Learn how to write a melody (or guitar riff) using modal mixture, as heard in Opeth “Heart in Hand” off upcoming album “In Cauda Venenum”. Subtitles/CC available.
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 and hit that bell to get notified every Friday, when we publish our new video. Also, if you’re new to our channel, be sure to download our free book “12 Music Theory Hacks to Learn Scales & Chords” below. Alright, it’s time to open your DAW to hack music theory. But first… tea!
Legendary Swedish band Opeth (progressive metal) just dropped the lead single “Heart in Hand” from their upcoming thirteenth studio album. The song launches straight into a one-note groove that might seem disappointing to first-timers, but Opeth fans would know the band are merely laying a root-note foundation for something special to be built on. And we only have to wait until the fourth bar before that something special is introduced. What is it? A mind-blowing melody! What’s so great about it? Many things, but let’s start with the fact that Opeth play both the minor 3rd and major 3rd in their melody. And not only that, they play each 3rd for the exact same duration, giving their melody an equal amount of minor and major emotion. As if that wasn’t enough, the next thing you’ll notice is probably the dissonant ♯4 that suggests they’re in Lydian, which is a major mode as it has a major 3rd. However, the instantly-recognizable note combination of minor 7 and major 6 then suggests they’re in Dorian, which is a minor mode as it has a minor 3rd. And then, just to confuse things even more, they throw in a ♭2 that suggests Phrygian. So after all that, what mode is Opeth’s melody actually in? All of them! How? Well, Opeth are using a technique known as modal interchange (or modal mixture), which is just a fancy way of saying they wrote this melody by combining two or more modes that have the same root note, known as parallel modes. But, Opeth’s use of modal interchange only works because below their melody, they are exclusively playing the root note. For example, if they were playing a minor chord below, then the major 3rd in the melody would clash with the minor 3rd in the chord. But as it’s just the root note below, literally anything can go above!
And just a quick note before we jump into the practical. If you’re new to modes, then this lesson will be a little advanced for you. But, you can learn everything you need to know about modes in three simple hacks, which are available in our Songwriting & Producing PDF (click & scroll down). It also contains hacks on how to write guitar riffs, bass lines, chord progressions and melodies, and it comes with MIDI file examples too!
Alright, now you’re gonna learn how to use this theory to make your own version. And for the example in this lesson, we’ll be using our version that we made earlier. So, start by setting up five bars of 4/4, with your grid set to 1/16 notes, and your tempo set to 120 BPM. Opeth use E as their root note, so we’ll use it too. And by the way, the dark notes below are our root-note bass line (which is on another track). They’re all muted in this track though, they’re just there for reference.
STEP 1. THE 3rds
Right, first things first, or rather, third things first. Arguably the best way to start mixing modes, is to play the major 3rd and the minor 3rd. People are not used to hearing music with both 3rds, so as soon as you play them both, your listeners will know that something special is happening. Also, try to play the 3rds for the same duration, like Opeth do, as that creates a potent 50/50 mix of major and minor.
STEP 2. THE OTHERS
Now it’s time to use those characteristic modal notes. So, start by playing the ♯4 somewhere for that Lydian feel. Then, play the 6 and ♭7 somewhere to get that Dorian vibe. And then, play the 5 somewhere to stabilize the melody and provide your listeners with a brief moment of normality amongst the modal mixture madness.
STEP 3. 1/16 NOTES
Lastly, for some extra spice, sprinkle in the ♭2 for that moody Phrygian sound, but be sure to play the 2 somewhere as well, for a little normality once again. And they go great before or after the root note, so throw in a couple roots as well.
When writing your modal mixture melodies, remember: What you play after each 3 will be affected by that 3's major/minor quality. For example, in our version we play the 3 followed by the ♭7, so that ♭7 feels Mixolydian. But in Opeth's version, they play the ♭3 followed by the 6, so that 6 feels Dorian (not Ionian or Mixolydian) all because of the ♭3 before it. Magic tricks are fun, right?!
Right, so now you’ve got a modal mixture melody. Congratulations! But, if you wanna make a proper epic like Opeth’s song, then you’ll need many more minutes of music (there’s a lot of M’s in this lesson!). So, if you wanna learn how to write other sections (like a bridge) for an existing section, how to transition between sections (especially when they’re in different keys), and how to structure and arrange your song, then check out our online apprenticeship course.
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 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!).
© 2019 Revolution Harmony
Revolution Harmony is Ray Harmony & Kate Harmony
All content (script & music) in video by Revolution Harmony
Thumbnail photo courtesy of loudersound.com/features/is-opeths-mikael-akerfeldt-the-future-of-prog
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