TOOL Polymeters • Fear Inoculum (Drums & Bass) 

Instead of watching reaction videos, why not learn a music theory hack from the new TOOL song, and how to use it to write odd time signature bass lines and drum beats! 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” (link 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. We covered the guitar riff in last week’s lesson, so if you missed that please check it out, because the polymeter is actually created from that riff (which alternates between 12|8 and 5|4), playing over the bass and drums (which are in 11|8). While the riff sounds like it’s slowing down and speeding up (due to the pulse changing), the time signature of the rhythm section is constant. So, in this polymeter, those two layers line up with each other every second bar. This results in a super tasty syncopation when the bass and drums accent beat 1 of every other bar of 11|8, because the guitar doesn’t even play that beat. In fact, the 11|8 rhythm section perfectly lines up with the riff’s 12|8 bar right up until that twelfth 1/8 note, which then becomes beat 1 for the bass and drums, but not for the guitar.

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 one bar of 12|8 and one bar of 5|4, with your grid set to 1|8 notes, and your tempo set to 150 BPM.

First things first, you’re probably wondering why you just set your time signature to 12|8 and 5|4, instead of 11|8. Well, the reason for that is so you can actually see the polymeter. In other words, setting your grid like this will reveal that super tasty syncopation, which results from this polymeter. Because, as you’ll notice in the second bar, beat 1 of the rhythm section is an 1/8 note earlier than beat 1 of the guitar. Right, so start by playing closed hats on all the 1/8 notes, except for one of them, which will be an open hat. Then, between any two hats, add a 1/16 closed hat for some spice. Next, add snare hits on the fourth 1/8 note and the tenth 1/8 note in each bar. This will ensure your listeners hear the 3+3+3+2 grouping that Tool use in their rhythm section. And finally, add kicks wherever you want, except for where there’s already a snare.

By the way, if you want help writing better drum grooves, then we’ve got two Drum PDFs (click & scroll down) for you, which both come with MIDI file examples as well!

As we mentioned in last week’s lesson, Tool are in the A Phrygian mode here, which is: A B♭ C D E F G. So you can choose any of those notes for your bass line, but start each bar on A, and be sure to also include B♭ and C, to get that dark Phrygian vibe. Now, regarding rhythm. The grouping here is the same as your drums: 3+3+3+2. And you wanna play 1/8 notes exclusively to match the energy of your drums, but include a few 1/8 note rests as well, to keep the rhythm fresh.

Right, so now you’ve got a Tool-inspired rhythm section. 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


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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
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