A great bass line is not only the music’s foundation, it’s also what gets the party started! But, it takes a very repetitive rhythm to get people moving. So in this video, you’ll learn a magic hack for writing bass lines that move people, without boring them. But first…
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Hello revolutionaries, 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 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 Karma Fields’ new track “An Underground System of Forgotten Machines” that just dropped yesterday, the bass line gets your head bobbing before the end of bar one, literally. How? Well, he uses a very clever hack that allows him to deliver the maximum dose of repetition, because the variation is disguised as repetition. Wait, what? Let me explain. He uses the shortest possible rhythmic segment (two notes), which he then repeats over two bars. Next, he assigns three pitches to this rhythm. Now, here’s where the magic happens. Most other producers would simply loop this two-bar bass line and call it a day, but not Karma Fields! He loops only the rhythm, then re-assigns the same pitches, but in a different order. Boom!
Step 1 - Repetition
Set up four bars of 4/4, with your grid set to 1/16 notes, and your tempo set to 97 BPM. Karma Fields uses the notes D♯, E and F for his main bass line. So we’re gonna do something similar, but a little different: we’ll use F as our root note, and Phrygian as our mode. And on that note (or mode), if you need help understanding the modes, then check out the modes hack in our Songwriting & Producing PDF (click & scroll down), which contains all our top music making hacks as well! But if you need help with the basics first, then read our free book on scales and chords (free download below). Alright, so start by creating a short rhythmic segment, using one 1/8 note and one 1/16 note, in whichever order you want. Next, loop those two notes over bar one. You’ll be left with a 1/16 note open at the end, and that’s where you throw in a couple 1/8 notes to change things up a bit as you head into bar two. This also creates an awesome syncopation, as you don’t play the 1st beat of bar two. Then, continue looping your original two-note rhythmic segment over bar two. And once again you’ll be left with a 1/16 note open at the end, but this time, draw in a 1/16 note there. And that concludes your two-bar rhythm, so you can now loop it over bars three and four.
Step 2 - Magic
Right, now you’re gonna assign three pitches to your rhythm. Let’s use the root note (F), the ♭2 (G♭), and the ♭7 (E♭). And here’s how you’re gonna create your contour: start on the root, then go up, then go back to the root, and then go down. And to make it even more interesting, play the highest and lowest notes twice every time you get to them. So in other words, you’re gonna start with one F, then go up to two G♭s, then back down to one F, and then down to two E♭s. Keep this pattern going for the whole two-bar rhythm. And that is your first bass line. Now, here’s where the magic drops. In bars three and four, you’re gonna turn that contour upside down. So, you’re gonna start with one F, then go down to two E♭s, then back up to one F, and then up to two G♭s. Keep this pattern going for the whole two-bar rhythm. And that is your second bass line. Now, let’s keep this between the three of us, but here’s how this magic trick works. Your listeners will perceive these two bass lines as being the same, because of their shared rhythm and pitches. However, their different contours will prevent them from getting boring. Boom!
Right, now that you’ve got one section down, how do you write more sections for it, and then, how do you transition between those sections, and turn 'em into a song? 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 online space (i.e. social media platform) exclusively for our 400+ apprentices from 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 collaborate! If all this 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!).
© 2018 Revolution Harmony
Revolution Harmony is Ray Harmony & Kate Harmony
All content (script & music) in video by Revolution Harmony
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