Music Theory for Songwriters: From Beginner to Producer | Mike Barnes | Skillshare

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Music Theory for Songwriters: From Beginner to Producer

teacher avatar Mike Barnes, Music Instructor

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

16 Lessons (1h 43m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Class Project

    • 3. Getting Started

    • 4. Keys

    • 5. The Major Scale

    • 6. Minor Scales & Keys

    • 7. Chords

    • 8. Chord Progressions

    • 9. Chord Progressions Made Easy

    • 10. 7th Chords

    • 11. Extensions

    • 12. Sus Chords

    • 13. Inversions

    • 14. Melodies, Leads & The Pentatonic Scale

    • 15. Developing Our Song

    • 16. Final Lesson

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About This Class

Music theory can be a complicated, confusing subject. But it doesn't have to be! Did you know most popular songs use just a couple of easy concepts, which once you learn make the process of writing and producing music an absolute breeze.

In this class, we're going to tackle everything you need to know about music theory to write great pieces of music. 

In this class you will learn about:

  • The basics of music theory
  • Keys
  • Relative Major/Minor 
  • Songwriting basics/development
  • Major scale
  • Chords
  • Chord progressions
  • Chord progressions inside the circle of 5ths
  • 7th Chords
  • 9, 11, 13th chords
  • Sus chords
  • Chord inversions
  • Melodies, leads & bass lines
  • The pentatonic scale 

By the end of this course, you'll have an excellent understanding of how to use music theory to confidently write amazing music.

If you want to learn more about music production you can check out my Garageband guides below!

Beginners' guide to Garageband Mac

Beginners' guide to Garageband IOS 

I'd be more than happy to help you out, so please feel free to ask me any questions. You can write in the discussions or email me HERE.

(I highly recommend listening to this course with headphones/decent speakers. Some of the audio examples I present will be harder to hear through laptop or phone speakers.)

Meet Your Teacher

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Mike Barnes

Music Instructor


Hey friends!

My name's Mike, I'm a 27-year-old musician and music instructor from the U.K. I've been playing, writing and producing music for the last 13 years. I co-run a music charity called T.I.M.E - Together In Musical Expression where I run music workshops and classes for people of all ages and abilities.


I believe EVERYONE has it in them to create beautiful music. It's just a case of letting go of expectations and having fun with the process of creating. 

Please feel free to get in touch with any questions or just to say hello!




