Do you have a bass line, but now you wanna learn how to write a chord progression for it? Then simply use these 3 steps!
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 (or Podcast) and hit that bell to get notified every Friday, when we publish our new lesson. Also, if you’re new to our channel, be sure to download our free book “12 Music Theory Hacks to Learn Scales & Chords” below. Alright, it’s time to open your DAW to hack music theory.
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Okay, so you’ve got a great bass line, but now, how do you write a great chord progression on top? That’s what you’ll learn in this lesson. But first… tea!
Over the last couple of lessons we’ve showed you the workflow needed to overcome that blank screen and get a new song started in minutes, so if you missed those, check ‘em out. Right, now you’re at the point where you have a solid section with bass and drums, but it’s not finished yet. You still need to add that vital musical ingredient: Chords. So, follow these 3 steps to add a chord progression:
STEP 1. ROOTS
Just a quick heads up if you missed last week’s lesson, our bass line here is in the key of G minor, with a few chromatic notes. Right, so start by copying and pasting your bass line into your chords track, then muting it. That’s just there for reference. Now, the first thing you need to do is decide what chords you wanna build above what notes. And the obvious thing to do is to approach each note in your bass line (excluding chromatic notes) as the root note of a chord, for example, G would be the root note of Gm. And this approach is great for most notes, but try switch it up on at least one note, which is what we did here at the end, where we decided to build Dm above A in the bass. In other words, we approached that A as the 5 of the chord (D F A). For every longer note in your bass line, you usually wanna think of it as the 1 or 5 of a chord, cos those are the most stable notes. But then on the other hand, you usually wanna ignore all those quicker notes that you added to your bass line in step 3 of last week’s lesson. Those are what we call non-harmonic notes, they’re not part of the harmony, they’re just there to make it a better melody.
STEP 2. RHYTHM
Right, so now you need to decide where your chords are going to change. This is known as harmonic rhythm, in other words, the rhythm of the chords. And we created an interesting harmonic rhythm by placing some of our chord changes on off-beats. This step is sadly left out by most songwriters and producers these days, and as a result, most chord progressions have a super boring harmonic rhythm, like changing on the predictable beat 1 or beat 3. Remember, no matter how great the chords are in a progression, it’ll end up getting boring if the harmonic rhythm is too predictable. And finally, once you’ve decided on your harmonic rhythm, simply fill in the triads.
STEP 3. FLOW
Now, while that’s sounding good, it’s definitely not sounding great, yet! And that’s why this next step is such a game-changer, and that is to smooth out your chord changes, so you don’t get those disjointed jumps from one chord to the next, like we have now. There are two ways to do this, depending on whether you have a common note, like between Fmaj and Cm (as both chords have the note C), or, if you don’t have a common note, like between Gm and Fmaj. We’ve made two lessons specifically on how to use both of these methods, so check them out at the links below. And once you’ve done that, you’ll not only have chords that all flow beautifully into each other, but you’ll also have added a melodic element to your progression. Adding a melodic element to chord progressions is sadly another step that most songwriters and producers don’t do nowadays, so simply by applying this step to your chord progressions, your music will easily stand out!
So, now that you’ve got one section down, how do you write the other sections? Then, how do you transition between them (especially when they’re in different keys)? And then, how do you structure and arrange your song? These are issues many songwriters and producers struggle with, and that’s exactly why we made our online apprenticeship. This video course guides you through every step of the music making process, from blank screen to finished song. So, if you wanna learn our secret method for writing (and finishing) great songs, sign up now!
Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada
Take Your Music to the Next Level
LEVEL 1 – FREE BOOK
"12 Music Theory Hacks to Learn Scales & Chords" will give you a super solid music theory foundation in 30 minutes!
LEVEL 2 – SONGWRITING & PRODUCING PDF (click & scroll)
This is our best-selling PDF, which includes MIDI file examples. Learn the essential hacks for songwriting & producing, like our Melody Checklist (the ultimate list of do's and don'ts for writing great melodies). You'll also learn how to write chord progressions, bass lines, riffs, counterpoint harmonies, and more!
LEVEL 3 – LESSON PACKS
After learning our essential hacks, it's time to put them to practical use and start writing some new songs. Lesson packs include step-by-step PDF guides to making music for different instruments and in different genres (electronic, metal, soundtrack, etc.), as well as multitrack MIDI files of the examples.
LEVEL 4 – ONLINE APPRENTICESHIP
Go from a blank screen to a finished song, in this online video course. Learn how to write new sections for an existing section, how to transition between sections in different keys, how to structure and arrange, and much more! This course has been called "life-changing" many times, so join 700+ music makers now (from all genres), who are learning Ray's secret hack: Song Whispering.
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 multi-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