How to Write a Chord Progression | “Chords Can Sing” Music Theory Hack

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In this Hack Music Theory video, you’ll learn why people aren’t singing along to your chord progressions, and we’ll give you two hacks to solve this problem once and for all. But first… Tea!
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1:51 – HACK 1 – Chords Can Sing
Have you ever noticed how people don’t really sing along to chord progressions? Instead, they’ll wait for the vocals to come in, then sing along to the vocal melody. The reason behind this phenomenon, is that even the simplest type of chord (known as a triad), offers the listener a choice of three different notes to sing. And this choice happens with every chord in a progression. So for example, if someone is listening to a chord progression containing four triads, the amount of note choices is 3x3x3x3, resulting in a whopping 81 potential melodies to sing. But wait, doesn’t that give them 81 reasons to sing? Nope, because this is the paradox of choice. It’s like when you’re in the grocery store trying to buy a box of organic green tea, but there’s shelves and shelves of different types of organic green tea (welcome to our world haha!), and as a result of the vast amount of choices, you’re totally overwhelmed and can’t decide, so you just walk away. And that is exactly what happens to listeners when they hear chord progressions; the vast amount of note choices totally overwhelms them, so they don’t sing any. Don’t worry though, our Chords Can Sing hack solves this issue once and for all, and will definitely get your listeners singing along to your chord progressions! Right, so if you’ve used the chord hacks in our Songwriting & Producing PDF, you’ll be starting this hack with a well-written chord progression, which includes inversions and sus chords. Now, you need to pull out a melody from your chord progression (by choosing one note from each chord), for your listeners to sing along to. And once you’ve decided on your melody, copy and paste it an octave higher, so it’s now above your chords. This hack makes it sound like your chords are singing, which will in turn make your listeners sing. It works for two reasons: Firstly, it gives your listeners a defined melody to sing along to, and secondly, our ears are drawn to melodies in higher octaves, cos they’re in the vocal range, so doubling this melody above the chords (instead of below), pushes it to the front of the stage and into the spotlight!

4:36 – HACK 2 – Motifation
Now that you’ve given your listeners something to sing, you need to give them the motifation to sing it! Listeners will only feel motivated to sing a catchy melody. And what makes a melody catchy? Yep. Motifs! A motif is a short musical idea, and by repeating it, you make your melody memorable. So now it’s time for what we call “motif hunting”. Motif hunting is when you search through your musical content, hunting for an idea that stands out. When you find that idea, you can then creatively repeat it, thereby turning it into a motif. Using our Chords Can Sing hack together with our Motifation hack, will ensure your chords not only sing, but their melody gets stuck in your listeners’ heads! When we were motif hunting, we found something in our second bar: a beautiful descending melody, which really stands out due to its contour and rhythm. And by repeating that idea in our last bar, we’ll make our melody super catchy. So, let’s move down to the E on beat two, and add in a C♯ on beat 4, so the contour and rhythm match our second bar. And with that, we’re done!

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!).

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(c) 2018 Revolution Harmony


Ben Asaro says:

Great video. Kinda like voice leading?

nandakoryaaa says:

The bass is so good!

anointed01 says:

Loved it!!!

Boris Bantu says:

That bass gets along very well with the melody.Your Hacks always make things look like magic!

Stuardo Valenzuela says:

Great tips!!!! thanks

Dimos of House Metal says:


Anthony Dahl says:

Great music hacks as always! Thanks for giving such useful tricks for music composition!

Willian Wyler says:

You did it again! Great tips!

TheOrangepeak says:

Actually that was way more useful than just a "singable chord" tip ! And while I know all the technics used here, this is a wonderful example, a beautiful melody and I still learned a lot from this <3<3<3 and your chord progression is awesome btw I love it 🙂 🙂 🙂 cheers 🙂 🙂 🙂

Bruce Pearce says:

Thanks for your videos – they introduce me to good ideas that are not the normal run of the mill.

J Lyles says:

Thanks for the book. It covered a few areas I've been missing.

Joe Geraci says:

What a great YT channel. ive been stuck using plain chords no inversions on step 1 of each bar and its a headache just listening to myself. thank you


Thanks, I really liked this one.

Karuveli கருவெளி says:

Thank you for the singable chord progression tips…

Matthew Gates says:

Nicely done, thank you. I didn't prepare my tea beforehand, so now I get to relive the experience, but with Chinese smoked tea. Yum. I'm considering joining the apprenticeship sometime, I read the blog page, and I have one question. As an online participant would I submit music during the composition process and get feedback from you?

Clément Gaume says:

Thank you!!!! I'm currently writing a song called Gate 9. It helps me !
Just a question now : is Ableton Live Lite good ?

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