How Muse (Doesn’t?) Write A Chord Progression | Artists Series S2E3

How Muse (Doesn’t?) Write A Chord Progression | Artists Series S2E3

there is something quite unusual about the way Matt Bellamy the singer and songwriter of Muse writes his court progressions it’s gonna be a wild episode but I’ll warn you right now if you thought power chords were too simplistic you should probably turn this video off right now what’s up everyone it’s Rio finesse ballistics are running the song running coach with a beard welcome to season 2 of the artist series where we look at the biggest rock artists in the world and what we can learn from them this time we’re taking a close look at Muse and specifically how they use chords in their songwriting but before we do let’s put everything in perspective and first talk about who the artist is without understanding what the artist is trying to achieve it doesn’t make much sense to sift through data so as always let’s start with the image so put on your thinking caps and riddle me this what emotions does muse evoke in you pause this video think of maybe three or four words and come back to me so at the spacebar in three two one now and here’s what I came up with first they sound clever smart sophisticated it’s not background music and it actively seeks your attention second and forgive the phrase they sound full of wonder and excitement almost excessively so a lot of their songs feel like you’re floating through space or cliff diving and lastly tension while listening to their music you feel constantly on edge suspended in midair now there are some similarities with our previously covered band Radiohead they’re both British and have that British look and sound and they use tense high-pitched melodies over the occasional odd chord so where can we draw a line between these two bands what makes them different let’s refine our image of these bands a little more I promise we’re gonna get to the good stuff right after this but for now take another second pause the video and think what are the differences between muse and Radiohead and here’s what I’ve come up with and this should go without saying but obviously none of this is meant as criticism or suggesting that one man is better than the other I just want to clear up the details here while Muse certainly has some challenging harmonies they rarely completely fall out of key and therefore don’t have that sense of counterculture ISM like Radiohead does there is a noticeable and sometimes even explicit influence from classical composers like Bach or Rachmaninoff composers which are so baked into our Western minds that they hardly seem contrarian even if we hear some of their more challenging chord progressions secondly Radiohead feels darker more personal a creative mind that’s gone mad Muse feels less attached more about big-picture stuff their lyrical themes are conspiracies and politics rebellion and war this difference in scope shows in the music as well where Radiohead’s music feels introverted and closed-off Muse sounds like the leader of a rebellion along with stomping roomy drums and megaphone vocals there now that we got that cleared up let’s see how all of this reflects in the music [Music] this little example really captures a whole lot of what we’ve been talking about it sounds clever classical tense and full of wonder why is that let’s take a good look at the Harmony here we’re seeing an 8 bar chord progression in 3/4 that goes up in fourths this is a kind of sequencing will you take a bunch of chords and repeat them at a different pitch the same thing can be heard in Knights of Cydonia we know sequencing from classical music and film scores so that’s already a first hint at Bellamy’s influences then there’s a boatload of notes that outline the different chords arpeggios if you played these notes together as a kind of pad the song would lose all of its clever sound I think it’s fair to say that more notes also sound more sophisticated and between you and me the arpeggios you’re hearing right now in the backing track I had those for the same effect which makes me seem less like a doofus with a beard and more like a smart person with a beard why do I keep mentioning the beard he’s the courts that these arpeggios spell out the first thing that jumps out is the Augmented chords a rarity in modern pop music like all chords augmented chords have a different effect depending on how they’re used in this case I would say they are used to make us feel excited to instill that sense of wonder also I think it’s fair to say that this many triads are unusual for the rock genre where especially in energetic songs like this one you would expect power chords now take a close look at how these chords are led into it’s easier to see when we condense everything down to dotted half notes this is proper classical voice leading where for each chord change the minimal amount of movements is made within the voices here’s the next section of the song condensed down to dotted half notes – a lot of songwriters and composers out there this kind of voice leading has become second nature but it’s a fact that with musical education going down more and more songwriters don’t do this check out this video from future music magazine where you can see of each e rest in peace show off the piano roll for dancing in my head and the voice leading is all over the place now again this doesn’t mean it’s