How to Write a Bass Line with Music Theory from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke “ANIMA”

How to Write a Bass Line with Music Theory from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke “ANIMA”

Hello revolutionary music makers, I’m Kate
Harmony, this is Ray Harmony, and welcome to Hack Music Theory, where we help you make
great music that stands out. And if it’s your first time here, please help yourself
to our free book “12 Music Theory Hacks to Learn Scales & Chords”, which you can
download from our website. Alright, it’s time to open your DAW to hack music theory.
But first… tea! Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has been rather
prolific lately, and he’s back with another new album. “Anima” continues his journey
into electronic exploration, and contains some mesmerising moments, like the hypnotic
bass line in album opener “Traffic”, which we’ll be hacking in this video. What makes
this bass line so hypnotic? Two things: depth, and syncopation (which is accenting an off-beat).
Thom creates depth in his bass line by using a layering technique. And while most people
think of layering as adding instruments, you can actually achieve the same effect in a
bass line alone, without adding any tracks. You simply write two melodies that work together
harmonically, then switch back and forth between them. And Thom assigns his top melody to beats
2+, 3+, and 4+, which results in a hypnotic pumping against his bottom melody that plays
on the beats in between. SETUP Alright, now you’re gonna learn how to use
this theory to make your own version. And for the example in this lesson, we’ll be
using our version that we made earlier. So, start by setting up two bars of 4/4, with
your grid set to 1/16 notes, and your tempo set to 129 BPM. And Thom’s bass line is
in G minor, so we’ll use it too. STEP 1. CHORDS Musical depth is created from harmony, so
when you wanna write a bass line with depth, write your chord progression first. And the
chords in G minor that you can choose from, are: Gm, Adim, B♭maj, Cm, Dm, E♭maj, and
Fmaj. In our progression, we play Gm for one bar, then Fmaj for half a bar, then Cm for
one beat, and then we finish with B♭maj for one beat. STEP 2. LAYERS Now it’s time to split your harmony into
two layers: a top melody, and a bottom melody. Thom’s two layers are actually just the
same melody played at different octaves, but we decided to kick it up a notch by writing
two completely different melodies. We used the root note of each chord for our bottom
melody, then we filled in the harmony with our top melody. For example, over the Fmaj
chord, our bottom melody plays the root, then our top melody completes the harmony by playing
3, 5, and another 3 an octave higher. STEP 3. RHYTHM Right, the last step is to assign rhythms
to your two layers. Thom only plays his top melody on beats 2+, 3+, and 4+, which creates
that hypnotic syncopation. So we used a similar rhythm for our top melody, but we added beat
2 as well. And in our second bar, to spice things up even more, we used a few 1/16 notes.
The shortest note value Thom uses though, is an 1/8 note, so stick with that if you
want something simpler. Lastly, we get loads of people asking how
to transition between sections, and also, how to structure and arrange songs. And while
these are essential skills to learn, please understand that we can’t teach them for
free, because that is our secret sauce which we teach in our online apprenticeship course.
So, if you wanna learn how to go from a blank screen to a finished song, then join over
700 other music makers also on the course. And, it helps us pay the rent too, so it’s
a win-win! You can join anytime at: Alright, now let’s have a listen to our
Thom Yorke inspired bass line. But just before the playthrough, if there’s an artist you’d
like us to hack, please let us know. Thanks for watching (or listening, if you’re on
the podcast), and we’ll see you next week!


  1. Wanna learn how Thom Yorke writes a chord progression?

  2. Hi Kate & Ray! I'm late today, but for a reason – I was working on my music for several hours straight while not minding the time! I watch your videos on a regular basis and they help me a lot, directly or indirectly. Something new emerges in me, like little green sprouts come from dead tree trunk. I can now create music noticeably different from what I was capable of. It would not have happened without you, and I am truly grateful for your hard work. Thank you very much!

  3. Hello!
    How things are going? I was sick and could not watch the video when you posted it. Anyway, have you changed your routine? I mean, when we should be waiting for a new video?
    Thanks again my friends!

  4. Thanx guys. It was a very good hack. It's fantastic how the bass line can give such impact in a piece of music.

  5. Sick syncopation. Hypnotic driving bass indeed! I've said it before, but you guys are so real, and it's very refreshing. Side note, I sent you guys an email and not sure if you got it. I encountered a website from my Google feed that seems fraudulent and may or may not have listed some stuff from your creations. If nothing else it uses your channel name. If a false alarm, great, and my apologies, but please give it a look. Thank you guys for your continued excellence!

  6. Hi guys! I am not much of a music producer, but I play guitar a bit – I just like to watch your videos and wait for the time Ray rocks out at the end, well done, both of you 🙂

  7. Good vidéo, this channel is awesome. I have juste a question, i bet you already gave the answer but what is the logiciel that you use please?

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