Do your melodies get stuck in the heads of everyone who hears them? If not, don’t worry, just watch this video and learn the instantly-usable hack that will ensure you write contagiously catchy melodies. But first… tea!
Hello revolutionaries, we are Kate Harmony and Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony), and welcome to Hack Music Theory. This website helps you make great music that stands out, so you can get discovered! If that sounds useful to you, then subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit that bell to get notified every Saturday, when we publish our new video. Alright, it’s time to open your DAW to hack music theory.
In his new single “Bra Fie” (ft. Damian Marley) that just dropped this weekend, Fuse ODG breaks up his verses with the funkiest horns! This brass melody is so catchy that it takes over from the vocals, and functions as a secondary hook. What makes it so catchy? Three things. First, it’s in the pentatonic minor scale, which only has five notes. This makes the melody simpler, and therefore easier to remember. Second, it uses a motif, which is a short musical idea. Repeating a motif creates a pattern in the melody, making it even more memorable. And third, it uses rests. Unlike our DAWs, brass players need to breathe, and these rests create phrases that divide the melody into easily digestible chunks.
Step 1 - Pentatonic
Set up two bars of 4/4, with your grid set to 1/16 notes, and your tempo set to 99 BPM. “Bra Fie” is in the key of A minor, and the chord progression goes back and forth between Am and Dm, so we’ll do the same. And the dark notes at the bottom (below the melody) are the root notes of those chords, but they’re muted, they’re just there for reference. The pentatonic minor scale excludes the second and sixth notes of the natural minor scale, so in A minor, we omit the notes B and F. And it’s important to remember that we’re only using the pentatonic minor scale for our lead melody. Under our pentatonic lead melody, we’re still using the full seven-note natural minor scale for our chords, bass, and even our brass counterpoint harmony, which you’ll hear in the background.
Step 2 - Motif
Now, using mainly 1/16 notes, write a motif in your first bar. And the reason you wanna mainly use 1/16 notes, is that short notes inject energy into your motif, resulting in a vibrant melody. However, a motif with only 1/16 notes will get boring real quick, so be sure to use at least one longer note somewhere as well. Our motif consists of three 1/16 notes, followed by a dotted 1/8 note, and then finished off with four 1/16 notes. And regarding their pitches, we’re going 1 → ♭7 → 1 → ♭3 → 4 → ♭3 → 5 → 4.
Step 3 - Repeat & Rest
Next, copy and paste your motif into your second bar, then change the pitches of the second half of it, for variation. We kept the first three notes the same, but changed everything from our long note on. This creates the ultimate combination of familiarity and freshness, as the rhythm in your second bar will be familiar to your listeners, but the pitches will be fresh. And finally, throw in a few notes at the end of both bars to link everything up, but remember to leave some space for the melody to breathe.
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, collaborate, 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!
Hack Music Theory is the pioneering notation-free method for making 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, 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!).
(c) 2018 Revolution Harmony
All words and music in video by Revolution Harmony
Revolution Harmony is Ray Harmony & Kate Harmony
Photo of Fuse ODG & Damian Marley courtesy of Off Da Ground Records
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