Jacob Collier, Negative Harmony & How to Write a Negative Melody

Hello, Ray Harmony and Kate Harmony here. Welcome to the Hack Music Theory show. It’s an extra special one today, as it’s our first show as a married couple. Yep, on the weekend we officially became Mr and Mrs Harmony. But, instead of going on a honeymoon this week, we returned to our studio to make more music theory videos for you.

And, it seems the universe rewarded us for our dedication, as last night the genius Jacob Collier came to town, and we would’ve missed him if we were on a honeymoon. If you don’t know who Jacob Collier is, let me sum him up in a nutshell. Whenever the world is lucky beyond lucky, we get gifted with a human who somehow manages to work their compositional and performance skills to an equally genius level. My hero, JS Bach, is the obvious example of these extraordinary musicians. Now in our time though, we have Jacob Collier, who is a mere 22 years young, and has already proved himself worthy of that comparison.

Jacob’s show last night was truly mind-blowing and heart-blowing, and left us speechless. But, we did manage to get our tongues back after the show to have an inspiring chat with this humble genius. He mentioned that the incredible June Lee, who is a fellow music theory nerd like us, had just uploaded a new music theory interview with him yesterday. So naturally, we went home and watched the whole 38-minute video after midnight, twice. If you missed part one of this interview series, which June uploaded a couple months ago. It ended up going viral, and now every musician and their cat is obsessed with this negative harmony thing Jacob talked about.

So, in Jacob’s latest video, he talks more about negative harmony, and we know that’s going to spark even more interest in the topic. Seeing as we’ve already had tons of people asking us to do a video on negative harmony, that’s what we’re going to do today. In this new video, Jacob excellently explains this theory as both a harmonic concept and a melodic concept. And in the context of popular music these days, melody is far more important than harmony. This can been heard in most of today’s big hits, which focus all the attention on the vocal melodies and bass lines. Sometimes these hits don’t even contain any chords, and when they do, they’re often in the background acting as sonic filler.

For this reason, I can see an awesome application for the negative melody concept in popular music, in the way of vocal or bass lines, and that’s what I’m gonna share in this video. By the way, Jacob explains the melodic use of negative harmony at 4:21 in his new video, and we’re gonna zoom into the C negative major example he gives.

Before we jump in though, here’s a little disclaimer. Firstly, the example I’ll be teaching in this video is just one of a myriad of possibilities for using negative harmony, so please use this as inspiration to experiment with your own ideas. And secondly, negative harmony is just a theory, conceptualized by one person, so while many musicians are getting caught up in arguments about whether it exists or not, and if it does, how to correctly apply it, none of this is relevant. Exactly, negative harmony is just another creative hack that we can put in our songwriting toolboxes.

I’ve been teaching music theory for over two decades, and throughout that time I’ve had countless musicians argue with me that music theory hinders creativity, and unsurprisingly, not once has this argument ever come from someone who actually understands music theory, because those who learn theory, experience the exact opposite. Music theory ignites creativity, as it connects things that were previously disconnected; music theory expands our musical vocabulary, allowing us to easily express things we could never previously express.

Now, without further ado, here is our brand new video lesson that we spent 17 hours each working on today (34 hours total), which shows you what "negative melody" is, and how to use it in popular/electronic music. So, if you wanna flip the script on your songwriting and try something completely different, check out today's episode of the Hack Music Theory show: Jacob Collier, Negative Harmony, and How to Write a Negative Melody (15-minute YouTube video), and be sure to catch Jacob's personal message to you at 0:20 in our video/podcast. But first... tea!

We really hope you dig our new video lesson, and if you wanna get your hands on all the vital theory hacks you need to write great songs, then please download my Hack Music Theory for Songwriting & Producing PDF.

Lastly, thanks big time to our patrons over on Patreon for supporting our work. And if you wanna join our Hack Music Theory revolution and get exclusive content too, then please sign up at Patreon.com/RevolutionHarmony

Thank you for being brave and committing to make the world a better place through better music. Until next week, happy songwriting & producing!

Kate & Ray Harmony - Victoria BC, Canada
Musicians | Songwriters | Producers | Teachers