Producer Ian Kirkpatrick on the bassline for Dua Lipa’s Don’t Start Now: “It’s MIDI, don’t get mad at me! If I could play bass like that, I would!”

Dua Lipa
(Image credit: Mauricio Santana/Getty Images)

With Dance The Night, her new song from the Barbie movie soundtrack, Dua Lipa is staying in the nu-disco furrow that she ploughed throughout much of her hugely successful 2020 album, Future Nostalgia.

That record was introduced in 2019 by lead single Don’t Start Now, a disco banger that was penned by Emily Warren, Ian Kirkpatrick, Caroline Ailin and Dua Lipa herself. Kirkpatrick also produced the track, and back in 2020 he discussed the writing and recording process with Music Week.

Don’t Start Now began life in Emily Warren’s Wyoming cabin during a songwriting session in January 2019, and took shape throughout that year.

“The lyrical concept started in January and the vibe came from the night before,” Kirkpatrick recalls. “We’d gone out to this random bar in the middle of Jackson Hole and it was disco night, and Don’t Start Now came the next day.” 

Lipa ended up recording her vocal in July, but what of that killer bassline, which has since been covered countless times on YouTube?

“The bassline is a little Bee Gees and a little Daft Punk,” reckons Kirkpatrick. “It’s a little bit Alan Braxe and Fred Falke, if anyone knows those DJs - those old Eurohouse kind of classy basslines. It was the sum of me listening to awesome basslines for 10 years and trying to emulate that, so I’m glad people like it.”

It turns out, though, that there was no bass guitar involved at all.

“It’s MIDI, don’t get mad at me!” Kirkpatrick confirms. “But it’s programmed responsibly, so people can actually play it. It’s meant to sound real and it might as well be. If I could play bass like that, I would!”

Discussing the bassline with Sound on Sound in 2020, Kirkpatrick said: "I used the Scarbee MM-Bass plugin for the main bass sound. I played the main part on the keyboard, and then edited it afterwards. There's a sub bass underneath it, and it's blended with slaps in the drop, which is from a [Spectrasonics] Trilian bass patch, plus there's a thumb bass."

It's certainly true that the bassline translates well to a real bass guitar, as you'll hear if you check out Dua Lipa's Tiny Desk performance of Don't Start Now.

The song is also notable for its structure, which Kirkpatrick says differs from other records he’s produced in that it starts with the first line of the chorus.

“The intro used to be the vocal chop that is now the bridge and the outro,” he reveals. “I’ve never been a big proponent of starting a song with a hook for some reason. You don’t want to give away the whole thing and you also don’t want to have too much information being delivered at once. It’s a way of foreshadowing, but it seemed to work out in this case.”

There was another twist in the pre-chorus: “Another bass comes in that’s more like a ’90s synth. I thought the song was too disco, so I tried to depart from that a little bit there. Then, when I realised The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face has a similar structure, where it goes into these big chords and then drops in with the bassline, I thought, ‘Wait a minute, this might actually work!’”

Work it most certainly did - Don’t Start Now hit number 2 on both the UK Singles Chart and the Billboard Hot 100, and set the tone for the album campaign that followed. Kirkpatrick, meanwhile, has gone on to find further success with the likes of Lizzo and Miley Cyrus, and also took time out last year to explain how Reason’s Chord Sequencer helps him to overcome his “music theory shortcomings”.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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