Using Key Changes


Mastering Metal Songwriting


Lesson Info

Using Key Changes

You use from what you were telling me and from what I heard also uh lots of key changes and they're not key changes I guess in the you were berkeley and you're learning two, five ones and all that stuff it's more like I call them or like pseudo key changes because a lot of the time I don't I don't think that like the sound of music is actually in a key to begin with it's usually chromatic based so it's like you're kind of it's almost like you're moving from one center of tonality to another, but that doesn't matter what matters is that you're you're setting up tension and then you're releasing the tension s so I wanted to go through a few of them and basically have you talk us talk us through them like you were the one that we went through on in exodus uh remind playing the part for us that is the change? Sure. So the first riff starts in a key that's different than the verse riff we haven't intro with anniversary and I wanted to do that. So when the verse kicked in kicked in super hea...

vy so the interest is on a tune to cease straight so that so that key would be their c sharp so like that's er that's what I'm talking about that it's not like in a traditional key but there's like a shape to it yeah the shape or there's like there's a contour uh if you wanna use descriptive words where it goes from hi lo yes which I mean if you want to break it down teo you know, even when you're doing property changes still going from one place to another which of higher tension or lower attention and that's all that really matters I think at the end of the day's how it affects listener so we first played that song we were playing in the open he because at the time it was easier to play but going into the next part it just seems bland yeah just like that doesn't really have too much impact were like well what if we play it up a ki oppa half a note on dh then it was like that sounds great that's that's actually a pop trick that's used a lot is going up or down half step for whole step teo emphasize apart and it's it's just done it specific moments too make a part hit harder but I'll play it in the context of the song so that people can hear how you think context is everything so basically when it goes to the fast part that's where it drops down correct definitely having yeah doing that yeah absolutely yeah it's almost like if it didn't do that the you may not even notice that I switched riffs yeah it's just kind of it would be kind of bland yeah, I think that in this style of music um specifically uh you have limited variables to play with like they're not really melody there's not really much harmony going on it's normal and the key changes air relatively minors like from one one note center to basically have set down or have step up so you had to be super where of all the other elements going with it's structurally so it's not just I think that you switched keys but you also switched the entire field of the song right there like you went from higher and kind of half time me too like lower and fast and yeah, my left hand is doing something completely significantly different yeah so it's like I think it's a bunch of and this is something that you do in mixing too but it's a bunch of little change is done at the same time to fulfill a bigger goal and that's that's one thing he touched on earlier is ah one thing I did discover recently as I believe I really try hard to play drums on guitar and that's a that's a that's a great example of of that yeah totally I think again rhythm rhythm to me is like the top of the hierarchy so I think that basically the thing that people could get from that would be it's not like it's not really an exercise to do with it or anything like that it's more like when you're writing transitions I think the thing that you need to be aware of you don't need to do this when you're in the moment creativity you could do this after the fact you had toe really figure out if your transition is all that it could be like if the rhythm is changing right if you're going in the right place key wise like all those little things that you could change about it so I want to emphasize what you said earlier about this being a trick because this is absolutely trick because the intro we all felt strongly about on divers we all felt strongly about we knew we wanted to go from from from intro divers and playing it in the same key was not working for us so so that was a feel we knew all right, we need to stick with us let's try to put some work into this to make this work and it was that trick that key change trick that that worked for us yeah still even though I guess the end result was that the field was one hundred times better and that the changes memorable is still a conscious decision yes he made though when you were actually writing the riffs was there any conscious stuff going on like I guess in draft one yeah, well we knew we wanted to open the record with a an ass speeding riff that's cool yeah, we're actually we're going to get teo album sequencing in a minute actually, I think did you did you have your goal for the album before you wrote that or after you wrote that before we had that before that was we definitely have before. Okay, so it's like I want this kind of record and because I want this kind of records got open this way yes, we wanted to make amore extreme record we'll know we wanted to make a more we knew we wanted to make amore extreme record than our previous one and our first record opened up fast like drums, bass and vocals boom at the same time we knew this was like all right, we open up our last record fast we're gonna open this one up heavy and slow you know, some people would consider that beats slow by any means but for us in context are bizarre it's all relative you know it's all relative so all right, I want teo skip to the next example from tired yeah there's a key change in that one too and it's the same key change that's a half a step down and it's ah serves the end yeah towards the slow parts I get last ten or fifteen probably ten seconds off the song I haven't cut to where cool where it's not like the whole song but a lot of people here how that comes in I have I have these examples cut a little bit longer so you can hear well into them because this is not like a gn actually minor chord at the one place going to a major court somewhere else that you could hear it on a piano or any instrument like I think that context is everything absolutely you know would you mind if this if this is a mind warp than no worries I'd be curious to hear what it would sound like if you want from the first rift we played into the slower riff without the without the key change it would sound like this okay and with uh play from here say though that the drumbeat changing is a big part of it well yes but that's just like the other song even though it's not you didn't copy the song it's not like you went into that same beers it's a similar device of changing changing the rhythm and changing the tonality just just enough to make the part hit that much harder and it's another thing where it's like the courses ring out chords done na na na na na na na na na next party don't don't t meant that that that it's a total right hand thing I think that's actually something really, really important on the internet when I asked what is one of the biggest problems that people have with writing one of the answers that I got the most consistently was transitions howto howto make one part worked with transitions or justus hard as is writing a good riff? Absolutely because if you don't have a good transition theirs that mean anything but I think there's I mean is you're seeing right here there's actual conscious tricks you can do to make a transition hit harder like change the key slightly change the rhythm like I mean this sounds simple, but it goes a long way