“Is this pop? Now it’s R&B… it’s got the double espresso thing going on”: pro pianist Erskine Hawkins creates a new version of Sabrina Carpenter’s hit single based on just the drums and vocals

Pro Pianist Hears Sabrina Carpenter For The First Time 🔥 - YouTube Pro Pianist Hears Sabrina Carpenter For The First Time 🔥 - YouTube
Watch On

We have to congratulate Pianote, because for its latest piano challenge, it appears to have found one of the few music fans in the world who hasn’t heard Sabrina Carpenter’s Espresso.

Actually, we should say ‘hadn’t heard’, because pro keyboard player Erskine Hawkins has now been made aware of Carpenter’s smash-hit single, but only after he was asked to try and recreate the song based on hearing just the drums and vocals.

Given his jazz and gospel predilections, it’s perhaps no surprise that Hawkins’ version - he comes up with bass, synth, strings, organ and piano parts - has a slightly more soulful flavour than the original, but he’s not a million miles away with his new arrangement

Perhaps that’s because Hawkins’ has some knowledge of the pop world, too, having previously toured with the likes of Rihanna and Eminem and served as musical director for Zendaya. He also indicates that the harmonic content of Carpenter’s backing vocals gave him some idea of what was going on in the arrangement.

“Is this pop?” he asks, after hearing the original track for the first time. After being told from the control room that, yes, it probably is, Hawkins shoots back by saying that “now it’s R&B,” adding that “it’s got the little double espresso thing going on”.

It was previously revealed that Espresso's main groove is built on three Splice loops from the Power Tools Sample Pack III on Splice

If you want to have Hawkins teach you how to play gospel piano, sign up for a 7-day trial on the Pianote website.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

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.