The 9-Note Minor Scale - Music Theory from Muse “The Dark Side”



Learn how Matt Bellamy (Muse) writes arpeggios by fusing the natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor scales (as heard in "The Dark Side" from upcoming album "Simulation Theory") to create a 9-note minor scale.

Hello revolutionaries, and welcome to the Hack Music Theory show's New Music Friday series, where we trawl through the new releases every week to find the hottest theory hacks for your weekend studio session! Alright, it’s time to open your DAW to hack music theory.

Matt Bellamy is famous for his classical-influenced riffs, and his arpeggios in “The Dark Side” verses are a perfect example. What makes these arpeggios sound classical instead of pop? Well, Matt doesn’t limit himself to only using the natural minor scale (like in most pop music). He opts for a combination of the natural minor, the harmonic minor, and the melodic minor. This fusion of scales gives him two extra notes to play with, essentially creating a nine-note scale: E → F♯ → G → A → B → C/C♯ → D/D♯

The verses are in the key of E minor, and the E natural minor scale has the notes: E → F♯ → G → A → B → C → D, but the E harmonic minor scale has a D♯ instead of a D, and then the E melodic minor scale throws in a C♯ as well, so when you combine all three scales, you end up with nine notes. And why write music with seven notes when you can use nine, right? Now, are you ready to write some arpeggios using the “Muse minor”? Alright, we’ve got 4 simple steps for you!

Step 1:
Start by writing a 1/16 note arpeggio on the root chord (Em), as this will establish the key. And then, just loop that arpeggio over two bars.

Step 2:
Go to another chord that’s still in the natural minor scale (we chose Cmaj), and write another 1/16 note arpeggio, then loop that over two bars as well. This will really anchor your riff into the key of E minor, cos next up, we’re going off-road! 

Step 3:
Alright, now it’s time to switch into the harmonic minor, so choose a chord that contains the note D (we chose Bm), and then change that D to a D♯ (which turned our Bm into a Bmaj). And if you wanna sweeten the surprise of that D♯ even more, make your listeners wait a bar for it. Matt does this by using a Bsus4 chord for one bar, which then resolves in the next bar to a Bmaj, instead of the Bm that everyone’s expecting! 

Step 4:
Okay, so up to this point, you’ve used the natural minor and harmonic minor scales. And now that your listeners are adjusting to those, it’s time to surprise them yet again. Introducing... the melodic minor! Choose a chord that contains the note C (we chose F♯m7♭5), and then change that C to a C♯ (which turned our F♯m7♭5 into a F♯m7). And a quick bonus step. If you wanna properly blow your listeners’ minds, like Muse, then throw in a note here that’s not in any of the three minor scales. This means you’re now using an unbelievable 10 different notes in your riff! Okay, so Matt uses an A♯ here instead of an A, which turns the F♯m7 into a F♯7. Then lastly, feel free to sprinkle some other chords into your progression, like we did with the Em, Cmaj, and Am. And with that, you’re done!

So, now that you’ve got one section down, how do you write a new section for it, and then, how do you transition between those two sections? 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! Also, please note that we intentionally wrote our example to be very similar to Muse, but we did that for the sake of this lesson. So, instead of copying Muse, please explore how you can use this hack creatively with your own musical personality, so it sounds like you! Alright, that’s it! We really hope you found this video helpful, and if you did, subscribe on YouTube and hit the bell to get notifications. Also, we love hearing from you, so come say hello in the YouTube comments. Thanks for joining the Hack Music Theory revolution, and we’ll see you next week!

Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada

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2: Read our "Part 1" book & "Songwriting & Producing" PDF
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Hack Music Theory is the pioneering notation-free method for making great music. Taught by award-winning music lecturer Ray Harmony, and his protégé (and 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), Ihsahn (Emperor), Kool Keith (Ultramagnetic MCs), 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 Hack Music Theory method! While these Hack Music Theory YouTube lessons teach music theory for producers and DAW users, they are designed to accommodate all music makers (songwriters, guitarists, etc.) and all genres, from Electronic Music to R&B, Pop to Hip-Hop, Reggae to Rock, EDM/Dance to Metal (and yes, we djefinitely Djent!).