bad it just has a different sound so this along with the Triads the sequencing the Augmented courts and the operatic structure are some of the reasons why take a bow has a class and isn’t this why Muse sounds sophisticated too because even though they are a band of big bold moves most of their sound comes from these small movements where one notice changed one step at a time in fact if I were a philosopher I would probably say that that’s how all revolutions start through small changes now if you were to write a song like this on guitar you would quickly run into a common problem triads and distorted guitars don’t sound so good together that’s part of the reason why power quarries are the most popular chords in rock bands as soon as you add the third the sound becomes unstable and less defined so how does Muse deal with this problem the simple answer is they don’t the harmony in their songs usually doesn’t come from the guitar it comes from other instruments like the synth in take a bow or the bass in time is running out [Music] note that both of these don’t play actual chords they essentially play melodies counterpoints that imply the harmony look at this bass link first of all if we ignore the octave jumps we can see how smoothly the bass walks using stepwise motion to reach each new chord and except for the E major chord all other chords are outlined by the slick we get the root and minor third of the a minor the minor seventh and third of the B diminished followed by a chromatic passing tone going to the E major and we end on the F and G with the root and fifth respectively let’s look at the chords next we’ve got a 2/5 in minor followed by a flat 6 flat 7 1 these are both very common Cadence’s in classical music as well this is part of the reason why the bass lick flows so well but it also instills that classical sophisticated sound let’s look at another bass riff this time from Asteria this follows a similar idea as time is running out again we see a lot of notes which already sounds hysteric but this time the base doesn’t play the harmony as much and there are no stepwise transitions from court to court however when we leave up the pedal base meaning the root notes of the chords it’s easy to see that there is still a melody that moves mostly stepwise with some loose sequencing for the chord changes in other words the base takes of two rolls it gives us the fundamentals the base notes and it gives us a riff on top of that so this is a different approach – time is running out which is why they don’t sound the same different methods yield different results and here’s yet another example of an intro riff with a lot of notes that uses a different approach entirely [Music] in reapers the open strings don’t make up the base notes of the chords they fulfill different functions in the various chords depending on the notes higher up the string so it starts out as a D major with the open D string as its root turns into a G minor over D then a D major seven augmented then a D minor seven G minor C minor over G and C sharp diminished over G again same type of riff but a different approach and therefore a different sound now the question arises when one of the instruments is playing such an incredibly busy part what is the rest of the band doing it’s easy to fall into the trap of overloading the arrangement with power chords or another busy pattern and so Bellomy writes very simple parts for these secondary instruments this includes his own vocals which often stretch out into long notes thereby not interfering with the main riff we listen to some of these unobtrusive secondary parts in just a second it’s often where you don’t look that the songwriting actually happens it’s an incredibly important skill as a songwriter to be able to write parts that don’t split our attention away from the main riff it should also be said that presumably for the same reason it’s very common for Bellomy to omit any secondary parts in his first verses as is the case with all three songs that follow so we’re only going to listen to the second verses of these songs [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] let’s talk about two more techniques Bellamy likes to use when it comes to harmony first of all and I already kind of mentioned this he loves functional harmony and so nine times out of ten he will here at dominant fifth so a major chord in a song set in minor and typically in a strong position at the end of the court progression [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Music] [Music] [Applause] [Music] similarly Bellamy’s also a big fan of diminished courts these are typically used to approach the dominant fifth and minor or the Tomic in major [Applause] [Music] [Music] [Music] so there you have it tension a sense of wonder and sophistication I think it’s no coincidence that Bellamy likes to write about conspiracy theories his music sounds just like them completely ridiculous and over-the-top literally augmented but in a fascinating way with an obsession to detail if you enjoyed this video please like share subscribe and let me know in the comments which rock artist you’d like me to do next also while you here why not subscribe to the holistic song running a live channel where every Monday at 9:00 a.m. PST I answer your questions in a live 60-minute Q&A session the suite of a philosopher ballistic songwriting I’ll take care of and staycation