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1. Intro: Music theory can be a confusing subject. With so much to learn, where do you start? What do you really need to know? The thing is most popular songs use just a couple of easy to grasp concepts, which once you learn made the process of writing and producing music an absolute breeze. In this class, I'm going to teach you all about these core subjects so you can leave a more confident creative producer. [MUSIC] Hey, friends. How is it going? I hope you're having a great day. Thank you so much for joining me here for my music theory class for producers and songwriters. My name is Mike. I am a full-time musician and music instructor from the UK. I've been playing, writing, and producing music for the last 13 years and I co-run a multi award-winning music charity called Time Together In Musical Expression. We run music workshops for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. In this class, I'm going to teach you all the music theory you need to know to write and produce amazing pieces of music. This class is going to be perfect for beginners who are completely new to music theory. Or if you've got a good bit of experience, but you just need some extra help and clarity on a couple of different subjects. We'll start by going through some basic foundational knowledge to make sure we're all on the same page. We'll learn about keys, how they work, and how to write within them. We'll get to grips with scales and how to use them to unlock a ton of cool stuff about theory. We'll learn how to construct chords and then use extensions, inversions, and more to make them sound beautiful and professional. I'll vantage you how to string these chords together to create incredible sounding chord progressions that sound great every time. Then we'll move on to how we can create melodies, leaves, and more to sit on top and complete our music. Throughout the course, I'm going to be producing a song myself, so you can see exactly how we implement each topic into your own song. You don't need to know how to write or read music. Everything in this course is going to be practical based. All examples are going to be given on a MIDI keyboard or within the MIDI grid. Music theory can be a really intimidating topic. I'm I in for this class, let's just cut through all of that confusion, figure out the core bits of information we need to know, and then utilize that to create awesome sounding music. I'm really excited to make some music with you. I hope to see you in the class. [MUSIC] 2. Class Project : [MUSIC] Hey, friends. Thank you so much for joining me here on my class. I really hope that it's useful for you and you take a lot of good information away from this. Just before we get started, I very quickly wanted to talk about our class project. By the end of this class, you're going to be able to use music theory to write and produce music really effectively. I would love to hear where you go up to. You can send anything you come up with into the class project below. This could be a simple chord progression on your guitar or it could be a full-blown highly produced song that you've spent months on. Anything you come up with, post it down in the class project below. To do this, all you've got to do is upload to YouTube or SoundCloud or anything similar, basically anything with a link, and then post that link down in the class project. I'll be listening and responding to everything sent in and if you'd like some critique or feedback, I would absolutely love to do that for you. I think it will just be a really cool community space where we could all post our songs and ideas. We could have to listen to what each other has done, what we've learned, maybe there's a really cool chord progression that you've come up with that you'd like to share. I think it should be a really cool community songwriting space. Please, don't be shy about posting in there. Posting and getting our stuff out there is one of the most important things you can do as an artist to develop. If you want to, you can create a private link so only the people with that link can actually listen to your track. If you want to, only the people on this class can have access to it. On the subject you send your stuff in, please, feel free to ask any questions. I know music theory is a really tough subject for so many people and I want to make sure that we just get it nailed in this class. If there's anything I've missed or anything you are slightly confused about, please feel free to send me a question and I'll respond to that as quickly as I can. There's really no such thing as a silly question. Please, feel free to ask anything no matter how silly it may seem. Thanks for that, guys. I really look forward to hearing what you come up with. Let's crack on with this class, shall we? I'll see you in the next lesson. [MUSIC] 3. Getting Started: [MUSIC] First, I'm going to go through some real basics to make sure we're all on the same page and to start off with a really strong foundation with a bit of that core knowledge. First of all, here is a keyboard. I'm using a keyboard in this course because it's probably the easiest way to describe some of the elements when it comes to music theory. It's a lot clearer than some other instruments, but just know everything I talked about on the keyboard is going to go exactly the same if you're on like a guitar or any different instrument. Also, many keyboards like this seem to be really popular for a lot of music production these days so hopefully, it'll be helpful if you've got one, that's similar. When you look at the keys on a keyboard or the frets on a guitar, it can seem really overwhelming because there's so many buttons, so many notes that can be played, it can seem really overwhelming. But in music, there's actually only 12 notes. To simplify things, let's figure out those 12 notes now and we'll explain why they're so many buttons a little bit later on. As you probably already know in music, every note has a different name. Let's start by finding the names of the white notes. Let's start here on A. [MUSIC] Nice place to start. Then all it does is follow an alphabetical order, so A, B, [MUSIC] C, D, E, F, G. Now in music, once we get to G, it loops back around to A so there's no H in the musical alphabet, unfortunately. Over here it comes straight back A and it start again, A, B, C. Although that's quite simple, it can get really confusing still when there's so many buttons and notes and things to think about. My first top tip is going to be to use stickers. If you're a beginner like I said, this stuffs can be really overwhelming and things like stickers or any little help you can give yourself makes a really big difference and it just means that you can learn a lot quicker and it's a lot more understandable and digestible. I'm going to use some stickers as well. Feel free to join me if you want to. Then let's start to label our notes, so here is our A, B, C, D, E, F, [MUSIC] and G there. Who really cares what they look like, it doesn't matter. It's all about learning and making the process easier for yourself, especially with music theory, which is really tough topic. Making things easy for yourself and then once you're really confident with where those notes are, then you can start to take him take away. But I'm going to leave them on for the whole course. I'm going to be a rebel. But we can also fill in these other notes now because we know that once it gets down to G, it just repeats. We go to G straight back to [MUSIC] A, B, C. [MUSIC] A, B, C there and equally we can fill in these over here. We know that before A becomes G and so on. Let's fill those too. That's all of our white notes sorted. But now the logical follow on from that is what about these black keys, what are they about? Those are our sharp and our flat notes. I'm going to be referencing sharpening and flattening quite a bit in this course. All that really means is if we're flattening a note, we're taking it down one note, and if we're sharpening a note, we're taking it up one note. I remember it as flattening, getting duller, and lower and if we're getting sharper, we're going up a bit more keen in a bit sharper, going up. With that knowledge in mind, we can work out these black keys. Let's start with A, so if we sharpen an A, we go up [MUSIC] one note, [MUSIC] we get to this black note. That would be an A sharp because we're going up one note. Equally, if we go down from the A, go from A down one note, [MUSIC] we come to this note which is an A-flat. But then you may be asking yourself, but isn't that a G sharp in that case? Yeah, it is. These black notes have two names. It can either be a G sharp or an A flat, but don't let that confuse you too much. You can always just reference them as just the sharp versions for now if that's easier for you. We'll get into when and where we reference the sharps and flats and another day. On that note [LAUGHTER] it's worth noting that the B and E have no sharps. Poor little Bs and Es. You see there's no black notes. With that knowledge in mind, let's start putting some stickers on our sharp and flat notes. Let's start over here with C [MUSIC] sharp or D flat, I should say. There we go. Hopefully, that keyboard looks a little bit less intimidating now with some nice colorful stickers on them. There we are, we've got every note worked out there. If you're not using stickers and you want an easy way to find out where the notes are, what I personally do is look for the D. The D is characterized by being the white note between these two singular black notes. Two black notes on their own. The white one in the middle is going to be D, just like over here, two black notes separated in the middle is always going to be D. From there we can work out the rest of the notes, another really important thing to talk about in music theory and understanding music is what we call intervals. All an interval is, is describing the distance between two notes. You may think, well, why do I really need to know that? That sounds trivial, but it's going to be really, really key later so make sure you understand this. The most common intervals that we're going to mention that a lot in this course are called whole steps and half steps. Or if you're from the UK, like I am, we often reference these as semitones and tones. As I sit from my One Direction mug of tea [MUSIC]. God save the Queen. A whole step or a tone would be moving two notes. If we're on A, we're moving two notes up one, two, we get to B. We'd say a whole step up from A is B. [MUSIC] The interval between A and B is a whole step. A half step, as you can probably guess, is just the one note. The distance between A and A sharp, we'd say is a half-step or a semitone. Make sure you log that into your brain it's going get really, really important later. Another really important interval is the distance between two of the same notes, but different pitches. As you may notice, we've got two As here. The distance between this A and the higher A is called an octave. An octave higher or an octave lower. These can keep going if you've got a little keyboard like this. The lower the octave, the lower the pitch of the note. It's cool, isn't it? We can play the same note but in a different pitch. Isn't that cool? [MUSIC] Same note but one's higher than the other. [MUSIC] Some basic knowledge that's up there. Let's move on with the next class. [MUSIC] 4. Keys: [MUSIC] Let's next talk about keys. Keys are essentially a group of notes that work really well together. Have you ever sat down at a keyboard before, tried to play some notes only for them sound awful like that. [NOISE] Well, that's usually because those notes are not in the same key. They