Skip to main content

music & audio

Mastering Metal Songwriting

Lesson 7 of 28

Using Key Changes

Eyal Levi

Mastering Metal Songwriting

Eyal Levi

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

7. Using Key Changes

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 viewer at Berkeley, and you're learning to five ones and all that stuff, it's more like, um, I call them or like pseudo key changes because a lot of the time I don't I don't think that, like this style 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 your you're setting up tension and then you're releasing the tension. Um, s so I wanted to go through a few of them. Uh, basically, have you talk us, talk us through them like, uh, where the one that we went through on an exodus remind playing the part for us, that is the change short. So the first riff starts in a key that's different than the verse riff. We have an intro if Anniversary and I wanted to do that. So when the verse kicked ...

in, it kicked in super heavy, so the interest is on. I turned to see straight so that so the key would be no, they're C sharp. So, like, that's Ah, 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 want to use descriptive words where it goes from high to low. Yes, which, I mean, if you want to break it down. Teoh. You know, even when you're doing property changes still going from one place to another, which higher tension or lower attention. And that's all that, really. Batters, I think at the end of the day is how it affects listener. So we first played that song. We were playing in the open, he because at the time it was just 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 key up 1/2 a note and then it was just like that Sounds great. That's that's actually, um, a pop trick that's used a lot is going up or down 1/2 step whole Step Teoh emphasize apart, and it's it's just done at specific moments to make apart hit harder. But I'll play it in the context of the song so that people can hear. Context is everything. So basically, when it goes to the fast part, that's where it drops down. Correct. I have here, Yeah, doing that? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, It's almost like if it didn't do that, the you may not even notice that it's switched riffs. No, it's just kind of it would be kind of bland. Yeah, I think that in this style of music, um, specifically, you have limited variables to play with, like there's not really melody. There's not really much harmony going on. It's normal, and the key changes air. Relatively minor is like from 11 note center to basically 1/ sit down or have step up so you have to be super aware of all the other elements going with. It's structurally so it's not just, I think, that you switched keys, but you also switch the entire field for the song right there, like you went from higher and kind of half time to 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. This is something that you do in mixing, too. But it's a bunch of little changes done at the same time to, uh, biggest fulfill a bigger goal. And that's that's one thing you touched on earlier is one thing I did discover recently as I believe I really try hard to play drums on guitar, and that's I think that's a great example of that. Yeah, totally. I think again, rhythm rhythm to me is like the top of the hierarchy. So I think that 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 we got really figure out. If your transition is all that, it could be like if the rhythm is changing right if you're going to 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 diverse we all felt strongly about we knew we wanted to go from from from intro diverse and playing in the same key was not working for us. So So that was a feel we knew. All right, we need to stick with this. 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 feel was 100 times better and that the changes memorable was 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 open the record with a an ass beating riff. That's cool. Yeah, we're actually we're going to get Teoh 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 gotta open this way, Yes. We wanted to make a more extreme record. Well, no. We wanted to make it more. We knew we wanted to make a more extreme record than our previous one in our first record. Opened up fast, like drums, bass vocals, Boom. At the same time, we knew this was like, All right, we opened up our last record fast. We're gonna open this one up heavy and slow. You know, some people want to consider that beats slow by any means, But for us in contact, our it's our relatives, you know? It's all relative. All right. I want Teoh skip to the next example from Tyrant. Yeah, there's a key change in that one, too. And it's the same key change. That's ah, half a step down, and it's ah, serves the end. Yeah, towards the slow parts, I get last 10 or 15. Probably 10 seconds of a song. I haven't cut to where you cool where it's not like the whole song, but I'll let people hear how that comes in. I have. I have these examples cut a little bit longer so you can hear well into them because it's not like Anak Chua like 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 music, 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 went from the first riff we played into the slower rift without the about the key change. It would sound like this. Okay, okay. And with it, uh, play from here. Say that the drum be changing is a big part of it. Well, hell, 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 B is 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. No, no, no, not no, no, no. The next part is done, done, done 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. How toe? How to make one part work with transitions or justice hardest. Is writing a good riff? Absolutely. Because if you don't have a good transition, they're mean anything. But I think there's I mean, as you're seeing right here. There's actual conscious tricks you can do to make a transition hit harder, like change. The key slightly changed the rhythm. Like I mean, this sounds simple, but it goes a long way, like if it's a fast part, go to a halftime part late or other way around. Um, 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. It really it's not enough about all. It can be something as simple as going into halftime and dropping it down. A friend. Yeah, I think the priorities need to be at the they need to be just always paid attention to, in priority to be how the song hits And if I guess, if that's not kept at the forefront of a band's minder or writer's mind, you'll have parts like that where you go into 1/2 time without the key change. And, yeah, might be cool because I think you have 11 of the elements of the transition to make it cool. But it's not all that it could be. Yeah, and, uh, like I said earlier, I think the good transitions air basically a combination of a bunch of little things going on at once. Yeah, not one huge. I mean, it could be one. It could be, but but not not in general like no stand. A ruin the feel of a song Yeah, making huge, huge