There’s 20,000 tracks being uploaded to Spotify every day, so it’s essential that your melodies stand out in this never-ending stream of new tunes. So in this video, you’ll learn how changing one note can grab the listener’s attention. But first… tea!
Hello revolutionary music makers, we are Kate Harmony and Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony), and welcome to Hack Music Theory. We help you make great music that stands out, so you can move and grow your audience! If that sounds useful to you, then subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit that bell to get notified every Thursday, when we publish our new video. Alright, let’s jump in...
Oxford band FOALS just dropped their new single “Exits”, which instantly stood out on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist. What made it stand out? One note! Wait, how can it be that easy? Well, almost all popular music these days is made using only two scales: the natural minor, and the major. And it goes without saying that there’s obviously nothing wrong with these scales, but, our brains have evolved to switch into autopilot when there’s nothing unexpected in our environment, and that includes music. If there’s nothing unexpected in a song, listeners’ minds will drift off and stop paying attention. So, the easiest way to create something unexpected, is to simply use a different scale, like Foals did in “Exits”.
Alright, now you’re gonna learn how to use this theory to make your own version, and what you see on the screen right now is our version that we made earlier. So, start by setting up four bars of 4/4, with your grid set to 1/8 notes, and your tempo set to 94 BPM. And by the way, the dark notes below our melody are the root notes of the chords in our progression (which are on another track). These root notes are all muted, they’re just there for reference.
Step 1 - Mode
Okay, so this is the natural minor scale: D E F G A B♭ C, which is by far the most overused scale in existence. But, with one tweak, you can turn it into the Dorian mode, which will make it instantly stand out. So, all you do, is move the 6th note, B♭, one semitone up to B♮. And with that, you now have the Dorian mode, which sounds like an upfliting version of the natural minor scale. Right, now we’re ready to write our chord progression. Just before we do that though, if you wanna learn about all the modes and how to use them, then everything you need to know is in our Songwriting & Producing PDF (click & scroll down).
Step 2 - Chords
The Foals song is in D Dorian, so we’ll use it too. That means your chord choices are: Dm, Em, Fmaj, Gmaj, Am, Bdim, and Cmaj. This video is not about writing a Dorian chord progression though, so if you need help with that, then watch our playlist coming up at the end of this video. Right, so the chords we chose are: Dm, Fmaj, Cmaj, Gmaj, and then back to a quick Cmaj. And when you’re writing your chord progression, be sure to play the Gmaj chord, and, be sure to play it towards the end of your progression!
Step 3 - Melody
Finally, it’s time to write your melody. So, for your rhythm, use a combination of 1/8 notes, 1/4 notes, and dotted 1/4 notes. And for your pitches, a good place to start writing your melody, is by using the third note of each chord. For a couple examples of this: the 3rd note in Dm is F, and the 3rd note in Gmaj is B. And that brings us to Foals’ magic trick! The 3rd note in a chord is what creates its emotion: a major chord is uplifting, and a minor chord is serious. And as you’ll remember, this B is the one unexpected note that makes this scale different. So, for the first three bars, the listeners will presume this is in the totally overused natural minor scale. And just as they’re switching into autopilot, we hit ‘em with that B, cos that B makes this chord a surprising Gmaj, instead of Gm (which is what they’ll be expecting). Boom! You now have their attention. Use it well. And by the way, if you want the ultimate list of dos and don’ts for writing great melodies, then use our Melody Checklist, which is also in the Songwriting & Producing PDF (click & scroll down).
Right, now that you’ve got one section down, how do you write more sections for it, and then, how do you transition between those sections, and turn 'em into a song? Great questions, and if this is something you need help with, then check out our cutting-edge online apprenticeship course, where you’ll literally learn every step of the music making process, and most importantly, you’ll learn how to finish your songs! You’ll also gain access to our private network, which is a safe online space (i.e. social media platform) exclusively for our 600+ apprentices from 50+ countries. Our Network is a super supportive place for you to ask theory questions, share your music, get feedback, meet like-minded music makers, and collaborate! If all this sounds useful to you, then head on over to our Online Apprenticeship page now.
Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada
Level 1 - Read our free book (below) & watch our YouTube videos
Level 2 - Read our "Part 1" book & "Songwriting & Producing" PDF
Level 3 - Learn our secret art of songwhispering & finish your music
Hack Music Theory is a pioneering DAW method for making great music that stands out, so you can move and grow your audience! Taught by award-winning music lecturer Ray Harmony, and his protégé wife Kate Harmony, from their studio in Vancouver BC, Canada. Ray is the author of critically-acclaimed book series "Hack Music Theory", and has made music with Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad), Ihsahn (Emperor), Kool Keith (Ultramagnetic MCs), Madchild (Swollen Members), and many more! Kate has the highest grade distinction in Popular Music Theory from the London College of Music, and is the only person on the planet who's been trained by Ray to teach his method. On that note, the "Hack Music Theory" YouTube channel teaches relevant and instantly-usable music theory for producers, DAW users, and all other music makers (songwriters, singers, guitarists, bassists, drummers, etc.) in all genres, from EDM to R&B, pop to hip-hop, reggae to rock, electronic to metal (and yes, we djefinitely djent!).
© 2019 Revolution Harmony
Revolution Harmony is Ray Harmony & Kate Harmony
All content (script & music) in video by Revolution Harmony
Yannis Philippakis (Foals) thumbnail photo by Nabil Elderkin
Wooohooo!!! You’re a mere 30 minutes away from being even smarter than you already are. Just head on over to your inbox now for your free download.