don't work very well together. But if we know what notes do work well within each key, it means we can play really well effectively. [MUSIC] We can write chord melodies or chord baselines, and also we can then put those notes together to make lovely sounding chords. Knowing what notes work within each key is like integral. Most of this course is going to be figuring out how to work out those notes in each key, how to put them together and how to make them work. The next time you're producing or jamming with someone, and they say, this song I've written is in the key of D. Once you know the music theory, you'll know all the notes that work, and you'll get to play along really easily. I often like to think of keys a little bit like languages, so each language is going to have it's own words, and it's own alphabet. Just like, each key is going to have its own notes and chords that work well within it. If you know the words in Spanish, you can effectively speak Spanish, just like if you know all the notes in C major, you can play easily in the key of C major. We have major keys and minor keys. Songs written in major keys tend to sound happier, more uplifting, while those written in minor keys sound a bit darker and a bit gloomier. There are seven notes in every key. [MUSIC] What we can do later is turn those notes into chords. There's also seven chords, that work within each key. There is a major key for every note, there's 12 notes, which means there's 12 major keys, and equally, there are 12 minor keys for every note, so there's also 12 minor keys. That can seem really overwhelming, can it? But it's really important to remember the difference between each key really isn't very dramatic. Every key will sound great. Please don't get too caught up in thinking you have to pick the right key or like a good key, there's no such thing. The main thing you want to do when choosing what key to work in is think about if you want it to be more happy and pick a major key for that, or if you want it to be a bit darker, pick a minor key for that. If you want to go a step further in picking your keys, have a think about what instrument you're going to be writing your song around. For example, if you're writing on a keyboard, the key of C major works really well because it involves all of the white notes, none of the black notes, so it's really easy to visualize and work out. Equally, if you're on the guitar, the keys of E or G work really well because a lot of the open strings on a guitar are in those keys. We can use notes and chords from outside of the key, it becomes quite a bit more complicated, so we're not going to be going into that too much today. But like 95 percent of the music you're most likely listening to is written in the same key, except you, Jacob Collier. Why you going to do that. When we're working with just the notes inside of that same key, we say we're working diatonically, or we're being diatonic. That just means we're using the notes that are in the key. Like I said, that's what like 99 percent of songwriters do, so we're going to stick with working diatonically today. I'll give you some little hints later about how we can maybe start to shift out of that if you wanted. Twenty four keys can seem pretty overwhelming, can it? But it's worth noting that there's only one or two simple tricks that we can use to easily work out all the notes in every one of those keys. You haven't got to go memorizing 24 different keys, don't worry. Part of that is what we refer to as relative minor keys, Bear with me for one minute. Every major key has an opposite minor key that shares all of the same notes. We're going to work out a trick to how to figure that out later. But effectively what you need to take from that is that if we know the major keys, we can easily work out all of the minor keys as well. But we'll touch on that in a bit more detail later. I just wanted to put it out there, as it sounds a little bit less scary when you put it like that. So that is keys, so just a way of grouping together notes that work really well, so we can write and produce really effectively. Let's find out how we can work out, what notes are in each key in the next lesson about scales. I'll see you there. [MUSIC] 5. The Major Scale: [MUSIC] Next, let's talk about scales. A scale is essentially just a sequence of notes that sound good together. There are lots of different scales, and the more we can learn, the more diverse and interesting we can make our playing. But by far, the most important scale to learn is the major scale. Now look, I know you're all thinking major scale sounds pretty [MUSIC] major lame. You know what? A couple of years ago I would have agreed with you. It does sound major lame. But today, I'm here to convince you, is actually pretty major cool. [NOISE] Why is that? Why is it magical? The major scale tells us what notes are in every single key. And when we know that, we can write really cool melodies and leads, cool bass lines, we can construct chords, we can extend those chords and make them sound much more interesting and professional, and we can write chord progressions with the knowledge from the major scale too. So it tells us a ton of stuff. Most of music theory revolves around the major scale, so it's so important to learn and understand. Often I think of the major scale as being like the skeleton key to music theory because it just unlocks everything. You may notice that the description of what a key is and what a major scale is sound very similar, don't they? It's for this reason that key and scale are often used interchangeably. They're so of one and the same in some ways. The main thing we need to remember with scales is that the order in which we play the notes is very important, and I'll get into that in just a little bit. But for now, let's see how we can find the major scale on our keyboard. To find the major scale, we need to use a formula of whole steps and half steps. So if you remember what we talked about the last lesson, those intervals, we use them in a certain order to find our major scale. We first need to pick what scale we want to find. So we're going to go for major keys and scales first. I'll come to minors in just a sec. So let's try finding the C major scale first. To do that, we'd find the note of C and from there, we're going to follow the pattern of intervals for the major scale, which is, whole step up to, whole step, half step, whole, whole, whole, and a half, and we're back to C. By following that pattern of intervals, we have worked out every single note in the C major scale, and equally, we've worked out every single note in the key of C major. From that, you'll notice that all of the white notes work in the key of C. And now it really helps to number each note in the scale in the order of which we found them. That'll come into place a little bit more later. So we'd have [MUSIC] 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. And by numbering, it just helps because we know that the one is always going to be our key center. So if we're in the key of C, everything is going to revolve around the C or the one. So we can use that pattern of intervals anywhere on the keyboard to find any major key. Let's try another one. Let's try E. So again, the pattern of intervals, whole, [MUSIC] whole, [MUSIC] half, [MUSIC] whole, [MUSIC] whole, [MUSIC] whole, [MUSIC] half, [MUSIC]. And we're back to E there. We found out all of the notes that work in E major, we can number them to make it even easier for ourselves. So learning this major scale formula is one of the most important things I'm going to talk about in this course. That could be quite tricky to remember those wholes and half-steps, can't it? Someone should write a catchy song to easily remember that by. Not me though, because I'd like to think that's a bit below me. [MUSIC] Well, that was embarrassing. I hope that's stuck in your mind now. Let's move on, shall we? So now if you're jamming or producing with someone and they say, this song is in the key of E major, you can look down at your keyboard or your guitar, work out that major scale pattern, and you'll quickly be able to figure out every single note that will work well within that song. So you can already use this information to write code melodies, lead parts, and bass parts in every single major key [MUSIC]. But what about minor keys. What do we do about them? Let's figure that out in the next lesson. I'll see you there. [MUSIC] 6. Minor Scales & Keys: [MUSIC] Hey guys. Welcome back. Next, we're going to talk about minor keys and scales. Just like the major scale, we can use a minor scale to work out all the notes in a given minor key. Now, it's worth noting there are a couple of different minor scales, but the main one we're going to talk about is called the natural minor scale. We use that to find all the notes in a given minor key. Just like the major scale, we can use a pattern of intervals to work out the minor scale. But I'm going to show you a little trick in a minute, which is going to make it much easier, so don't think about this too much. Let's work out the A minor scale first. We could come to A, and the minor scale goes like this [MUSIC]. Whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole, and that is A minor scale. You can see it sounds a bit sadder than the major scale, doesn't it? [MUSIC] Let's compare that to our C major scale. [MUSIC] That one sounds a lot more bright and uplifting, doesn't it? Now, you may have noticed something there. We used all of the white keys for the A minor scale. But equally, we used all of the white keys for C major. What's going on there? This links into what I was saying earlier about relative minor scales. For every major scale, it has a darker brother in a minor scale that shares all of the same notes, and using that as an example, every note in C major is the same for A minor. The only difference is where we start the scale, what we treat as that number 1. In C major, we treat the C as the one, and in A minor, we treat the A as the one. But we found where we start the scale has a big impact on how it sounds. The C major one sounded much more uplifting. The A minor sounded much more gloomy, didn't it? Isn't that fascinating? Where we start and end that scale makes a complete difference in the emotional tonality of the scale. I can't believe I just said the word emotional tonality. Who do you think I am? We can use this to our advantage to save us having to learn that minor scale formula, and this is how that works. We can find any relative major from the minor by going up three half-steps. If we want to find the notes in A minor, we'd come to A, and we'd go up three half steps, 1, 2, 3, we then find C. [MUSIC] We know C is the relative major to A. Next, we'd find the major scale for C. [MUSIC] Then we change the note that we treat as the one, the key center, what the scale revolves around, which would be A, wouldn't it? We use all the same notes that were in C major, we just start on the A instead. Apologies my full piano playing hand there. But there you go. We can easily work out the minor keys using the major scale formula. It saves as having to do a bit more brain work and a bit more remembering. Let's try it somewhere else. Let's say I want to work out the minor scale for G, and by extension, all the notes in the key of G minor. [MUSIC] We find G, we go up three half steps, 1, 2, 3. So A sharp, that is G minor relative major. We're then going to find the major scale from A sharp. [MUSIC] Whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half. Then we change the note we consider to be the one which we know as the G. We just shift around that scale ever so slightly, and there is our G minor