Childish Gambino - Redbone

Oct 2020

Childish Gambino is the stage name of actor, singer, and screenwriter Donald McKinley Glover. The single "Redbone" is representative to me of the Neo-Soul sound contained in his third album "Awaken, My Love!", Produced by Ludwig Göransson.

Donald McKinley Glover

In this video you can see all the instrumentation that I have deconstructed from the song:

The song started out of a drum beat that Donald was playing, over which Göransson began to add elements such as a punchy slap bass guitar and a guitar line with wah over the rhodes harmony. It is important to note that the song has a slight detune of a few hundredths that make the song detuned, so do not be surprised if you are playing the chords on top of the original song and it sounds out of tune. To get rid of this, I have transposed the song 50 hundredths (half semitone) and set the tempo to 155.40 bpm.

The song has the following structure:

chords structure of redbone

The song has two different progressions (verses and the pre-chorus & outros) that are repeated and alternate throughout the song.


The song begins with barely audible strings and a kick drum that leads to the intro. I have recreated the strings with the Solina from the Arturia pack, a recreation of the ARP String Ensemble, a polyphonic multi-orchestral synthesizer from the years 1974 and 1981.

solina strings redbone

The intro displays a progression of 3 basic chords that will be repeated throughout most of the song. In the song they use an unmistakable Rhodes, which I will recreate with Arturia's Stage-73. In this case it was not difficult to find a similar sound, the “Stage Basic” preset is very close, since the Rhodes has not been processed in the original song.

Rhodes Chords

rhodes redbone

The progression rests on a bass with a slap touch in some octave with a quite clean sound, where I have applied a bit of EQ and compression to cut out those intense slap peaks.

In the original song the guitar was recorded passed by a unit Maestro Rhythm 'N Sound G-2 that gives that warm wah-wah touch in the intro, and that heavy fuzz in the outro. It is difficult to exactly digitally emulate the sound of this unit, but I have gotten a close up using the Guitar Rig 5, playing with the Preset "Funky Autowah". To outline the sound, I've added a little tape echo and reverb.

Intro Guitar

Rhythm 'N Sound G-2 redbone
guitar rig guitar redbone

In the intro, a couple of other characteristic elements appear. One of them is a glockenspiel (from the German Glocken, "bells", and Spiel, "game") consisting of a metallic percussion instrument. For this I have pulled one of the instruments that Ableton already comes with by default. I've fiddled around a bit to get a longer tail from the bumps. Being a percussive element, I have added the Ableton Glue Compressor to give it more roundness, as well as a bit of reverb.

glockenspiel redbone

Another resource that sounds in the intro and repeats throughout the song is a small detail of ascending keys, somewhat ethereal and distant, which I have managed to recreate with the Farfisa V of Arturia, a recreation of the organs that became popular among rock groups of the 60s.

farfisa redbone

It has been the most difficult sound to recreate. I had to jump between different presets of the Farfisa until I found one that could serve as raw material, with a crystalline tone, somewhat percussive but at the same time soft. I added a delay to this sound to recreate the space it has in the original song. Here you can listen to the glockenspiel solo with the Farfisa.

Glockenspiel + Farfisa

You can listen to all the Intro elements here:

All Intro elements


In the verse, after the intro, it can be seen that the electric bass is replaced by a bass synth that performs a similar line and that I have recreated with two layers playing simultaneously.

For the first one I used Arturia's Mini V, a recreation from the famous Minimoog. It is made up of 3 triangular waves, one of them an octave below, which I have cut quite a bit in treble with the cutoff. It has a short decay and almost zero sustain so that the sound focuses on the initial beat of each note without letting it sound. Play with the filter and contour and you will get a rounder bass.

mini redbone

Mini Synth Bass

This line rests on a second layer that acts as a subwoofer. For this I have used the TAL-U-NO, digital recreation of JUNO-106. With low values in the FREQ and ENV filters, a flatter and fatter sound is obtained. I have added the chorus to achieve greater amplitude and a little vibrato by increasing the PWM, which gives some movement that is appreciated in the original song.

tal-u-no redbone

TAL-U-NO Synth Sub-Bass

The two at the same time complement each other as follows:

Mini + TAL-U-NO

Finally, to recreate the drums I used the Addictive Drums 2 software. The “Modern Soul R&B” kit seemed to be quite close to the drum sound they used to record the song. I had to make some adjustments in the box to get that punchy sound like the original.

addictive drums preset for redbone

This is how the previous elements sound together:

Verse Instruments

At this point, we have all the elements to recreate the intro, the verses and the choruses of the song. Let's take a look at the other parts.

Pre-chorus & Outro

In the first pre-chorus and in the Outro of the song, new elements appear accompanying the new chord wheel. In the pre-chorus, the song is emptied, the Rhodes disappears, and instead a bass-synth appears with more prominence than the previous one, accompanied by a pedal note from the Rhodes. The Farfisa also appears just before finishing this part, leading to the chorus.

For the sound of this new bass-synth I have used the Repro-5. It has a more aggressive sound, almost like a brass, and I have configured it with the following parameters.

Repro-5 synth bass redbone

Repro-5 Synth Bass

Repro-5 with all instruments

Later, in the second pre-chorus, a Clavinet appears, widely used in funk, jazz and disco music by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan or The Alan Parsons. I have used the Mini V again for it. I have applied the Echo-Boy from Sound Toys to give the shots a few quick repetitions as seen in the original song.

echo-boy redbone

Clavinet without Echo-Boy

Clavinet with Echo-Boy

Clavinet with all instuments

Entering the final stretch of the Outro, we found an inescapable guitar solo with octave fuzz. First, with the pedal note of the Rhodes already discussed previously in the Pre-Chorus, is added another additional pedal note that moves between two notes in a recurring way, as follows.

Synths in the Outro

After a couple of bars, that guitar solo appears like a knife. To recreate it I have used the Guitar Rig 5 with powerful fuzz and compression. I have recorded two guitar tracks with the same line and applied an octave to one of them to achieve that amplitude effect that this solo has. Later, a third layer of guitar appears, harmonizing with a fifth on top, which I've managed to recreate using a pitch pedal.

solo guitar rig

Fuzz Guitar Low

Fuzz Guitar High

Both Fuzz Guitars

Finally, there are a couple of details at the end of the song. Towards 4:33 a distant and bubbly guitar line appears, followed by a lower line at 4:45. Downward piano beats also appear.

Bubbly Guitar

The following uses a guitar tone similar to those used by Tame Impala:

outro guitar rig

Extra Guitar

Perc Piano

All the previous sounds from this part can be listened here:

All Instruments Outro

David Alonso patreonthanks for reading!

If you liked it, or if you want to download the Ableton Projects with the
plugins used and all the tracks & midi files by one click, check out my Patreon page!

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