4/4 is the most common time signature for a good reason: it gets people moving! But that same reason means everyone uses it, which makes it kinda boring. So how can you make a 4/4 bass line that’s exciting? The hack comin’ up. But first… tea!
Hello music makers, we are Kate and Ray Harmony, and welcome to Hack Music Theory. This channel helps you make great music that stands out, so you can get discovered! Alright, it’s time to open your DAW to hack music theory.
In their new single “Let’s Go (The Royal We)”, Run the Jewels use a standard 4/4 drum beat, with a kick on beat 1 and a snare on beat 3. But, when it comes to their bass line, that’s a whole different story! Let me explain. 4/4 contains four 1/4 notes, which are grouped in twos. This results in the expected (and therefore kinda boring) accents on beat 1 and beat 3. Now as you know, four 1/4 notes divide into eight 1/8 notes. So, instead of grouping the 1/8 notes in their bass line into the usual 4+4, Run the Jewels group them into 3+3+2, which creates unexpected (and therefore exciting) accents on beat 2+ and beat 4.
Please note: For the sake of this lesson, our example is very similar to the original song. Instead of copying the song though, explore how you can use this hack creatively with your own musical personality!
3+3+2 (Step 1)
Set up one bar of 4/4, with your grid set to 1/8 notes, and your tempo set to 128 BPM. “Let’s Go” is in the key of E♭ minor, so we’ll use it too. Right, so start by playing a low 1/8 note on beat 1, beat 2+ and beat 4. These low notes are the first note of each group, and this “melodic accenting” will ensure your listeners hear that 3+3+2 grouping. We need to do this, because that common grouping in 4/4 is so pervasive, that your listeners will need help hearing this unusual 3+3+2, especially if your drums are still playing that 4+4 grouping (like they are in this song).
Arpeggios (Step 2)
The bass line in “Let’s Go” is an ascending E♭m arpeggio that’s repeated, and once again, the reason this works so well is because it not only outlines the root chord, but it also outlines that 3+3+2 grouping. Right, now it’s time to fill in the missing notes. So for this example, let’s also start with an arpeggio on the root chord, to establish the key. We chose the 1, the ♭3 and an octave of the 1. And then in the second half, reuse a couple of those notes. We reused the 1, and an octave of the ♭3. Next, if you want some extra spice, switch it up by using a couple notes that are not in the root triad. We chose the ♭7 and the 2. Then lastly, to keep things fresh, you’ll probably wanna throw in a little variation at some point, too.
Right, 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! You’ll also gain access to our Private Network, which is a safe social media platform exclusively for our apprentices (and we already have over 400 apprentices, from over 40 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 more! So if all that 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!
Learn how to make great music that stands out, so you can get discovered! Taught by award-winning music lecturer Ray Harmony, and his protégé (and wife) Kate Harmony. Ray is the author of critically-acclaimed book series "Hack Music Theory" and has been teaching music theory for 24 years, and along the way he's 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 Hack Music Theory method! While our 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!).
Photo of Run the Jewels by The Come Up Show from Canada CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
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