scale. We can now use that knowledge to work out every single minor key. We now know how to find the notes that go into every single key by just knowing those couple of little tricks. We can use this trick in reverse if we want to find the relative minor scale from the major one. If we wanted to find F's relative minor, we just go down three half steps rather than up, so 1, 2, 3. D is F's relative minor, that's right. Did I said that right? I remember it if we're trying to find the minor scale from the major, we're going down three half steps. We getting a bit sadder and a bit lower. But if we're trying to find the major from the minor, we're going up three half-steps, getting brighter and happier. With that knowledge, we can now easily write in any minor key, let's say A. [MUSIC] Again, not the best melody, but it gives you an idea. Great job on this lesson, guys. I really hope you've managed to wrap your head around that. Let's move on now and start building some cords. I'll see you in the next lesson. [MUSIC] 7. Chords: [MUSIC] Hey guys, welcome back. Next we're going to talk about chords. As you may already know, chords are just a couple of notes being played together at the same time. [MUSIC] Sound a little bit like that. The most basic form of a chord is what we call a triad. All that means is that we're playing three notes. That's the minimum we need for a chord, three. In this lesson, we're going to figure out those triads, the basic chords, and in later lessons, we're going to make them sound more professional, expand them a bit. As you may already know, there are major chords, [MUSIC] which sound generally quite happy, and there are minor chords, [MUSIC] sound dark and gloomy, just let the keys. But in each key, there will be some minor chords and some major chords, no matter if it's a major or minor key. Now, chords and by extension, chord progressions moving those chords around are the foundation of most songs. It gives a song it's emotional movement. Let's figure out how we play and find these chords. Let's break this down into steps to make it as easy as possible. The first step is to pick the code we want to make. Let's try C major first. So we'd come to C. You want to turn that into a C chord, so we're going to find the note C. Next, we're going to build our major scale from that note. Whole whole half, whole whole whole half, and let's number each note in the scale. Then to play a major chord, we need to play the one, [MUSIC] the three, and the five. That is going to give us our C major chord. A easy three-step process there. Let's try this somewhere else. Let's try finding the chord F major. We find F first, then we'll put the major scale from F: whole, whole half, whole whole whole half, and we will play the one, three and the five. [MUSIC] There is our F major chord. We can make this process even easy for ourselves because we only actually need the first couple of intervals for that scale. Let us take for example E. We can just count whole, whole to find the third, and half, whole, to find the 5th. I made a little mistake. I'm very sorry, everyone. Because you don't need those extra notes in the end right now. Yeah, we can use that to find a major chord a bit quicker. But what about minor chords, how do we find those? Well, all we have to do is add on one more step onto our three-step process, and that is flattening the third note in the chord. Let's take C for example. Let's build our C scale, play the one, the three, and the five to find the major chord, and then we're just going to flatten the third note down one half step. Where it goes E to E flat, and there is our C minor triad, C minor chord. [MUSIC] Let's try it somewhere else, let's try G. Whole, whole, to find the third, half, whole to find the fifth. [MUSIC] The G major will flatten the third down one little half-step, and there is G minor. Then we go, we figured out how to find every single major and minor chord, at least the most basic versions of it. Now you might be thinking that these sounds slightly boring, possibly. But in later lessons, we are going to expand them and make them sound really cool, but this is the foundational bit of knowledge we really need to get there. I hope that' has sunk in for you. In the next lesson, I'll show you how to string together these chords to write awesome sounding chord progressions. I'll see you there. 8. Chord Progressions: [MUSIC] So we've learned how to build all those basic major and minor chords now. But how do we put them together? How do you make some cool chord progressions from those? I'm going to show you two ways to build chord progressions: one is a slightly trickier and more traditional way and the other one is a super easy hack that I use all the time, but both are quite important to know, so I'm going to show you both. In each key, as we've learned, there are seven notes that work really well together in that key and cords are just like that. We have seven chords that work really well within each key. Like we spoke about before, you can use chords from outside the key, but it's very complicated, and we're not going to talk about that very much today. We're going to stick to being diatonic. Remember that word? Diatonic and just use the seven chords in a given key. How do we work out what chords belong in each key? Let's again break this down into steps, so it's really easy to follow and remember. The first step is to choose what key you want to be in. We're going to go from major keys first and I'll come to minor keys in just a bit. I'm going to choose C major. That's a nice easy place to start. We're going to find C [NOISE] and from there, we're going to build our major scale, so [NOISE] and then what we're going to do is starting from each note of the scale, we're going to play [NOISE] a note, skip a note, play a note, skip a note, play a note, only using the notes that are in the scale. We know C major is all the white notes so no black notes are going to be in any of the chords we're going to write for C major. That gives us our first chord of the key [NOISE] which is C major. We're going to repeat that building from each note of the scale until we get to B and that's going to give us our seven chords. We've got a C major there. Next, play one, skip one, play one, skip one. That's going to give us D minor. Next, play one, skip one, play one, skip one, play one. E minor, [MUSIC] F major, [MUSIC] G, I minor, B diminished. I'll come to that in a minute. Don't worry, and we're back to C [MUSIC]. There are our seven chords that work in the key of C major. Let's break down a couple of things that just happen there. We've built those seven chords. Now how did I know what ones were major and minor? If you think back to our lesson on chords, we can look at the spacing between each note to figure out if it's major or minor so [MUSIC] take D for example. If we look at the spacing whole, whole to find the third and we can see there's a flat third so we know this is going to be a D minor [MUSIC]. That's how I knew what ones were major and minor and the other question I'm sure you have is [MUSIC] B diminished. What on earth is that? Diminished chords are a bit of a weird one. As you can hear there, [MUSIC] they don't sound particularly great and it's for this reason, they're quite rarely used within music. But just know that a diminished chord exists and we can find out if it's a diminished chord by again looking at the spacing. Diminished chords have a spacing of 1,2,3, half- steps, and another 1,2,3 half-steps and that's going to find a diminished chord anywhere on the keyboard. Let's try another one [MUSIC] 1,2,3, 1,2,3 as G diminished there. Again, it's just not horrible to name. But again, we'll come back to diminished chords another day once we've got the foundation set really strong. Anyway, so there are all the chords that work within C major and we can play these in any order and they're going to sound great. [MUSIC] Code red. Let's try working out the chords in a different key now, so let's try D major instead. Again, let's follow our steps, picked D major. We're going to find the note of D and then going to build our major scale, [NOISE] and then building from each note of the scale, we're going to play a note, skip a note, play a note, skip a note, play a note only using the notes in the scale. Play a note, skip a note, play a note, skip a note, play a note. D major, play a note, skip a note, play a note, skip a note, play a note. [MUSIC] G, I, B, and there we have C sharp diminished, a horrible diminished code. That's how we find all the chords in each major key. But how about minor keys? I saw a twinned major and minor relatives share all the same chords. Again, if we figure out the chords to the major key, we know all the chords in the minor key too. We just got a change what we treat is that one chord or one note, just like as our scales. First step, is choose what key we want to be in. Let's for example find out the chords in A minor. Soon as we're in a minor key, we need a slightly different step, is to find the relative major. If you remember from a couple lessons ago, we go up three half-steps to find that relative major, 1,2,3 C. Then we follow the exact same system, building the major scale from C during the play a note, skip a note, play a note thing and we'll find all the notes that work within C. We've already done that so we can actually bring those chords back up. Just like with minor scales, all we're going to do is change what chord we treat as the one chord. Like we've learned, the place that we start and end and treat is that one chord or one note makes a big difference to the tonal quality of the sound [MUSIC]. Another interesting thing we can learn and take from this is how to use these progressions in a numbered system. For the example, let's bring up all the chords in C major. Now let's number those from 1-7 and let's now turn those numbers into Roman numerals and make the minor chords lower case. This very well may seem familiar. This numbered system is used all the time within music. You may have heard someone before say, this song is a four, five, one in the key of D and this is what they're referencing, the numbered systems within that key. What's really interesting is if we use this number system between different keys, they sound really similar [MUSIC]. This comes back to what I was saying earlier about, it doesn't really matter what key you pick because they all sound quite similar in the grand scheme of things. But it's worth noting that this isn't the case between major and minor keys. A 1,4,5 in a minor key will sound very different to a 1,4,5 in a major key [MUSIC]. If you've ever heard the term key change, this links in with that. Those cheesy boy band songs where in the last course, they're like step [MUSIC] up from their chair and a song will feel it goes up a level. This is what's happening. The key is changing, the chord progression is staying the same number wise, but it's just going up a key. This also happens in Love on Top by Beyoncé. You know where at the end of the song it just feels that keeps going up and up and up. That's what's happening. She is moving keys up and up and up. Same chord progression number wise just changing the key. What's also cool about this numbered system is you can take a look at maybe your favorite artists, maybe there's a certain song that you really like the sound of and you wonder why the chord progression sounds that way. You can look at the numbered sequence of how that chord progression is played and maybe take a bit of inspiration from that. Maybe you really like the sound of a 1,4,5 progression. Maybe, you could change the key to make it sound a bit different. Maybe you could add some passing chords in there and make a chord progression you already like your own [MUSIC]. Now, I know that's a lot of information to take on board and it can feel quite overwhelming learning about chord progressions in that way which is why I use a really cool hack to quickly and easily work out chord progressions without having to do so much of that math work. Let's move on and learn a little bit more about chord progressions. I'll see you in the next lesson [MUSIC]. 