moves saying with mixing, Um, 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 cause 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, cause it's so hard to do. But the secret Teoh making mixes work or one of the main secrets is tiny amounts of change across the entire mixing. Yes, some sandwich songs they were so that way you ensure that flow and you ensure that riff a works with riff be if it's not transitioning so much that it's like I like Mr Bungle but Onley Mr Bumble can pull off transitions like that. Most bands tried to 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 I'm gonna point out on example of this done in really popular music. So everybody watching this class knows this song. But just check out when the vocals come in that the that the music goes up the whole step. No. And that's about his classic because he said, the vocals go because the rift went up half Step two. Yeah, I think you actually to Tonto People stuff. Yeah, okay, yeah, as soon as the vocals kick in and then when it goes to I guess the or Forest River goes back down. It's hard to call out, of course, because it's just so Aspey. Its course it's a hook hook. Okay, it I mean a new level, so good. It's just the part that misses the hookey part. But But I think that the the point is that the assumes, the vocals come in the you know shifts. And it's so it's one of those things that, like as a listener who doesn't know who doesn't think about too much about this, they're not gonna catch that. But it has such a hard impact. Yeah, well, it's building 10 tension. That's the tension part. And the thing with the hard impact is done. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, Absolutely. It's going down classic tension release, Uh, and like, ass kicking metal song that everybody's heard for 20 years and you can find that across. 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. Get country in classic. Yeah, it's just one of the most used. And I think abuse because it just works were songwriting tricks out there is shift things up a whole separate half step 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, ah, one other example. And we're going to talk more about this band in a minute. But this song so semi classic out of emptiness, it's not quite like Pantera, but you know, as faras founding fathers of definitely, yeah, I mean, 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 God later. Albums way don't always about 1000 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 knell song. Uh, because it brought in clean vocals even though they're not cheesy. There's melody in the vocals, which is a huge, huge, huge, huge thing for death metal to do a death metal band to do back then. Now it's normal for bands toe have screaming, guttural stuff and then clean singing. But back then, it was severe. No, no. And if I think that if this song wasn't structured 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 that's one of most parents, definitely first of all time. But I guess I got I correct myself or clarify one thing the key chain doesn't happen right when the Outro has. It happens halfway through the transition, which, um is a really interesting trick that you see in country music a lot and in lots of styles of music where there's a lot of guitar soloing happening. Um, people might laugh when you say that, but I bet you you know, whoever with the song tray or whoever they knew that, too. I'm sure you probably know about country music, and they knew that trick from that was it's a technique that you use if you got a long solo on. People should pay attention to this. If you've got a long solo, Um, 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. Um, 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 Bridget seamlessly, but that that's exactly what's going on right there. And if you apply that into country music, there was a good soul is going on. That would be the point. And where the solo basically ramped up a notch, you hear it a lot in, uh, in metal to where you have really good lead guitarist Lee Zach Wilder that type of lead guitarists. They do that a lot within their souls where you think it gets to, I guess, the climax of some sort. And then it ramps up the tension just a little bit but shifting keys. But the other thing about that, that's it 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, then change right when you get to the last chorus, it might seem a little brought. You have but one of the things that's cool about changing keys on last courses that makes it feel more intense. So how do you How do you? I guess change keys on the last chorus, but get their smoothly. This another thing that people ask me about, um, on the Internet, and that's one of the ways that people do is they change halfway through the park before, but you got to do it seamlessly. That's the trick. It's really hard to change keys in the middle of a riff without it sounding play that one more time. Just to point that out people should pay attention to is how the final riff is in a different key than the first risk that I played. And if it wasn't trying to imagine what it would sound like if it was in the same key, like if it didn't really weird. So one of the most classic endings and the genre basically was set up by a really, really classic you change trick so 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.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Metal Songwriting Slides Session 1

Metal Songwriting Slides Session 2

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


user 6f3d0a

Eyal and all the guests are awesome here and really provide a solid education on Songwriting and writing within the Metal genre. One thing that Eyal said that really struck a chord with me, was how Songwriting was being taught at the music school he dropped out of and how it was uninspiring. I completely and thoroughly agree. I own many, many books and videos on Songwriting and I cannot get past the first few pages because it doesn't speak to me and my needs as a Songwriter who is focused on writing Metal. I've been playing Guitar for 25 years now and this is the very first course I've seen that takes Metal songwriting seriously and as a subject worth studying. I would like to commend CreativeLive on having the guts to feature heavy music so prominently in their courses and thank them for helping us establish Metal as a more serious genre. One that is worthy of awards, praise, distinction and honor. In Metal and Strength, R. Ross Strength Keeper Songwriting/Guitars/Vocals/Arranging

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!

Marco Ramírez

Great course, I have enjoyed it a lot and I'm sure I will come back to reinforce many of the concepts shown through the videos. Right now I'm good to go with ideas to apply to my songwriting skills and reinforce several concepts I already had developed prior to this course. This is a great lesson series... even for advanced musicians, anyone can get stuck in this wonderful world of writing and this course shows you tools to get out the best of this process.