like if it's a fast part goes to a halftime part like or other way around, I think that again it's one of those things that it's seemingly so simple that a lot of people overlook it like when they say I don't know how to write a transition because they're thinking that it needs to be this big grand technique that is really, really I guess uh really intellectually complex or really it's not enough about all it can be something as simple as going into halftime and dropping it down afraid think the priorities need to be at the they need to be just always paid attention to him priority has to be how the song hits and if I guess if that's not kept at the forefront of a bat man's minder or writer's mind you'll have parts like that where you go into a half time without the key change and yeah, might be cool because I think you have one one of the elements of the transition to make it cool but it's not all that it could be and like I said earlier, I think the good transitions air uh basically a combination of a bunch of little things going on and once yeah, not one huge. I mean, it could be one it could be, but but not not in general life. No. If you stand a ruin the feel of a song. Yeah. Making huge huge moves san with mixing you, uh, you stand to ruin a mix in harvey by making really, really drastic. You changes and things like that one of the one of the secret it's not really secret because it's all over the internet and everybody talks on forums but it's I think it's a secret and mixing because nobody actually does it when it comes down to it because it's so hard to do. But the secret teo making mixes work or one of the main secrets is tiny amounts of change across the entire mixing yes song sam with songs they were so that way you ensure the flow and you ensure that riffed a works with riff be if it's not transitioning so much that it's like I like mr bungle but on ly mr bumble can pull off transitions like that most bands tried it go from polka to death metal it's not it's not not really gonna work and just to point this concept out just to like back it up not pointed out I am going to point out on example of this done in a really popular music so everybody watching this class knows this song but just check out when the vocals come in that the the music goes up the whole steppe now on your way andi that's about his classic because he said the vocals go because the riff went up half step two yeah I think you actually to teo to cool stuff yeah okay yes it is the vocals kick in and then when it goes to I guess oh grant or forest reflect real uncle it goes back down it's hard to call out of course because it's just so aspey as of course it's a hook a hook okay I mean a new level little good it's just the part that missus the cookie part but but I think that the the point is that the assumes the vocals come in gearshift and it's so it's one of the things I like as a listener who doesn't know who doesn't think about too much about this they're not going to catch that but it has such a hard impact yeah well it's building ten tension that's the tension part and the thing with a hard impact is done oh no no no no no no no no no no no absolutely it's going down classic tension release uh like an ass kicking metal song that everybody's heard for twenty years on dh you confined that a cross I just picked that out because we're talking about it and I think all three of my guests brought this song up I mean it's like one of the most famous metal songs of all time but it doesn't just happen there happens in pop music history in classic yeah it's just one of the most used and I don't think abused because it just works you know we're songwriting tricks out there is a shift things up a whole stepper have stepped to build tension or back down a whole separate half step to release it I mean you don't really need to know theory from berkeley toe get how that works and one other example and we're going to talk more about uh this band in a minute but this song to semi classic out of emptiness it's not quite like pantera but you know as faras founding fathers of death it's the biggest death metal band at least in sales history and as far as I know I think I don't know it's arguable if there's relevant as they used to be but this stuff for its time was you know as cutting edge as it got later albums yeah way don't always about a thousand but but there's a massive key change I think reason I'm pointing this song out because it is one of the most famous death metal songs of all time and it's also a game changer death no song uh because it brought in clean vocals you know though they're not cheesy there's melody in the vocals which is a huge huge huge huge thing for a death metal to do death metal band to do back then now it's normal for bands toe have screaming gotta roll stuff and then clean singing but back then it was severe no no and if I think that if the song wasn't it ruptured perfectly this would not have worked and it would have backfired and I think that they're one of the things that works about it is the massive key change at the end into the into the last part of play that this one the most parents definitely first of all time but I guess I got a I correct myself or clarify one thing the key changes that happened right when the outro has it happens halfway through the transition which is a really interesting trick that you see in country music a lot and and lots of styles of music where there's a lot of guitar soloing happening people might laugh when you say that but I bet you you know, whoever wrote the song tray or whoever they knew that to? I'm sure you probably know about country music and they knew that trick from that it's a technique that you use if you've got a long solo on people should pay attention this if you've got a long solo, you know too long for your own good kind of solo and halfway through it's just starting to go nowhere like dude is out of ideas and just got to the fast part too quickly just like couldn't keep in his pants or whatever and just there's nowhere else to go, it doesn't it doesn't really sound like a key change of their soul over it because of the lead guitarist knows what he's doing here bridget seamlessly but that that's exactly what's going on right there and if you apply that into country music there's a good soul is going on, that would be the point and we're the solo basically ramped up a notch you hear it a lot in in metal to where you have really good lead guitarist lee zach wilder, that type of lead guitarist they do that a lot within their souls where you think it gets to guess the climax of some sort and then ramps up the tension just a little bit but shifting keys but the other thing about that that's a really great device is that that makes the transition into the end in a different key feel totally smooth, whereas if you were to go through the solo section of the bridge section or whatever in one key on dh then change right? When you get to the last chorus, it might seem a little brought, you know, but one of the things that's cool about changing keys on last courses that makes it feel more intense. So how you how do you, I guess, change keys on the last course, but get their smoothly this another thing that people ask me about on the internet and that's? One of the ways that people do is they change halfway through the park before, but you've got to do it seamlessly that's a trick it's really hard to change keys in the middle of a riff without it sounding like I play that one more time just to point that out, but people should pay attention to is how the final rift is in a different key than the first rift that I played, and if it wasn't, try to imagine what it would sound like if it was in the same key give it didn't really weird, so on the most classic endings and the genre basically was set up by a really, really classic changed trick, so you know it works no matter what style of music