9. Chord Progressions Made Easy: [MUSIC] An alternative way to figure out what chords work in each key and therefore use chord progressions is by using a tool called the circle of fifths. Now this is an amazing tool that essentially puts onto paper how notes and chords are related to each other. There's a million among different ways to use the circle of fifths and it will probably come up over and over in your musical journey, I'm sure, but for today we're just going to use it to really easily right chord progressions. I highly recommend you saving this to your phone or printing out and putting it somewhere where you make music because it's going to come in really handy. Now if we take a look at the circle of fifths, you'll see that it contains every chord, all the major chords on the outside and all the minor chords on the inside. The way we find the chords that share a key and therefore work well together, is by first finding the key we want to be in. Let's for this example go for G major and then if we look at the five chords surrounding G, those five chords and including G, making six will be the chords that are in that key and therefore work really well together. Let's try another one. Let's try working out the cause in F. We'll find f on the circle, and then F and the five chords surrounding it will be the sixth chords that are in that key and the same thing goes for our minor keys. If we want to say B in the key of C minor, blue circle C minor, and the five chords around it are all the ones that are going to work, including C minor itself. Another really cool thing about the circle of fifths is it displays the relative major and minor keys. If you, for example, wanted to find the relative minor of D, you just find D and then look towards the inner circle and that's it's relative minor. Equally, if I wanted to find, C minors relative major, I just look towards the outer circle and there it is E-flat. Isn't that cool? It'll come in super handy to have this nearby whenever you are making music. If you want to go a step further with this, there is also a circle of fifths where there's another ring on the inside that displays the diminished chord, so if you want to throw some of those diminished chords into your writing, you can use that circle of fifths. Now, as you've probably guessed, I'm not very good piano player. I've been more comfortable with guitar, so I'm going to go get my guitar and I'm going to just show you how easy this system can work. [BACKGROUND] As an example, let us pick the key of G that works nicely with guitar. We're going to pick out the five chords surrounding G, including G as well and those are our cords, so [MUSIC]. It's as simple as that. Going to D, go to E minor, C and G. Really no matter what order you play those cords in, they're always going to sound pretty good, but there are obviously going to be some chord progressions that you like the sound of more than others. Just play around and see what thing you like the sound of. Let's try a minor key, shall we? Let's go for F-sharp minor. [MUSIC] I remember it like I'm getting a pizza we'd like four mates and I'm picking my quarter of the pizza with my key in the middle, if that helps you remember what to do. Enough of my bad guitar playing, let's use this information that we've learned to start to build and develop a song of our own. Chord progressions, I find are a really nice place to start, so let's start there for today. Talking about chord progressions and how they're used in songwriting is a bit of a tricky one to try and explain. People have different approaches to using chord progressions in their songs. some people will have a different chord progression for each section of their songs so that their verse will be different from their pre-chorus, and that'll be different from their chorus and then they'll have a bridge that's different. Then there are other people that will write a four chord progression and use that the whole way for their song, just repeated those four chords played in the same fashion. Now it's totally down to you what style you want to go for. I highly recommend if you're getting started to stick with like four chords and make that work. There's lots of things we can do other than the chord progression to change the field and the emotion of the song, so don't feel like you need to over complicate it. But equally, if you can find several cool chord progressions and you want to put them all together in a song, you go for that. Whatever you want to do, whatever you like the sound of, you can make it work. main things we need to know are what chords go together well, what chords are in each key. Another helpful tip is using the key center as a nice place of returning home. A lot of people start or end there chord progression on the one chord of their key, if that helps. Again, just to stress, just because something's more complicated does not mean it's better, not with music at least. For example, love me more by Doja Cat, that is just four chords repeated in the same way over and over and over again throughout the whole song. That's a bit of a tune. I don't know how well this is going to wage, me saying this, but right now it's an absolute banger and it's like a chart topping pop song just using four chords. An example of someone a bit more alternative Sam Fender, his song, Spit of You, again, exactly the same, just four chords played in the same way, start to finish, and no real change. Although it has to be said both of those examples do have passing chords but I think you can say they are based around just four records. We're going to do a similar thing today. We're just going to do a three chord progression, keep it simple, but it's still going to sound great. Let's take a look at our circle of fifths, and let's pick a key. Let's go for A, why not? [MUSIC] I quite like the progression of I, D, B minor, back to A, that sounds pretty cool. Now keep in mind, those chords are going to sound really simple now, but we're going to do some things later to make them sound way better. I have a top tip. If you are struggling to play chords on the piano or on guitar, if you're a beginner, what you can do is just play the root note of each chord. For example, I could just play [MUSIC] A, D, B, A, just to get a general idea of the progression. Then you can slowly build it into chords later, either through recording program or when you get a bit more confident playing those chords. Let's throw some drums in there and let's record that little idea. [MUSIC] There we go. That's cool little foundation there I think. That's another lesson there on a chord progressions. Hopefully that cleared up for you a bit and possibly made it a bit easier for you to work out how to use chord progressions and what chords belong in each key. In the next couple of lessons, I'm going to show you how we can make these chords sound much more interesting and much more professional. I'm excited to get into that. I'll see you in the next lesson. [MUSIC] 10. 7th Chords: [MUSIC] Hey friends, welcome back. In this next lesson, we're going to talk about how we can make our chords sound a bit more professional and a bit more interesting. The first way we're going to do that is by learning how to find seventh chords. They sound a little bit like this. No they don't. Don't sound like that. They sound a little bit like this. [MUSIC]. They're a bit more interesting, a bit more professional sounding. Seventh chords are a great place to start because they only add on one more note on to our existing triad. There are lots of different seventh chords, but the main ones we're going to talk about today are major sevenths [MUSIC], the dominant sevenths [MUSIC] and their miner counterparts, as I like to think of it in minor sevens [MUSIC] and major minor seventh. Which are actually very rarely used so don't worry about that last one too much [MUSIC]. Let's learn how we find these seventh chords. Let's start with this chord C. To find our seventh chord, the first thing we need to do is again, find our major scale. We're going to be using the chord of C. We're going to build a major scale from C. Whole whole half, whole whole whole half. Now we know to play a major triad, we play the one, the three and the five. Take a wild guess what happens when we play the seventh along there too. That's right we get a seventh chord. When we play the seventh of the major scale, that C becomes a C major seven. Playing the seventh from the major scale. That's why it's called a major seven. That's pretty easy. That goes the same for any other chords. We just got to build that major scale, play the one three and the five and add the seven on top to create a major seven. But what about a dominant seven? A dominant seven will sound a little bit different. Sounds a little bit like this instead. Slightly more jazzier on that seed, isn't it? To find the dominant seven, all we have to do is flatten the major seven down one half step. Flattening it down to a sharp. There we have, C dominant seven, or it's commonly written as just C seven. Now you may notice that, that C dominant seven is using a note from outside of the C major scale. It's for this reason, it sounds a little bit spicy. It's got a lot of tension there, hasn't it? This can be used really effectively if you want to create a bit of tension or make a cool passing chord. But if you want to keep things easy for yourself, you can stay away from any notes that don't sit within the key you're working within. If we're working in the key of C major, we can stick to that major seven. Because that B is in the key of C major. Let's try a seventh chord somewhere else. Let's try G. Whole whole half, whole whole whole half. We'll play the one, the three, and the five to get our triad. Then we'll add on the seven to create a G major seven. Doesn't sound nice? Now if we want to create a G dominant seven, again, we just flatten that seven down one half step to an F. [MUSIC] There we have G7 or G dominant seven. [MUSIC]Okay, so that's how we find the seventh chords to major chords for that minor chords, right? Well, it's really straightforward. Let's take C for example again. Just like with the major chords, we're going to pull out the C major scale there. The 1, 3 and five creates the major chord. We flatten the third to make the minor. Then we're just going to add on the exact same extensions. The only thing that's changing between the major and minor chord is this third. C minor, add on the major seven. We get C minor, major seven. Now, that's a pretty spicy cord, if I ever heard one. It sounds like a murder mystery clue has been found or something. Watson, I found a knife in the hallway. What? It's for that reason that to be honest, minor chords with major sevenths are pretty rarely used. If I were you I really wouldn't worry about them too much. But what about a dominant seven. Let's flatten that seven down to A sharp. [MUSIC] That sounds a lot nicer, doesn't it? That would be a C minor seven. [MUSIC] Much nicer. Let's try this somewhere else. Let's try F, whole whole half, whole whole whole half. The one flattens three and five for the minor chords, and then we add on the seventh, for the major seven. Flat murder mystery nasty sounding chord. We flatten that seven down