Bass Transcription: Dua Lipa – ‘Levitating’

‘Levitating’ was the fifth single from Dua Lipa’s sophomore album, 2020’s Future Nostalgia, released to similar commercial success as her previous efforts, reaching number 5 in the UK Top 40 chart and providing the singer with her tenth UK top ten single.

The song has attracted some controversy due to supposed copyright infringement from a number of sources, most notably reggae band Artikal Sound System. Adam Neely’s video does a succint exploration of Levitating’s musical origins and finds a surprising number of artists that Dua Lipa and her writing team might have ‘borrowed’ things from, including (but not limited to) The Jackson 5 and Outkast:

Dua Lipa – ‘Levitating’ bass transcription PDF

The bassline, programmed by producer Stuart Price, does its best to emulate what a human being with a bass guitar might do when confronted with a i-v-iv-i chord sequence in B minor; syncopated octaves, ghost notes, hammer-ons and even the occasional popped note.

The main part itself isn’t too demanding, although there’s an art to getting the right dynamic balance between plucked, hammered, and popped notes; as with many pop songs, the verse groove is recycled for the chorus, so once you’ve got the hang of the main groove there’s not much else to deal with.

One figure that might take some getting used to is the pentatonic run that first appears at bar 28 of the transcription (doubling the melody of the vocal hook “I’m Levitating“). The taxing thing about this figure is getting the articulation right – I’ve opted to notate the fill with a hammer-on, slide and then two consecutive pull-offs, as this was the only way that I could make it sound and feel close to the original part.

The breakdown (bar 37-40) uses a more synth-like sound, so my preference here is to play the written part an octave higher and use an octave pedal to achieve the keyboard-like tone. This is one of my favourite things to do on more recent pop tunes (such as Clean Bandit’s ‘Rather Be’), mainly as it justifies buying pedals and bringing them to the gig.