5 Ways To Play Like Thomas Dolby

A lesson from the February 2011 issue of KEYBOARD.
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Thomas Dolby has injected his signature sonorities into more than three decades of timeless pop music. Here, we delve into five of his classic tracks for insight into the acclaimed storyteller’s harmonic and melodic sensibilities, all adapted from MIDI files and lead sheets Mr. Dolby was kind enough to send to us personally. Find out more at thomasdolby.com.

1. “She Blinded Me with Science” Synth Solo

Ex. 1 is Thomas Dolby’s whimsical synth solo from “She Blinded Me with Science” from The Golden Age of Wireless.

Science soloTD

2. “Hyperactive!” Bass Line

Dolby and The Flat Earth’s bassist Matthew Seligman created the bass part to “Hyperactive!” by sampling Seligman into a Fairlight CMI. Then, notes were played from the Fairlight’s keyboard. Dial up an exaggerated slap bass sound and play Ex. 2 with repeats as marked.

hyperactive bass5 - 4-string Bass Guitar

3. “Budapest by Blimp” Piano Intro

In Ex. 3, the plaintive electric piano intro to “Budapest by Blimp” (from 1988’s Aliens Ate My Buick) showcases Dolby’s penchant for Bill Evans-like cluster voicings.


4. “I Love You Goodbye” Piano Solo

“I Love You Goodbye” from Dolby’s 1992 album Astronauts & Heretics features a Cajun-inspired accordion and fiddle intro, and the Americana-tinged piano solo in Ex. 4.

I Love You Goodbye (wTimeSig)

5. “Simone” Piano Reduction

Dolby’s latest EP Oceanea includes the masterfully modulating bossa ballad “Simone.” Ex. 5 is a piano reduction adapted from Dolby’s own charts, as well as the recording itself. The song is based around three tonal centers: Gb starting at bar 1, G starting at bar 29, and E starting at bar 60.