100 thoughts on “How Muse (Doesn’t?) Write A Chord Progression | Artists Series S2E3

  1. 0:22


  2. strokes!

  3. As a longtime fan of Muse, listening to tryhards dumping on them as "low rent Radiohead", this video was edifying and validating.

  4. my head hurts

  5. Try Allen Holdsworth a bit tough but totally worth it

  6. I feel like although many of Muse's songs have a political theme, the expression in them is always emotionally-driven. With any topic they draw out the question: 'what are the emotional consequences of this?'.. which is the part that everyone forgets when they talk politics. Muse's songs are always about your state of mind. Listening to the words themselves, they are personal. Taking songs from every album… Feeling Good, Hysteria, Map of the Problematique, Showbiz, Survival, The Handler, The Dark Side and so on, you will find the words 'I', 'you', 'me' or 'my' are usually the focus. It's not about the group, it's about you and me.

  7. Wow just Discovery your Channel…can you analyze Rebecca sugar and how she uses words the simplify what it means and how she says it

  8. Amazing work you did in this video, that’s a remarkable analysis you did right there, congrats man 🙌

  9. I dig the Tyler Durden reference at 1:03

  10. I watched this ages ago. Today i'm listening to Muse feeling wonder and excitement with a bit of tension thrown in, marveling at how sophisticated they sound….WITH A BEARD! lol. I had to come back to tell you how you got in my head. I don't have a great memory but this stuck and now when I listen to my favourite band I think "WITH A BEARD" lol.

  11. This guy sounds Irish, but like an Irishman who knows how to speak.

  12. Radiohead is (obviously subjective) dogshit. Not denying their talent but it does nothing for me and I'm confused as to why they're so famous(as well as why Pitchfork is so adamantly swinging from their nut sack)

  13. Lol sorry you couldnt add the dick pick..

  14. Radiohead is political too, have you heard 2+2=5? And im pretty sure they are a lot more, Muse is a more basic Radiohead, and thats not being said lightly

  15. 9 years in music school have not been a waste of time after all 🙂

  16. I was way off on the emotion thing. I ended up with Righteousness, Desparation/Longing, and Resolution.

  17. What emotions does Muse evoke in you?
    Me: cum

  18. When does he get to the point

  19. I've studied music theory for 5 years when i was in school, but i understand none of this American music terminology. Heck, even the notes have different names.

  20. Undertone, evocative.spiritual

  21. U2!

  22. hold up that looks high quality, where is the video at 6:20?

  23. 3:37 This staff is confusing

  24. Would you do Mother Mother? They have a fascinating and unique sound.

  25. Not only political and war IMO, but physics and esoterism/spirituality too…

  26. There's a hidden message at 1:04

  27. so it's no coincidence

  28. Loved this! Thought the video was at first just going to bash how they write their music, but ended up being delighted to hear an in depth analysis showing Bellamy's classical side! Subscribed!

  29. 13:15 – I don't think you get that the conspiracy theories Muse is talking about aren't "theories" or "ridiculous".

  30. I love radiohead..muse..coldplay. all are british… dreeeeeamy dreamy harmony

  31. I am surprised you didn't look at the guitar part in Plug in Baby as an example of all the things you were discussing in the video. The scale is great. Peace.


  33. i just realized the guitar riff in starlight sounds a lot like that of charlie brown by coldplay??

  34. 3 emotions: 1. Love 2. Rebellion 3. Nostalgia

  35. Please listen to Treehouse Empire: The album I made and I truly believe in:

  36. I had to spend quite some time to read the spliced frame on my phone. I wonder how many kids started crying when they viewed this video. 😉

  37. Bach is baroque
    Rachmaninoff is 20th century

  38. you should do conspiracy theories, with the voice and background music

  39. Absolutely brilliant. Greetings from Italy!

  40. Could you do some audio books please? I could listen to that all day. K. Thanks.

  41. Can you do green day please?

  42. This is great. 😀

  43. To me Muse sounds like the villains theme song: intricately crafted, dark, foreboding, ominous and this is why he writes about political, cyberpunk, apocalyptic tyranny and it fits so well. The instrumentation is futuristic: distorted bass and guitars, lots of effects, synths, but with the grand drama of Baroque and Romantic harmony, and a bel canto vocal delivery

  44. Rush

  45. these videos are great, they make you think about concepts and styles, very good, thank you!!!

  46. There is no such thing as 1/8 time signature.

  47. you over think things wayyy too much, just because someone goes up an octave doesn't tell you shit about their influences

  48. This man is the perfect example of show don't tell. That beard joke was low key genius.

  49. good job👍👍

  50. Radiohead and Muse are my music influences but Muse got me more

  51. Tension and "floating" is what I always think when thinking of muse. I agree with earlier commenters that it used to be waaaaay more dense and dark than Radiohead. Maybe they exhausted their mental disorder repertoire?

  52. sooooooo over my head….. 🙁

  53. My three were ethereal, aggression, & pretty.

  54. It's 2018 and I still haven't seen Fight Club. I understood the reference, though.

  55. Do Rishloo man, please.

  56. please do Two Door Cinema Club

  57. amazing video 👍.. about MYRATH please….

  58. what about myrath music..