one half step to find the dominant, which sounds a lot better with minor chords. Much nicer. That would be F minor seven. Hi, editing Mike here. Just to clarify a little mistake, I've made a couple of times there. When we talk about minor chords and the flat seven, we should always reference that seven as the minor seven, not a dominant seven. A major chord, and a flat seven is referred to as dominant seven. I just thought I should put that out there in case any music theory people come after me. I'm very sorry for the mistake. Please don't hate me. Okay, bye. How do we use these in a chord progression? My advice, if you want to keep things simple, is only use the seventh notes that are in the key that you're working in. But if you're feeling brave and you want to try some of those slightly uncomfortable, spicy chords. Feel free to try and experiment and see what you can come up with. Let's head into GarageBand and have a look at what we did last time. [inaudible] my posts on GarageBand if you'd like to learn a bit more about how to do music and train your self. Just saying in case you didn't know. A quick crash course on to what's going on here. This is the midi grid inside of GarageBand. Now you can see the notes that we played here for each chord. [MUSIC] You can see the keyboard here for reference. These are the chords and the notes that I played for the chord progression last lesson. You can still see how they work if I play this track. [MUSIC] That first chord where I played it. Then it just leaves background. We're going to add on the seventh notes on top of these codes to make them sound a bit more interesting. Our first code was I. I liked the sound of that major seven. I'm going to add on that G sharp as again, you can see it referenced there. Because I'm not a very good keyboard player and I'm a bit lazy. I'm just going to type that in there. There we have, I major seven. Just going to [inaudible] so it sounds a bit more natural. [MUSIC]. Next we have a D major chord. Let's add a major seventh onto there too. We know it's going to be C sharp, we'll run our keyboard in there. It's going be C sharp. This note here, lets tuck that in. [MUSIC] There's D major seven. Last we have B minor. Now like we've learned, minor chords with major sevens stone don't sound too great so let's go for minor seven instead. Way better, and that's on the I, right there. [MUSIC] Doesn't that sound good? Let's turn off the drums so you can hear a bit clearer. I'm just going to move these around so they sound a little bit more organic. [MUSIC] Already just added in that one extra note makes it sound way better, in my opinion. But it's worth noting if you'd like the sound of those basic triads, that's totally cool. It's all down to personal preference and what you like the sound of. This is just there as an option if you want to make those chords sound a bit bigger and a bit more expansive. That is seventh chords. Really easy way to make our chords sound more interesting. Now there's loads more we can do to make our chord sound interesting. Let's hop in with that right now. I'll see you in the next lesson. [MUSIC]. 11. Extensions: [MUSIC] Sevens are the only way we can make our chords sound more interesting. Another great way is using what we call extensions. That's adding on even more notes onto our existing chords just to making them sound even bigger and more complex. Whereas seventh chord will sound like this, an extension would add more notes on top, so it sound a bit more like, [MUSIC] or [MUSIC]. Pretty nice. There's a ton of different extensions that we can use on top of our chords. But the most commonly used ones are the ones we're going to mainly talk about today; are 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths. Let's find the extensions for C first. If we come to C and draw the major scale and number those, we get one to seven like we've learned. Extensions are working on the concepts that we can push past that seven and extend that scale further up the keyboard or wherever instrument we were on. We do that by repeating the exact same pattern of our major scale just on the octave above. Whole, whole half, whole, whole, whole half. Carry on, whole, whole half, whole, whole, whole half. Then we have some more numbers to play with. So 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. We know to get a major chord, we play 1, 3, and 5. We got the 7 on there to make it more interesting, C major 7. Now if we play the 9 on top of that as well, that's right. We get C Major 9. What about the 11th? C Major 11. The 13th, C major 13. It's as simple as that. We're just extending that scale and adding on more notes on top of our existing chord. Now if you remember from last lesson, we learned about dominant sevens as well as major sevens. C major 7,take 7 down to find dominant seven, C7. Now we can do the exact same process with our extensions adding on the 9. That would give us a C dominant 9, has a bit of a different flavor, doesn't it? Again, we can add on the more extensions to make it sound even more complex [MUSIC] Doesn't that sound beautiful? What about major chord? How do we find those extensions? All we have to do is flattened that third largely spoke about before. Flatten that third down to find C minor. Then we build the extensions just like we did for the major chord. Let's add on the dominant 7, that one works better with minor chords. Lets add the 9. C minor 9, I said the 11th too. Wow, that sounds really nice. I don't know, 13 is going up. Now it's worth noting when we get up to that 13th. That's a very complex chord, there isn't it? There's a lot of notes being played. What we tend to do with like 13th chords and sometimes 11. It starts to take some other notes away. One of the most common things to do is take away the 5th. But to be honest, just play around with whatever you'd like the sound I've tried taking some notes away and seeing what cool that sound of. I personally just really like 9 and 11s. I tend to stick with those. I find the 13th sounds a little bit cluttered, but again, totally just personal opinion here. Let's find the extensions to another chord. Let's try. I think I'm going to have to go for D because I'm going to run out of room on my keyboard. Otherwise, we're going to find the D major scale. Then we're going to push past and extend that scale. Play the 1, 3 and 5 for the major chord. Add on the major 7, add on the 9. There we have a D major 9. Could add on the 11 there, but up furthest out of the 9 there. Now if we wanted to make that a dominant chord, instead, we just flatten the 7th down. There we have D9. If we want to make that a minor chord, we flatten the 3rd. D minor, 7, 9. D minor 9, add on the 11th, D minor 11. Nice. This whole process can really be boiled down to a couple of different steps. First of all, do we want a major or a minor chord. Let's go for major. The next one is to be one a dominant chord or a major chord. Let's go for major. Then we just got to pick what extensions we'd like to underline. From the 9 on top of there to the 11. Further on there too and they say, maybe actually I want to have minor chord just flatten the 3rd. That sounds a bit weird, but that major 7, doesn't it? Let's make it a dominant 7 instead to make a sound better. Really nice. We can use these extensions in an even simpler way and still get a really cool sound by using what we call add chords. Add chords work by playing our basic triad and just adding on the one extension that we like. For example, if we play C major, if we want to play the 9. That would be considered a C add 9, because we're not playing the 7th. We're not stacking those notes that we do in the big boy extensions. Add chord is the basic triad with just one extension. Sounds really nice though, doesn't it? What about C add 11, and C add 13. Again, let's go for a minor. C minor add 9, C minor add 11, C minor, add 13. Now a really easy way that I like to figure out extensions quickly without having to do too much math is, look at the 2nd and 4th of our original major scale. We know that the 2nd is always going to be the same as the 9 just on the octave above. The F is always going to be the 11th, just in the octave above. The 6th is always going to be the 13th, again on the octave above. Sometimes that makes it a bit easier rather than counting out and extending that scale in your head. Those add chords [MUSIC]. Sound really nice, didn't they? They're just a simple way of making those triads sound a bit more interesting. These extensions can make a massive difference to the general quality and professionalism of your sound. Let's try adding some extensions into the song that we started. Our first chord is a major 7. What does it sound like as a 9? Really nice. I'm going to add on that B just there. Really nice. Then I'm going to add on a 9 to our next chord, which is a D major. Got to change the octave again. The 9 to the D is E [MUSIC] Does that sound cool? I think that sounds much more interested now. Let's add the beat back and see what it sounds like together [MUSIC] Does that sound cool? I was going to add a 9 to that last B minor chord. But to be honest, I'm really like the sound of it just as the 7th. That's the thing, you don't need to add on extensions onto these chords. There had just given you the tools to expand them and make them sound different if you'd like to. Some songs could really favor having a really basic triad progression, if that's what you'd like the sound of. There's really no such thing as right or wrong. It's what you like, the sound of. You're the artist, you got to make these creative decisions. That is extensions, really cool way of making those chords sound big and professionals. Next, we're going to look at even more ways we can make those chords sound cool. I'll see you in the next class [MUSIC] 12. Sus Chords: [MUSIC] Another way we can make our code a sound really interesting is by using Sus chords. Sus chords are really interesting because they are neither major or minor. They're suspended between the two. That's what Sus stands for, by the way, suspended. It's for this reason that we can use Sus chords in the place of either major or minor chords. For example, a C Sus chord [MUSIC] can work in the key of C major and a C minor. There's two kinds of Sus chords. We have a sus 2 [MUSIC] and a sus 4. [MUSIC] How do we find and build the SUS chords? Let's find the C chords first, shall we? As always, we're going to come to see we're building a C chord. We're going to pull out the C major scale. We know that 1,3, and 5, create the major chord. Like we said Sus chords are a little bit different. The formula to sus 2 is the 1, 2, and 5. This might make sense because that third is what dictates if the chord is major or minor remember. [MUSIC] By flattening it down to the second, it becomes neither major nor minor, isn't that interesting? You can probably work out from here that a sus 4 chord is using the 1, 4, and 5 instead. [MUSIC] There's our sus 4 chord. It sounds pretty cool in there. What's interesting is because we're effectively suspending the listener. [MUSIC] We can guide that into a place of comfort with a major chord or a place of discomfort with a minor chord. Isn't that cool? Lets try it somewhere else too. Let's try A. A building at the major scale, and then we play the 1, 2 and the 5 for a sus 2, or a 1,4,5 for a sus 4. Easy-peasy, right? I think they sound really cool. I really liked the sound of Sus chords. They make me feel like once a bit lost, but then Bonnie spoke about being able to guide that [MUSIC] into a place of comfort can make for quiet like an [MUSIC] emotional movement. [MUSIC] It doesn't sound really pretty. That's just using one chord, like being