How to Write a Bass Line (or Guitar Riff) like Rage Against the Machine “Bulls on Parade” 

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.

So, over the last few months we’ve been conceptualizing and planning a brand new series for you! And don’t worry, our New Music Theory series will continue like normal, we’ll just switch back and forth between the two. And if you’re wondering why we need a new series, well, there’s two reasons: Firstly, Hack Music Theory is all about relevant music theory, which is why we trawl through the new releases every week to bring you the best new theory. But, there are tons of great songs that were released years ago (like “Bulls on Parade”), which are still totally relevant today, so we’d love to be able to hack these kinds of songs for you as well, and with this new series, we can! And secondly, our other videos are longer, and while that step-by-step process is essential for learning how to write great music from scratch, it does require more of a time commitment from you. Whereas this new series will deliver short videos containing one power hack, which you can instantly apply to music you’re already working on in order to improve it. We respect your time, and we appreciate you giving it to us every week. So this new series is our way for us to continue serving you, but to take up less of your time while offering you more (in the way of insights into songs we wouldn’t otherwise hack). We’re super stoked to bring you a wider range of music theory hacks, and we hope you dig ‘em. Alright, without further ado, it’s time to open your DAW to hack music theory.

The “Bulls on Parade” verses contain one of the grooviest riffs, ever! This is partly due to it having lots of syncopation and being in the pentatonic minor scale, but, there’s a very unexpected note in this riff that takes it to a whole new level. And, it’s not just the addition of this unexpected note, it’s also where this note is placed. So, the note is the 7, and it’s placed between two ♭7s, before resolving to the root.

Alright, now you’re gonna learn how to instantly apply this power hack to your own music, and what you see on the screen right now is our example that we made earlier. We’re using the F Blues scale. And this is our “before the hack” version, and this is our “after the hack” version. We’ll play through ‘em both at the end. So, playing the ♭7 up to the 7 and then up to the root isn’t anything special, but, playing the ♭7 up to the 7 and then going back down to the ♭7, that certainly is special! You see, when you play the ♭7 up to the 7 it creates some serious tension, and only a provocative (and brave!) artist wouldn’t then resolve that 7 up to the root. By the way, if you’re new to music theory and all these numbers are confusing you, then download our free book “12 Music Theory Hacks to Learn Scales & Chords” (link below). It only takes 30 minutes to read, and it’ll give you a super solid theory foundation! Now, the band do resolve to the root after that last ♭7, but that creates frustration as it wasn’t the big resolution the listener expected after the 7, and the resolution didn’t happen when the listener wanted it to. That’s a very cool hack! So, if you’re feeling brave like Rage Against the Machine, then throw this power hack into one of your bass lines or riffs!

Okay, so now that you’ve got one section down, how do you write the other sections? And then, how do you transition between all the sections (especially when they’re in different keys)? And then, how do you structure and arrange your song? Well, these are issues that many songwriters and producers struggle with, 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