Dissecting 'Starboy' (Artistic Piano Interpretation): Part 1

For me, listening to "Starboy" by The Weeknd provides a feel-good experience. Simply said, I can jut sit back and bob my head easily to its 4/4 beat.

One big reason behind what makes "Starboy" feel good to listen to is due to the percussion sounds that act as the blanket of the song. While the song sounds as if it's constantly being hammered with 16th-notes played by closed hi-hat and congas, it also establishes a sense of unforced momentum throughout the entire song, which ironically contributes toward creating an easy-feeling from the listener's perspective.

Press 'play' button below to listen to the 16th-note percussion rhythm.
*All notations created using Flat!

Here's my Artistic Piano Interpretation of "Starboy".
All of my artistic piano interpretations are improvised: played by ear with no sheet music.

Quick summary:
Key signature: A minor
*Vibe key signature: A minor
(my own musical term, referring to a subset key signature that differs from the theoretical key signature: a common phenomenon with popular music)
Time signature: 4/4
Main chord structure: A minor - G major - F major - G major


The biggest challenge behind working on this rendition was to capture its "easy-ride" feel, while not replicating the same percussive sound as the bass line. If I were to maintain the 16th-note pattern as my left hand, it would sound more like bullets shooting (press 'play' below to experience a scary-sounding example):

While the chord structure (meaning a set of chords that repeats itself) of this song is A minor - G major - F major - G major, the introduction section of "Starboy" is sustained with A minor until the verse (where the singer starts singing) starts. In order to create a more flowing and less disruptive-sounding bass line in the introduction section, I took the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes from A minor chord (A, C, E), along with the 7th note (G) and decided to play a broken (as apposed to solid chord) dominant 7th chord as the backbone for the left hand. The notes of the broken dominant 7th chord were played in random order to create a sense of anticipation leading to the introduction, while keeping the A as the starting note as it established the root of the chord. Articulation-wise, the sharp closed hi-hat sound was imitated by playing the notes staccato, resembling choked sounding notes.

Stay tuned for Part 2 analysis of "Starboy" to find out more about how I listen and interpret songs to create popular music as solo piano performances!

Flat, is a web-based music notation software that allows you to write music for free. If you have any questions about any of the notations that I shared with you above, I'd love to hear from you! Simply create your free account with Flat, and leave your comment directly on the notation and I'll reply!