3 music theory hacks to make your music stand out, so you can get discovered!
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 (or Podcast) and hit that bell to get notified every Friday, when we publish our new lesson.
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There’s about 40,000 songs being added to Spotify every day, so the only way you can get discovered, is if your music truly stands out. How do you do that? Well, in this lesson you’ll learn 3 hacks to make your music stand out from the crowd! But first… Tea!
So, to counter all the boring year-end lists of smash hits, we started a new Hack Music Theory tradition last year: The Most Artistic Music of the Year. We selected the winner by asking ourselves this question: What release this year contained the most interesting theory, used in the most creative way, resulting in an accessible work of art. And the vital criteria here is accessibility, cos it’s actually surprisingly easy to write creative music, but it’s surprisingly difficult to write creative music that makes people dance and sing along! Now, without further ado, the winner of 2019’s Most Artistic Music of the Year, is… Dan D’Lion.
Dan D’Lion is a British producer and singer, who came outta nowhere this year with two jaw-dropping EPs ("Perspective" EP & "Betterman" EP). The first time we heard Dan D’Lion was in Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist a few months back, when his song “Simmer Down” totally jumped out at us, and almost nothing on that playlist ever stands out, let alone jumps out! So, in this lesson, we’ll hack the pre-chorus of “Simmer Down”, where three musical elements make this song truly stand out from the crowd. To be honest though, we could easily make four lessons on this one section alone, it’s that good! So as soon as this lesson ends, go listen to Dan D’Lion and hit repeat, cos it’ll take many listens to explore the musical depths of his 10 songs.
Now, just before we jump into the lesson, we’ve got exciting news for you: We’re feeling festive, so one of you will win our bestselling online course: Apprenticeship #1 (worth $150). The course contains 17 hours of video that guides you through every step of the music making process, from blank screen to finish song. Details on how to enter coming up later, but now, it’s time to open your DAW to hack music theory.
Alright, now you’re gonna learn the three theory hacks from Dan D’Lion that will make your music stand out! And for the example in this lesson, we’ll be using our version that we made earlier, using these three hacks. So, start by setting up four bars of 4/4, with your tempo set to 108 BPM, and your grid set to 1/16 notes. Dan D’Lion uses A natural minor for this section, so we’ll use it too.
HACK 1. MODAL AMBIGUITY
The first thing you’ll feel when listening to this section in “Simmer Down”, is that it’s not obvious what the key is. Dan D’Lion very cleverly does this by starting his bass line with a long note that makes us think it’s the root, but it’s not. Then after this long note, he drops down to the real root (A), which is when the ambiguity takes hold, as we thought the bass line started on the root, but now A feels like the root. Dan D’Lion does help us to hear A minor as the actual key though, by playing synth arpeggios in the background that reinforce A minor. Now, while this ambiguity around keys is a trendy hack these days, when most songwriters and producers use it, they just go back and forth between the relative major and minor keys. But that’s not interesting enough for Dan D’Lion, what he does is to go back and forth between A natural minor and its relative Dorian mode. In our example, we chose the relative Lydian mode, so we started our bass line on F. And whatever relative mode you choose, be sure to start your bass line on that mode’s root note. And if you need help understanding the modes, then simply use the mode hacks in our Songwriting & Producing PDF (click & scroll down).
HACK 2. USE THIS NOTE
Now that you’ve blurred the line between A natural minor and the relative mode that you chose, it’s time to blur that blurred line! You see, Dan D’Lion isn’t satisfied with merely creating ambiguity around the key, he then goes on to break free from those two keys by using the note C♯, which is not in either key, so it’s what we call “non-diatonic”. This blurring of the blurred line not only enhances the ambiguity from Hack 1, but it also creates the ultimate standout moment in your song. In fact, it was this exact note that made Dan D’Lion’s song jump out at us in the first place.
HACK 3. COUNTERPOINT
Dan D’Lion used the compositional technique known as counterpoint to write his backing vocals. And counterpoint is when the contour of your backing melody counters the contour of your lead melody. It’s extremely rare to hear counterpoint in popular music, as almost all backing melodies these days just harmonise the lead melody by following its contour, usually a 3rd above or below. But, by using counterpoint to write your backing melody, you inject one of the rarest elements into your song, which will make it truly stand out from the crowd. And by the way, if you need help with counterpoint, then simply use our counterpoint hack, which is also in our Songwriting & Producing PDF (click & scroll down). And, if you need help with writing melodies, then use our Melody Checklist, which is in that PDF as well. It’s the ultimate list of dos and don’ts for writing great melodies.
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 check out our Apprenticeship #1 online course.
Alright, now let’s have a listen to our standout section, but just before the playthrough, here’s how you can win our online course Apprenticeship #1: Write a comment below this video on YouTube, and tell us why you should win. It’s that simple! We’ll then pick our favourite answer, and announce the winner in our newsletter this Sunday (15 Dec 2019). So, be sure to post your comment by Saturday (14 Dec 2019), and also, make sure you’re on our mailing list (you can sign up on our home page).
Sadly, this is our last lesson of the year, but we’ve got EPIC news for you about 2020. When we come back in early January, we’re gonna be launching Apprenticeship #2. This course is the mother of all courses, it’s taken us over a year to make, and it contains over 30 hours of video! So, if your New Year’s resolution is to get serious and commit to your music, then make sure you’ve done Apprenticeship #1 before January, cos come 2020, it’s Apprenticeship #2 time! Thanks for watching (or listening, if you’re on the podcast), and we’ll see you in a few weeks. Until then, happy holidays, and thank you for another magical year, we really appreciate you being here.
Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada
Take Your Music to the Next Level
LEVEL 1 – FREE BOOK
"12 Music Theory Hacks to Learn Scales & Chords" will give you a super solid music theory foundation in 30 minutes!
LEVEL 2 – SONGWRITING & PRODUCING PDF (click & scroll down)
This is our best-selling PDF, which includes MIDI file examples. Learn the essential hacks for songwriting & producing, like our Melody Checklist (the ultimate list of do's and don'ts for writing great melodies). You'll also learn how to write chord progressions, bass lines, riffs, counterpoint harmonies, and more!
LEVEL 3 – LESSON PACKS
After learning our essential hacks, it's time to put them to practical use and start writing some new songs. Lesson packs include step-by-step PDF guides to making music for different instruments and in different genres (electronic, metal, soundtrack, etc.), as well as multitrack MIDI files of the examples.
LEVEL 4 – ONLINE APPRENTICESHIP
Go from a blank screen to a finished song, in this 17-hour video course. Learn how to write new sections for an existing section, how to transition between sections in different keys, how to structure and arrange, and much more! This course has been called "life-changing" many times, so join 800+ music makers now (from all genres), who are learning Ray's secret hack: Song Whispering.
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, Hack Music Theory teaches relevant and instantly-usable music theory for producers, songwriters, DAW users, and all other music makers (guitarists, bassists, singers, 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