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5 Music Theory Hacks Every Musician Needs to Know

Music theory has always had a slight whiff of the uncool about it. However, this bad rep is entirely unjustified. Regardless of whether you’re a composer, songwriter, producer or DJ, reinforcing your musical knowledge (or talent) with music theory can have a profound effect on the quality of your work!

— October 21st, 2020

Today, we’re going to highlight five of the most practical theory-based tips that can help kickstart your creative process the next time your inspiration well runs a little dry.

1. Broken chords

This involves breaking chords into their component notes and playing them as short arpeggios (runs of notes). The technique doesn’t just add rhythmic interest, but it can be a great way of coming up with ideas for cool melodies that work naturally with the chord progression since the notes you pick out are taken from the chords themselves.

2. Animating chords with inversions

Moving the order of notes around within a chord can take a progression in new directions without changing the actual chords. This is easily done by selecting notes and shifting them up and down an octave – most DAWs have a shortcut key for this, such as Shift-Up/Down.

3. Monotony rules

Melody-writing can be tough, but sometimes, if the rhythm is hooky enough, sticking religiously to one note is all you need to do.

Try using a monotone melody in a verse part, and slowly add small variations through the bridge section to build a chorus hook. This approach also allows you to focus on rhythm and sonic variety, rather than just melody alone, for adding interest.

4. Take some giant leaps

To kick things when putting together a melody, try making a dramatic leap up the keyboard. A good interval to use for this is a minor or major sixth.

5. Build an extension

Extending regular major or minor triads by adding extra notes can radically transform a track. For instance, in C major, a Cmaj7 is made by adding the seventh degree of the C major scale (B) to a C major triad (C-E-G).

If we extend the scale up the keyboard beyond the octave, we get into the extended range, where a ninth is essentially the scale’s second degree played up an octave. So an easy way to play a ninth chord is to play a root-position triad (for example, C major – C-E-G) and add in the second degree between the root and the third (C9 – C-D-E-G).

For more music-related tips and hacks, click here

This article is a re-post, with small modifications, of “10 things about music theory that every producer needs to know” an article published on musicradar.com 

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