”.

1:00 Preceded by a final “Don’t let me down” (G# E D), the drop is where all hell breaks loose. The weird bendy synth line is another really ear-catching hook, the unique sound making it memorable despite – or is that because of – the heavy portamento smearing the pitches of the notes. The chorus vocal melody is based around the same three notes that bring in the drop (G♯ E D♯), and repeats throughout with a few minor variations. Somewhere in the background is a group of guys singing “Hey!” on the offbeats.

2:12 The middle-eight section brings us a new keyboard hook played by a brassy synth sound like a miniature fanfare, hopping from three C♯ notes up to D♯ over double-speed kicks. We also get another new vocal hook – “ooh I think I’m losing my mind now, yeah”.

3:01 With the middle section chords forming the song’s outro, a higher version of the brassy synth riff helps round things off nicely. 

Get a full dose of tactics and inspiration for making catchy tunes, and discover How to write Perfect Hooks across 19 pages and 21 videos in Computer Music issue 240.

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