Class Description

It’s easy for musicians to get so caught up in the latest gear, plugins, and presets, and forget that ultimately, it’s all about the music. Join Eyal Levi and special guests Ryan Clark (Demon Hunter), Todd Jones (Nails, Terror), and John Browne (Monuments) for an in-depth exploration of what it takes to craft great songs.

Eyal will share the tricks of the songwriting trade he’s learned over years of experience as a producer at Audiohammer Studios (The Black Dahlia Murder, August Burns Red, Whitechapel) and guitarist for Century Media/Roadrunner artists Daath. Throughout this two-day course, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the three core components of metal/rock songwriting. You’ll learn about basic song structure and riff-writing; melodies, leads, and vocals; and fine-tuning the arrangement to take your song from good to great. Eyal will be joined by special guests -- from musicians to producers and more -- who will empower you to take your songwriting to new heights.


Mike Lamb

This was a massively inspirational and incredibly helpful course. By the end of it I had a notebook full of incredibly useful tips and tricks, and I definitely plan a rewatch as soon as possible. I've been in bands writing songs for the better part of 15 years, but this has put a lot of focus on some of the corners I've cut or the areas where I've been lazy with the smaller details. No matter where you are in your songwriting you'll definitely benefit from this, and Eyal articulates everything in an engaging way and positive way. Even if you think you're a good songwriter, there's a tonne here you can benefit from. 10/10 - Thanks Eyal!