How to Write an Unpredictable Melody 

Learn how to write a non-diatonic melody, using a music theory hack from TheFatRat “Chosen” (ft. Anna Yvette & Laura Brehm).


German producer TheFatRat dropped his new single “Chosen” this month, which definitely avoids Spotify’s infamous five-second skip rate, as a mere four seconds into the track there’s an extremely unexpected note in the melody that’s totally thrilling! At first it sounds like he’s changing the quality of the root chord from major to minor, cos after establishing E as the root, the melody moves from G♯ (3) to G♮ (♭3), making it sound like Emaj has become Em. But after that G♮ and another E, instead of going to B again, his melody hits C♮ (not C♯), revealing the chord has actually become Cmaj/E (♭VImaj), not Em. This is an ingenious illusion, as he emphasizes the melodic movement from G♯ to G♮ in order to trick our ears into thinking the root chord quality has changed!

Alright, now you’re gonna learn how to use this theory to make your own version, and what you see below is our version that we made earlier. So, start by setting up four bars of 4/4, with your grid set to 1/32 notes, and your tempo set to 95 BPM. As you already know, “Chosen” is in the key of E major (with a couple of non-diatonic notes), so we’ll use E major as well. And by the way, a non-diatonic note is just a note that is not in the scale. Also, those 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. And no, this is not our bass line, that’s a different melody (see MIDI file).

First things first, you need to write your chord progression. Choosing your chords before you write your melody will allow you to outline that harmony in your melody, which will make it more structured and therefore more memorable. So there’s only a few guidelines here: play Emaj in your first bar (to establish it as the root chord), and play Cmaj in your third bar. Also, after you’ve played the Cmaj, keep using those non-diatonic notes C♮ and G♮ until the end of your progression. For example, use Am (as it contains C♮) instead of Amaj (as it contains C♯). This will make your listeners get used to those non-diatonic notes, then when you loop around and hit that Emaj, they’ll be surprised to hear G♯ again, which will keep ‘em interested!

TheFatRat uses 1/32 notes (with a rest after each note), which makes his melody super perky, so we’ll do the same. So, start by outlining the Emaj triad, then to keep it fresh, throw in a note (or two) that is not in the triad but is in the scale (like D♯). Then use the same approach over your other chords. And be sure to emphasize the G♯ moving to G♮ when the Cmaj chord hits. Also, don’t play C♮ in your melody until you get to the Cmaj, otherwise that’ll ruin the surprise of that totally unexpected chord.

Okay, so now that you’ve got one section down, how do you write the other sections? How do you transition between them (especially when they’re in different keys)? And, how do you structure and arrange your song? These are issues that many songwriters and producers struggle with, and that’s exactly why we made our online course Apprenticeship #1. So, if you wanna overcome these obstacles once and for all, then sign up 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 - 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 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 photograph by Steve Galli