The piano is a universal instrument, so a great piano part will give your song a timeless feel. And in this lesson, you’ll learn how to write a beautiful piano chord progression and melody, which will stand the test of time. But first… tea!
DOWNLOAD PDF + WAV + MIDI FROM THIS VIDEO
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 Thursday, when we publish our new video. Alright, let’s jump in...
London rapper DAVE just dropped his new single “Black”, which is a goosebump-inducing song with one of the most sophisticated piano parts we’ve heard in the New Music Friday playlist in a very long time! What makes the piano part so good? Two things. First, the chord progression lasts for an epic 16 bars. This is extremely rare in today’s music, which usually consists of four-bar loops. Second, the chord progression switches back and forth between the natural minor (popular music’s favourite scale) and the harmonic minor, which creates a Classical flavour to the piano part as the harmonic minor is the quintessential Classical scale. And it’s this Classical vibe that adds a timeless feel and a musical weight to the song, which in turn makes Dave’s important lyrics even more powerful.
Alright, now you’re gonna learn how to use this theory to make your own version, and what you see below is our version that we made earlier. So, start by setting up 16 bars of 4/4, with your grid set to 1/8 notes, and your tempo set to 84 BPM. Dave’s song is in the key of D minor, so we’ll use it too.
STEP 1. LEFT HAND (chords)
We’re gonna start with the left-hand part, which will simply play octaves of each chord’s root note. These octaves provide a minimal harmonic backdrop, which creates a more delicate sound than full chords. So, first things first, here’s the menu of chords in D minor that you can choose from: Dm, Edim, Fmaj, Gm, Am (or Amaj), B♭maj, Cmaj, C♯dim. Please note: the Amaj and C♯dim chords are from the harmonic minor. Choose whichever chords you like from the D minor menu, but approach your 16 bars as 4x four-bar chord progressions. And start each four-bar progression with the root chord (Dm), except for the last progression, which you wanna start with one of the major chords in the key, to provide an uplifting vibe to the end of your epic 16 bars. Lastly, the Cmaj to C♯dim movement has a magnetic pull to the Dm, so definitely use that progression somewhere.
STEP 2. RIGHT HAND (melody)
Right, it’s right-hand time, and that means melody! So, using 1/8 notes, come up with a motif (which is a short musical idea) over the Dm chord. Base your motif around the 2nd note (cos it’s a beautiful interval), and the 3rd note (cos it’s a deeply emotional interval) - over Dm the 2nd note is E, and the 3rd note is F. Then once you’ve got your motif, you can re-use it over the other chords (basing it around each chord’s 2nd and 3rd notes). Next, tie ‘em all together with some other notes, and be sure to use some arpeggios too, which is when you play a chord one note at a time. Also, throw in a few melodic variations to keep things fresh.
BONUS HACK (intro)
Lastly, if you want a beautiful intro (like in Dave’s song), then use this hack. Set up four bars for your intro. Now, start on the root chord (Dm) and play it for two bars, then go to another chord and play it for two bars as well. You see, by playing each chord for two bars, instead of one bar or less (like in your verse), the harmony in your intro will move at half the speed. This is so powerful, cos when your verse kicks in, the harmony starts moving at double the speed, which makes everything feel like it’s totally ramping up.
Okay, so now that you’ve got an intro and a verse, how do you write a chorus and a bridge? And then, how do you transition between all the sections, especially if they’re in different keys? And then, how do you structure and arrange your song? Well, all songwriters and producers struggle with these issues in the beginning, and that’s exactly why we made our online apprenticeship course. So, if you wanna overcome these obstacles once and for all, then our course is definitely for you!
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 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
Dave photo by Regina Lemaire-Costa
Wooohooo!!! You’re a mere 30 minutes away from being even smarter than you already are. Just head on over to your inbox now for your free download.