Ed Sheeran Goes Djent 

What does Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber’s song “I Don’t Care” have in common with the metal subgenre Djent? The answer is shocking and eye-opening, so click play to find out now! Subtitles/CC available.

Just before we jump in though, we wanna say a heartfelt Thank You for your lovely comments on our genre lesson last week, we’re so grateful, and we’re so touched that you feel the same way about genres. You know, we truly are honoured to be a part of this positive and open-minded Hack Music Theory community with you all. And by the way, if you missed last week’s genre lesson, please check it out, because this one is based on that one.

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 Friday, when we publish our new video. 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. But first… tea!

So, apparently we mispronounced Ed’s last name in our lesson last week. Oops! I guess we let the cat out the bag with that: so yeah, we’re not really fans of Ed’s music. He seems like a really nice guy, but his songwriting is just a little too predictable for us. If you dig his music though, that’s awesome. And if you don’t, that’s great too, cos that’s actually the whole point of this lesson. So, what can a Djent fan find to appreciate in Ed Sheeran’s music? Well, in the song “I Don’t Care” that he did with Justin Bieber, the whole track is built on a super syncopated rhythm, which doesn’t even play beat 1 (and by the way, syncopation is when you accent an off-beat). And not only do Ed’s bass and drums lock in to play this rhythm together, but the bass line starts by playing the root note for two bars. Now, here’s the shocker: super syncopated grooves chugged out on the root note are literally what Djent was named after.

So the main feature in Ed’s song also happens to be the main feature in a metal subgenre that’s the antithesis of Ed’s music. How crazy is that?! But, because the instrumentation is different, people sadly don’t hear this connection. And that was one of the genre truths we revealed in last week’s lesson: genre is sonic packaging. Change the instruments, and you change the genre. So if you take the syncopated rhythm from Ed’s song and play it on an 8-string guitar with distortion (or a 9-string, if you’re feeling very Djenty!), then you’re no longer playing pop, you’re now playing metal. And this is only one of countless examples of how you can use the music theory from a song in one genre to write a song in literally the opposite genre, but only when you peel back that sonic packaging first, so you can see the actual notes inside. And that process is exactly what we’ll be exploring in this new genre series. 

Alright, now you’re gonna learn how to use the music theory from Ed’s song to make your own Djent version, but remember, you can use the theory hack in this lesson to make music in any genre you want. And that is true for every video and podcast we have ever made, and there’s about 160 of them already, so tuck in! Right, for the example in this lesson, we’ll be using our version that we made earlier. So, start by setting up four bars of 4/4, with your grid set to 1/16 notes, and your tempo set to 102 BPM. And that’s actually the original tempo of Ed’s song, so we didn’t even need to change the BPM to turn it into Djent. Also, Ed uses F♯ as his root, but we’re taking that way down to a low A.

Ed’s syncopated rhythm is centred around beats 1a, 2+, 3a, and 4+. So we used the exact same rhythm to start with, and we also chugged it out on the root note (just like Ed), to prove exactly how Djenty his song is in its original form. So, over your first bar and a half, come up with a simple but super syncopated rhythm, something like that. Then, as if that wasn’t Djenty enough, Ed uses another classic Djent trick: he throws in a 1/16 note run after the one-note chugs, to add interest. So over beats 3 and 4 in your second bar, add a 1/16 note run. Ed simply uses an octave of the root note for his run, but we’ve taken this opportunity to do something less predictable, and we encourage you to do the same.

Now, you could just repeat these two bars and call it a day, but that would be too repetitive for our tastes, so we changed things up in our third and fourth bars to inject more variation and keep things fresh. They’re still based on the first couple bars, but we just added some extra chugs on the root note, and then we also added a 1/16 note triplet into our run at the end. And that’s it, we’ve now got Edjent!

Lastly, we get loads of people asking how to transition between sections, and also, how to structure and arrange songs. And while these are essential skills to learn, please understand that we can’t teach them for free, because that is our secret sauce which we teach in our online apprenticeship course. So, if you wanna learn how to go from a blank screen to a finished song, then join over 700 other music makers also on the course. And, it helps us pay the rent too, so it’s a win-win!

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 - Practice making music using our lessons (PDF+MIDI+WAV)
Level 4 - Learn our secret art of song-whispering & 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 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
Thumbnail photo of Ed Sheeran courtesy of Heinz