Learn how to write a chord progression for an epic chorus, by using a music theory hack from Leprous “Alleviate” (off new album “Pitfalls”).
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Norwegian band Leprous just released their new album “Pitfalls”, and it’s truly epic! One of the most epic moments is the chorus in their song “Alleviate”, which we’ll hack over the next two lessons: chords this week, then melody next week.
Alright, now you’re gonna learn how to make your own epic chord progression, like Leprous. And for the example in this lesson, we’ll be using our version that we made earlier. So, start by setting up eight bars of 4/4, with your grid set to 1/4 notes, and your tempo set to 116 BPM. Leprous use D natural minor for their chorus, and the natural minor scale is a common choice for epic music, so we’ll use it too.
STEP 1. COMMON NOTES
A common note is a note that’s the same between two chords. For example, Dm and Fmaj both contain the notes F and A, so F and A are common notes between those two chords. And common notes are an essential part of epic music, cos having a note or two stay the same when your chord changes, creates a super strong link between those chords that adds power to your progression. So, when you’re choosing what chords to use from the key of D minor, be sure to choose chords with common notes. For our progression, we chose: Dm → Fmaj → B♭maj → Csus4. And the reason for Csus4, is because Cmaj doesn’t have a common note with the B♭maj before it or the Dm after it, so we changed the Cmaj to Csus4, which gives us the common note F.
STEP 2. INVERSIONS
Now that you’ve chosen your chords, it’s time to use inversions to get the common notes in the same place within your chords as they change. And by the way, an inversion is simply when you change the order of the notes in a chord. For example, we inverted Fmaj to be CFA, instead of FAC. And we did that to get those common notes (F and A) in the same place as they are in Dm. So now F is in the middle of both chords, and A is on top of both chords, which makes this chord change super strong, and therefore epic!
STEP 3. RHYTHM
When it comes to how long you spend on each chord (known as harmonic rhythm), keep it simple, as your chord progression is just the foundation upon which you’ll write an epic melody. So if get too fancy with your harmonic rhythm, your chords will actually draw attention away from your melody. And epic music is all about the melody, which we’ll cover next week. Now, Leprous plays each chord for one bar, so we’ve done the same.
STEP 4. VARIATION
This is optional, but if you create a little variation in your progression, it’ll inject some freshness. We did this by resolving Csus4 to Cmaj every second time, but then we go straight back to Csus4, as that 4 (F) is the common note that links to the next chord, Dm.
So, now that you’ve got one section coming together, 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 course, which 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, which we don’t teach in these free lessons, then sign up now for this one-of-a-kind video course.
Thanks for reading/watching/listening, and we’ll see you next week!
Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada
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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!).
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Revolution Harmony is Ray Harmony & Kate Harmony
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