How to Write Guitar like Tom Morello & Drums like Bassnectar in “Rabbit’s Revenge”



Happy New Music Friday, and welcome to the Hack Music Theory show! So, today Tom Morello dropped his new single “Rabbit’s Revenge” (from upcoming album "The Atlas Underground"), which I’m super stoked about, as I’ve been a massive Tom Morello fan ever since I first heard Rage Against the Machine back in 1992. And also, I’ve actually had the monumental honour of working with Tom Morello on a song of mine. Alright, back to Tom’s new single. It’s a really cool crossover of electronic, hip-hop and rock, as it’s a collaboration with producer Bassnectar, and rappers Big Boi and Killer Mike. Now, this song sounds both slow and fast at the same time, and Tom’s riff sounds super gangsta! So, how did they do that? The answers comin’ up. But first… Tea! Alright, now it's time to open your DAW to hack music theory!

1:17 - DRUMS - Bassnectar
There are two main characteristics that give “Rabbit’s Revenge” its unique flavour. The first is that the song feels simultaneously slow and fast. How did they pull off this sorcery? Well, the song’s tempo is 88 BPM (which is relatively slow), and Bassnectar has a huge hip-hop beat going, with a backbeat snare. However, Tom is playing a 16th-note riff on his guitar over the top, which sounds relatively fast. And what connects these two elements, is the 16th-note pattern on the hi-hats. This hack results in the song feeling slow and fast at the same time, and it’s used to connect slow drums with fast melodies in many genres, from nu skool hip-hop to old school death metal. Right, so to make this kinda beat, start by setting your grid to 16th notes. Then, throw in closed hats on all the 16th notes. Then next, slap a snare on beat 2 and beat 4. And then finally, we’re gonna kick beat 1, beat 2+ and beat 3+. And it sounds like this!

2:26 - GUITAR - Tom Morello
The second distinctive characteristic in “Rabbit’s Revenge”, is Tom’s guitar riff (man sound gangsta!). How does Tom create this super edgy sound? Well, he’s using two non-diatonic notes, which are notes that are not in the scale, and therefore sound rather dissonant. This song is in the key of D minor, which contains the notes: D E F G A B♭ C, but in the main riff, Tom also plays an E♭ (which is the ♭2) and a C♯ (which is the 7). These “anti-scale” notes give the song its anti-establishment feel. Alright, so the first thing you’ll notice about this riff, is the two layers. Tom’s in drop-D tuning, so this main riff is centred around a ping-ponging between that low D and the D an octave higher. So, start writing your riff by simply coming up with an interesting rhythm between the low D and the high D. Then, move some of your high Ds up to E♭ and E, and move some down to C♯ and C. Then lastly, we moved a few of our low Ds up a semitone to E♭, for extra gangsta dissonance. And we’re done!

Remember, we intentionally wrote our example to be very similar to the original song, but we did that for the sake of this lesson. So, instead of copying Tom, please explore how you can use these hacks creatively with your own musical personality, so it sounds like you! Also, quick question. Do you struggle to finish your music? If you answered yes, then we can help you. Yes indeed we can, just check out our cutting-edge online apprenticeship course, where you’ll learn how to make new sections for existing sections, how to transition between sections (even when they’re in different keys), and most importantly, how to finish your songs. If that sounds useful to you, the head on over to: Alright, that’s it! We really hope you found this video helpful, and if you did, subscribe and hit the bell to get notifications. Also, we believe in sharing our knowledge for free. Please pay it forwards by teaching these hacks to a friend, so they can benefit from this lesson as well. I’ve been teaching music theory for 24 years, so I can safely say that the best way to learn something, is to teach it to someone else. So, go forth and teach! And on that note, thanks for joining the Hack Music Theory revolution. We’ll see you next New Music Friday!

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


1: Read our free book (below) & watch our YouTube videos
2: Read our "Part 1" book & "Songwriting & Producing" PDF
3: Learn our Secret Art of Song-Whispering, and effortlessly finish your music!

Hack Music Theory is the pioneering notation-free method for making great music. 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), 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 Hack Music Theory method! While these Hack Music Theory YouTube lessons teach music theory for producers and DAW users, they are designed to accommodate all music makers (songwriters, guitarists, etc.) and all genres, from Electronic Music to R&B, Pop to Hip-Hop, Reggae to Rock, EDM/Dance to Metal (and yes, we djefinitely Djent!).