rearranged. Now what we can do is make things even more interesting and slightly more [LAUGHTER] complicated for ourselves, and add-on extensions onto the Sus chords. If we go for a [MUSIC] C sus 4, let's try adding a major seven on there [MUSIC] to C Major sus 4. [MUSIC] Let's try doing a nine on there too. Interesting. C Major 9 sus 4. Now let's make that a dominant seven instead maybe. That sounds good. Now, if it's not apparent already, I love Sus chords. I use them all the time in my own music making. I love the way they suspend you and then bringing it instant major chord just sounds so lovely. That's the technique I use all the time. Someone else who uses this technique all the time and possibly where I got the inspiration from, is one of my favorite artists of all time Bonnie Vera, particularly his own re-stacks bounces a lot between suspended chords, major and minor ones and just creates this really lovely sound in progression. [MUSIC] It makes me feel like you've just been on a long trip and you've arrived back home or you see something beautiful in nature. I do that. It just makes me feel some things. That's the thing with music and what I'm trying to get at in general with this course, we use music and this sounds to try and convey emotions and try and tell a story, and if we can learn how to do that through music, then how amazing is that to be able to convey a sort like beauty through a sound. It sounds pretentious, isn't it? You know what I mean, I hopefully know what I mean. That is Sus chords. [MUSIC] You go and use this to make some grown men cry, and I will see you on the next lesson. Thanks guys. [MUSIC] 13. Inversions: [MUSIC] Hey guys, Welcome back. Next we're going to talk about inversions. What are versions? I think the best way of explaining what an inversion is is a little bit like this. You know that the formula for a C major chord is C, E and G. I've done that enough times that harmony, sorry about that. But you'll notice that there are Cs, Es, and Gs all over the keyboard. What if I played a C here, a G here, and an E there? What would that be? Well, that would still be a C major chord because that's the genetic makeup of a C. But it sounds quite different to this one, doesn't it? This is what inversions are all about. Is taking the genetic makeup of a chord and arranging it in a different way and doing this can make a chord sound very different. For example, spreading out all the notes of a C major chord made it sound much wider and grander, didn't it? That chord's massive compared to this one. We can also use this to change the tonality of a cord. For example, let's take a C here. If I wanted to make that chord sound brighter, I could move this C up here instead. You see how that's a brighter C [MUSIC] and equally, I could make that C darker by moving the G down here. [MUSIC] I can make it even darker by moving the E down here too. [MUSIC] Isn't that cool? We can make chord sound brighter by moving some of those notes up the octave or we can make them sound darker by moving them down the octave. Or we can spread those notes really wide apart and make this chord sound bigger and fatter and wider. We can use this same technique in our slightly fancier chords too. Let's, for example, take [MUSIC] A, let us make it major seven and add a nine on there too, and let's try moving this E down an octave. [MUSIC] It sounds pretty cool, doesn't it? What if we try and make it sound a bit darker and bring this B down here. Again, I'm very sorry for my pair hands, this isn't how you're meant to play piano. [MUSIC] Doesn't that sound nice? [MUSIC] We've made that chord a good bit darker and it sounds quite different now, doesn't it? What we can also do with inversions is make chord progressions sound smoother and more professional. For example, let's get back to our C chord progression. [MUSIC] You may think that that sounds a little bit jumpy. We're moving around quite a lot there. [MUSIC] If we can find the notes to those three chords that are closest together and then play that chord progression again, we can have a progression that sounds much smoother, much more natural, and as a result, much more professional. If we look at our C chord, [MUSIC] now the next chord is F, and that uses a C up here. What if we instead played a C like that? [MUSIC] Using the C from the higher octave. [MUSIC] Then our F is already very close to our G. [MUSIC] See how that sounds a little bit smoother. This will become even more effective when we're using the slightly bigger chords because there's so many notes rather than having to jump up and down a keyboard or a guitar so much, we can fit them into a tighter space. As a result, they sound much more smooth. But again, if you like the slightly jumpy sound of the triads, [MUSIC] feel free to stick with that. There is no right or wrong wherever you like the sound of. We're going to use this knowledge of inversions in our own song now because I think I want those chords to sound a bit darker, a bit bassier, and I think we can make the chord progression sound a bit smoother too. Let's look at that now. Here's our first chord, which is our A major nine. The first thing I'm going to do is take this A down an octave. That's like the primary sound in the chord, [inaudible] A chord. If we bring that A down, it's going to make it sound a lot like thicker and bassier. [MUSIC] We're also moving it into that range in the piano, which is generally used for the bass parts, this is going to work really, really well. I'm also going to move this B down an octave. [MUSIC] Again, I want to make it a bit darker. [MUSIC] Now I could stick with that, but I'm going to go crazy and move this E down as well to see how that sounds. [MUSIC] [NOISE] Really nice. You just added some more of those notes down, made them sound a bit thicker and bassier. [MUSIC] You can hear how bright those other chords sound in comparison. Let's do something about that. Again, let's move our D down first, the primary sound. I want that to sound a bit darker. [MUSIC] I'm also going to move this A down because that's quite piercing in the minute. I want to move it more in line with this first chord. We're going to do the same for this A. [MUSIC] This is more matching in with his first chord, so that should sound quite smooth now. [MUSIC] Very nice. Now to be honest, I quite like the sound of that B7 chord as it is. I'm just going to move the root note down that B [MUSIC] again just so you have that bit more body. Let's see how that sounds now. [MUSIC] Doesn't that sound cool? I'm really, really happy with that. I might just move around somewhere these notes start. But I think that sounds so much better, particularly from where we began with just the basic triads. That sounds so professional now, [MUSIC] isn't that cool? We've worked from those original triads. We've added on some extensions to make them sound a bit more interesting. Then we've just inverted them to make them sound a bit darker and a bit smoother when they're all put together. That's the result. Pretty cool. We have an amazing foundation for a song there. Now it comes to the point where we can start adding melodies and leads and baselines and start to really develop this song. Let's check it out next, shall we?. I'll see you in the next lesson. [MUSIC] 14. Melodies, Leads & The Pentatonic Scale: [MUSIC] Next, we're going to talk about melodies, leads, and another really cool scale. We've got our song off to a really good start with that core progression. But bitly, we want to add some lead and bass parts on there now to start to develop it, and thicken out with some more instruments. To be able to write leads and melodies, we need to know what notes belong in the key we are working in. Luckily, we've already figured that out using our major scale. In this example, we're writing our song in the key of A major. I know, if I work out the A major scale from A, I will pick out all the notes that are going to work really well in the key. Whole, whole, half. Whole, whole, whole, half. Those are the notes that are available to us. Let's play our track and start to have a little jam, shall we? [MUSIC] There you go, the way we can use the major scale to really easily write leads and melodies inside that key. Now a little tip, if you're trying to create a really catchy and memorable little lead part or melody, using three or four notes in a quite repetitive way can be a really good way to achieve that. For example, if I pick out [MUSIC] those notes there, [MUSIC] there's quite catchy couple of notes there, isn't it? Yeah, use that little trick if you want to make a nice little hook or something memorable. Another little tip with melodies and leads and such, if you use the key center as a place to return to or a place to start from, it often works well. For example [MUSIC]. Like we said earlier, it feels like you're returning home and to a place of comfort. You cannot use that to your advantage or you can use it to stay away from that key center. [MUSIC] Create a bear of discomfort. Then when you're ready, bring it back home to that key center. Now using the majors scale to create melodies and leads is great. It works really, really well like we've seen. But there is another scale that works super, super well for this kind of thing and it's called a pentatonic scale. Now, I know what you're thinking, another scale? That's the last thing I want to be learning. But just bear with me for one second because it's actually way, way easier than you may think. A pentatonic scale is effectively just the major scale, but with a couple of notes removed. It's actually like a simplified version of the major scale. If we take a look at the A major scale again, now to turn this into a pentatonic scale, all we have to do is remove the four and the seven. [LAUGHTER] That works because the four and the seven in any major scale are the notes with the most tension. The rest of those notes just seem to work particularly well together. I don't know why. It's pretty crazy, but it just works like that. If we take away that four and the seven and restrict ourselves to just those notes, it's going to sound really, really good. Let's try playing another melody just using the pentatonic scale here. [MUSIC] There's a quick example of a pentatonic melody in the key of A major. It's pretty much one of the best melodies there, but hopefully that gives you a good idea anyway. The great thing about the pentatonic scale is that it's so, so versatile, just about any genre of music will work great with the pentatonic scale and tons and tons of famous artists and songs predominantly use the pentatonic scale in their melodies. For example, your song by Elton John, the vocal melody is entirely pentatonic. Amazing Grace, Stairway to Heaven, Under the Bridge by Chili Peppers, the verse and the chorus vocally are all pentatonic. You might be asking how we find the pentatonic scale within minor keys. Well, it's really, really straightforward and it works just like the major to minor scales like earlier. But just in case you're confused, let's go through it together again now. If we'd want to find the minor pentatonic scale of F sharp minor, the first thing we'd need to do is find its relative major. Up three notes, 1, 2, 3. We would then find the pentatonic scale from A, which is its relative major. We've just worked out pentatonic scale to bring it back up there and then we just reshuffle it. F sharp is treated as the key center. There is our F sharp minor pentatonic scale. [MUSIC] The pentatonic scale in F sharp minor is exactly the same as the pentatonic scale in A major. Now obviously, we can throw this pentatonic scale onto any instrument we want. I really think a guitar would be nice