TOOL “Fear Inoculum” Music Theory (Guitar Riffs) 

Can you believe it? After 13 years, there’s finally new music from Tool. So in this lesson you’ll learn a music theory hack from TOOL “Fear Inoculum”, and how to use it to write your own odd time signature riffs and polymeters! 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!

In Tool’s epic ten-minute title track “Fear Inoculum”, there’s a standout section that starts at 5:49. Its foundation is a super tasty 11|8 drum groove (which we’ll hack next time, so stay tuned). The bass line in this section is also in 11|8 and locks in with the drums, creating a tight and energetic rhythm section. Above that, Adam Jones plays some classic Tool-style guitar, centred around the open A string. But the coolest thing about his riff, is that it’s not in 11|8, it alternates between 12|8 and 5|4. This makes the riff feel like it’s speeding up and slowing down, because 12|8 has a pulse of dotted 1/4 notes, while 5|4 has a faster pulse of 1/4 notes. And all this is happening in that polymeter of the guitar playing 12|8 and 5|4 against the rhythm section playing 11/8, which creates crazy syncopation!

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 four bars that alternate between 12|8 and 5|4, with your grid set to 1|8 notes, and your tempo set to 150 BPM. Tool uses A Phrygian for this section, so we’ll use it too.

STEP 1. THE 12|8
The magic of this riff is as much in the rhythm as it is in the pitches, so you’ll write the rhythm first, then add the pitches afterwards. We’ll start with the bar of 12|8, which consists of four dotted 1/4 notes. And if you’re new to dotted notes, a dotted 1/4 note equals three 1/8 notes. Now that you’ve got the rhythm for your 12|8, it’s time to assign pitches. Adam used the Phrygian mode here, cos it has a dark vibe. And if you’re new to modes, A Phrygian is: A B♭ C D E F G. So choose any of those notes, but be sure to start on the open A string, and include the ♭2.

By the way, if you wanna learn everything you need to know about modes in three simple hacks, then check out our Songwriting & Producing PDF (click & scroll down). It also contains hacks on how to write guitar riffs, bass lines, chord progressions, melodies, counterpoint and more, and it comes with MIDI examples too!

STEP 2. THE 5|4
Now, here’s the bit where your riff is gonna sound like it’s speeding up, cos the pulse changes to 1/4 notes in this bar. So, for your rhythm, you can play a combination of 1/4 notes and 1/8 notes. And the more 1/8 notes you play, the more energy you’ll inject. Then after you’ve written your rhythm, it’s time to assign pitches, and once again, you can play any notes from A Phrygian, but be sure to include A and B♭. And here’s a couple bonus hacks. To get that classic Tool sound, you can create some harmonic dissonance by lengthening the low A in your 12|8 bars, so the other notes are played over the top of it. When you hit that high B♭ over that low A, it’s so Tool! But if you want even more Tool, then bend into that high B♭ from the high A.

Right, so now you’ve got a Tool-inspired riff. Congratulations! But, if you wanna make a proper epic like “Fear Inoculum”, then you’ll need many more minutes of music! 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 join our online apprenticeship course.

Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada


Take Your Music to the Next Level

"12 Music Theory Hacks to Learn Scales & Chords" will give you a super solid music theory foundation in 30 minutes!

This is our best-selling PDF, which includes MIDI file examples. Learn the essential hacks for songwriting and 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!

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.

Go from a blank screen to a finished song, in this online 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 700+ 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, 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 by Mick Hutson