  59. Great video! I would like to see you make a video on The Mars Volta, Incubus, Thrice, or Young Windows.

  60. amazing video! muse is a favorite as far as modern rock bands go. i love theory videos like this. sunscribed!

  61. Hey ! Such a great video ! I'm beginnin to write n compose some songs so thanks for ur videos !
    Could u analyse the band Nothing But Thieves ? I think it could be interestin (perhaps ?)

    Thanks ! ^^

  62. I love this series so much! Would you please do Alicia Keys, Lianne la havas, Joni Mitchell and Kpop bands? (EXO and SM artists particularly!) Oh and D'Angelo!

  63. For me, Muse is like looking up at the night sky like there's so much wonder on what happens above, whilst Radiohead is the same but you're on the bottom of the earth as if you would fall but gravity lets you hold on.


  65. Love muse, but I think your ideas for them have a lot to do with their more modern songs. Earlier Muse was about angst, abstract ideas, and a lot more personal – writing about personal experiences. There was a bit of politics mixed in, but it took over a lot more later. I'd also love to see how you'd compare how Matt sings as part of the harmony.

    The next band I'd like to hear about is My Chemical Romance, and why Helena is such an amazing song.

  66. The piano/synth riffs in Muse songs are what hooked me. I can fly high listening to them, without drug.

  67. Id say the Bass and drums carry the songs progression in most of their music.

  68. Whats the difference between Radiohead and Muse!
    Well lets see, Muse know how to Rock! While Radiohead is too focused on sounding artsy fartsy….Whoa man! They are sooo DEEP! HA HA! Other than the singers sounding similar their music is completely different in style and sound.

  69. Muse always makes me want to take over the world, and think I can do it, too.

  70. A Tonnetz analysis of Take a Bow:

  71. Do Steven Wilson, please.

  72. For me Muse sounds like a mixture of Queen, U2 and Depeche Mode.

  73. Please, add more music when you talk about it I see chords and have no idea how they sound so no way I can truly understand what you are talking about ( At least a midi rendering of some king if it is a copyright issue

  74. my three words for muse were: desperation, triumph and groove

    i think tension fits somewhere in the first two so yeh.

  75. I don't understand why everyone acts like Showbiz never happened. It's a brilliant debut.

  76. All I get from this video is that Muse are an amazing band that doesn't get the praise it deserves. Been a fan for probably 15-16 years now, I'm only 24, and always thought they were better than most other 2000-present bands

  77. Can you do an episode on Green Day , I think they have amazing song writing ability and can transform simple power chord progression in to something else with their writing ability .
    I would like it if you can breakdown their writing process which is a total mystery for everyone.

  78. Evanescence!!

  79. Animals as leaders

  80. Really D**k pic 1:04

  81. YouTube wouldn't let you add that because you didnt add in the "cigar burns" to the corner of the screen… lol

  82. For the next video, please look at the band Bilderbuch from Austria. The place where the best German pop music comes from.

  83. Wtf? Add a Dick Picture but YouTube dont let you? Hahahaha

  84. Been to several Muse concerts, they also have the benefit of fucking wild live performances.
    Also, God, Chris is aces at Bass.

  85. Do you do the voice over for zefrank1's 'true facts'? Very similar accents and cadence

  86. 1:20 Galactic

  87. "What's up everyone it's hdksbwbwksivscanaowwis"

  88. Good Analisys men! Good video! It's very interesting! I'm from Peru. You win one suscriber more!

  89. Another thing to note, almost all muse songs are more minor than major. It kind of makes it sound mysterious being somewhere in between

  90. great job dude, do you have an great knowledge about what youre talking here

  91. What I want to learn is Matt's process in coming up with melodies and riffs. They sound very unique compared to most rock out there. Also the piano riffs are sex

  92. Yeah he writes chord progressions unlike anyone else. The only difference is he sucks at it

  93. I’m a musician and you are a jack ass w a beard. Although you are correct in your opinion

  94. Review Igorrr!

  95. I wish I knew anything about notes, major/minor, diminished chords etc., but this was interesting to watch.

  96. Hmmm to answer your question honestly… the feeling of Intense bowl inflammation with not actually having intense bowl inflammation, the good kind not the bad kind though…

  97. Alright wtf did he say in the first sentence after the intro? Listened three times and I have no idea.

  98. Yes, all that, but also… Sexy Depression (TM)

  99. The diference is that Radiohead is a shit and Muse is Pure Music GOD!

  100. i wonder if they are nice in person or total dicks?

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