in the song. Let's throw some pentatonic melodies on the guitar over this. [MUSIC] Isn't that cool? Just that A major pentatonic scale turning on to guitar. Sounds pretty cool. Obviously, we can record a piece like that and then it's like jam over with some harmonies or some other lead parts, and create something really cool. [MUSIC] Record something like that over the top. We're starting to lay a lot of cool sounds on that now. That's sounding pretty good to me. Now I absolutely love the pentatonic scale. As you've seen there, it works so well for creating melodies and lead parts. But it has to be said, there are tons of other scales out there that really diversify your playing and make it even more interesting. [MUSIC] The major scale and the pentatonic scale will probably be enough to make you famous. It has made enough people famous, so if you want to stick with just that, feel free. Thank you so much for sticking with me this far, guys. I really, really appreciate it. I'm really excited to pull all of this knowledge together in the next lesson and start to really develop and build our song. I will see you in the next lesson. [MUSIC] 15. Developing Our Song: Hey guys, welcome back. In this next lesson, we're going to put all the elements that we've learned about in this course together and start to really flash out, and develop our song, we can add in some more instruments, and make a little bit of a song structure, and hopefully will sound really cool. I've done a little bit of work on this already just to make sure it doesn't sound awful, but I'm going to talk you through exactly what I've done, and why I've done it, and show you the theory behind it too. Let's go over to GarageBand, and you can see here are piano chords [MUSIC], and they've just looped, and for me the first thing that came to mind was a bass, let's jump over, and put some bass in. We know now how to work out what notes are going to sound good in our given key, with our baseline, we can play any of those notes that work inside the key. But what we can do to keep things really simple, it's just follow the root notes of the chords that have already been played. Our piano chords go A, D, B, because in bass we're only playing the one note, it doesn't matter if they're major or minor, we can just follow them on the bass to give it a bit of extra oomph if you like. I've picked out this bass sound, like on GarageBand, and yes, so we can just play the bass notes alongside the chords, and it's going to give it a bit of extra oomph, [MUSIC] and give it that feel. But if you want to make things a little bit more interesting flexor, we can use any of those notes that work inside the key. But an easy tip if you want to make your baselines a little bit more interesting is to balance between the root note, and the fifth of that chord. If it was A, we can count five away, is an E, the D would be A, and the B would be F sharp. If we were to balance between those two notes, instead the root, and the fifth, it could sound a little bit more like this, [MUSIC] there's only a very basic example. You can obviously make it a bit more complicated, and a bit more like upbeat and energetic, but for this song, we're going to keep it really, really simple, and just play the bass notes that align with the chords. I've recorded that in here, [MUSIC] then I thought this was a good time to bring in the drums back from earlier. Here is where I think it'd be perfect to add a bit of lead in. You might be noticing with this song structure we've started to develop here, we're bringing in one instrument at a time, and we're slowly introducing each instrument at a time, which makes quite a nice smooth flow. I often like to write like that, but it very much depends on what style and genre you're working within, what impacts you want to make. This is a bit more of like a relaxer, or smoother sounding song, so introducing those instruments one at a time suits the vibe, but if you're doing like a rock song or something, maybe you want to have a ton of instruments come in at once, and create a big impact, and it's very much down to you. At this point, I feel like it's right to bring some lead in, I have recorded the guitars that we came up with from our last lesson, I've got two. This was just the pentatonic riff, and I've played them like an octave apart. They create this cool like thicker sound [MUSIC]. Sounds pretty cool, and then I've panned one hard left, and one hard right to create a more surrounding sound, and I think to add a little bit more interest, we're going to add another lead in instrument. I found this cool arpeggiator on GarageBand [MUSIC], it's essentially like a keyboard or a synth that almost that plays itself, if we press down the cord, it's just going to play those notes in a particular sequence, and yeah, it sounds really, really cool. This one sounds like spacey, and now we can use our music theory knowledge to know what to play with this arpeggiator, we're in the key of A major. I feel I'm just going to keep it really simple, and just hold down the cord because the arpeggiator makes a great job with jumping between the notes. Again, because we're in the key of A major, know that an, AE code is going to work really well, and then I think I'm going to throw a seven on there as well, a major seven, maybe a little nine as well [MUSIC], altogether, it should sound like this [MUSIC]. There we go, sounds pretty cool, now, again, I wanted to keep it reasonably simple for today, and not add too much, so it's not too confusing to break down, but obviously you could go to town, and do a ton more instruments, and little melodies, and sounds. But yeah, I've done little bit of development here where I've just brought away some instruments, thinned it down a little bit, and then I've kicked all of the instruments back in over here, let's see what that sounds like from beginning to end. Now, shall we? [MUSIC]. Thinned it right down there, just have the guitar, and the bass, bring back in the drums, bit of a thinner sequence here, though with that thing, and then we're going to have a quick drop away of some instruments, and I'm now going to push it all back in [MUSIC] , and all the instruments are back in now. This song is in a great spot now for some top lining or some vocals over the top, obviously you can go to town with different sections, different instruments, and take your stuff away, bringing stuff in, and doing a load of more like production style stuff. But I really like the foundation, it's quite a like a low FE inspired track there, and the great thing is that now that we've learned a bit of music theory, we can develop this song in whatever way we want to, if we want to add another chord progression, we can get back to that circle of fifths, pick out some more chords that are going to work nicely. We can write some more lead or some melodies using the scales that we learned, and we can develop it in any way we want, and that's why I think it's so great to know a bit of music theory. But you know what, I could have gotten to this point without music theory, I could have just worked at those chords that sound nice, and I could have slowly developed chords in bits like that. But knowing that little bit of music theory has just enabled me to really quickly, and easily put that together, and because I can work quicker, and I'd know where to go straightaway without having to think about it too much. I find I can be a lot more inspired, I can really quickly just bang out a little lead part or put in another chord progression, while that inspiration hits, if I've spend an hour trying to figure out what chord works nicely, then by the end of the hour, I'm just going to be exhausted and the inspiration very well might have gone. For that reason, I really feel like it's a smoother process producing music when you know a bit of that theory. We are more or less wrapped up now, guys. I want to thank you so, so much if you've gotten to this point in the course, you've stuck with me all this time, I really, really appreciate it. I've just got a couple more things that we're going to wrap up in the last class, I'll see you there [MUSIC]. 16. Final Lesson : [MUSIC] Hey, friends. A massive congratulations for making it to the end of this course. You absolutely smashed it. I'm so proud of you for making it this far. Thank you so much if you stuck with me all this way. I really hope that it has been useful for you and you can take the information we've learned on your musical journey and create some really cool music from the things you've learned. Again, I'd just like to emphasize, if you make any music after watching this course, I would absolutely love to hear it. Or if you just want me to go check out your bands or your solo project or your YouTube channel, please feel free to link that in that class project and I'll be checking out and responding to everything that you're sending to me. I'm really excited to hear from you. Again, if you have any questions at all, please feel free to send them over. I spoke about a lot today and sometimes it can be a lot to soak in. So if you're just unsure about anything or you want just a bit more clarity on a certain subject, please feel free to ask a question. Please feel free to come back to this course anytime you need a little refresher or an update. Again, I know it's a lot to take on. But once it finally does sink in for you and you really start to practice and implement the sort we talked about, it makes music production and writing just an absolute breeze and it becomes much more enjoyable. For years I did not use music theory and I didn't understand it. So I know how frustrating and time consuming it can be. If you're struggling to get sides, please feel free to take the core progression or anything from a song we developed and use it in your own writing. You can treat that core progression or those lead parts as your own. I'm really not worried about it at all. That helps you get started. Please feel free to take them. It goes without saying that there is a ton more music theory we can learn and people spend their whole lives studying music theory and probably won't figure it all out. So don't let this be the end of your musical theory journey. There are so many more cool things to learn. If there is anything you'd like to learn about, please let me know. I might extend this course or I might make another one about some other bits and pieces. But I wanted to make a course that really just outlines the foundation of music theory and the core bits you need to know to effectively write amazing songs and produce music through a really good standard. Again, like we spoke about earlier, most of the songs that you'll hear on the radio contain just four chords and use the pentatonic scale. So effectively, you could use the knowledge in this course to probably become famous. If you do, don't forget about me, give me a shout somewhere down the line. Treat everything we've spoken about in this course like a great foundation to work from. But I think it's a sensible idea to only start to look at the more advanced things when you've got a really good grasp on the foundational elements. One last thing before the course ends. If this course has been at all useful for you, a positive review is absolutely massive for people like me making online courses, doing this sort of thing. So if you get the time, I would massively appreciate it and thank you so much in advance if you get the time to do that. Feel free to send me an email or follow me on Instagram and send me a DM. I would really love to hear from you. I hope you have a great day, guys. Thank you so much again for joining me here in this course. Have a great day. I'll catch you soon.