• I think a good method to find out chords, would be to listen to the melody and try out to whistle an arpeggio to accompany it. For that you need no theory knowledge. Then you listen the same arpeggios alone and figure out what notes make them up on the guitar and if you wish you can play them together. This way you discover chords. Same goes for bass notes, you can even try to imitate bass brasses with your voice. It’s funny and you do not need neither theory nor computers. It’s just a creative process. Some musicians who do like this? Please share your thoughts here. Any other suggestion is welcome, since I am a total beginner, but very confused by all this theory, which I believe is useless in the end.

  • What if my melody is not in any standard key, yet it sounds good? BTW dissonances are not to be always avoided in my humble opinion. They represent instable sounds and have the meaning of expressing apprehension. Music is like feelings… everything is a chord. Given that, do you have a method forchoosing chords amongst the many many available without excluding anyone? I think we should start from melody notes and add more.

  • Pingback: Harmony for Dummies: Adding Chords, Melodies & Basslines | Razer Music()

  • Pingback: Harmony for Dummies: Adding Chords, Melodies & Basslines | Razer Music()

  • Thorsten Hindermann

    Very useful infos for me as a beginner in EDM! Thanx for this informations.

  • Pingback: electronykacademy | Making Music Live with Synths, Drum Machines and more()

  • Anoop

    This is a helpful article for those who are standing right at the dividing line between combining chords and notes … thank you!

  • Pingback: ???????? | ???()

  • Pingback: Harmony for DummiesUniqueSquared Pro Audio Blog()

  • DND

    Another thing to try for music theory newbs is to take a major scale, like C Major, and start on another note in the scale while still maintaining the original notes for the C Major scale. For instance, C Major’s notes are all the white keys on a keyboard. Instead of playing the scale C D E F G A B, start on let’s say D. Now the scale would be D E F G A B C. You can do this with any major or minor scale, and whatever note you decide to use as the tonic (first note in scale) will determine what mode it is in. If you use the example aforementioned and use D as the tonic it would be called the dorian mode (don’t get confused by thinking the note D has anything to do with the naming of the mode. The dorian mode in a G Major scale uses A as the tonic note (Some people will argue that if using modes, the scale degree used is in fact not a tonic, but only serves the same purpose as a tonic). In fact, the 6th note in any major scale is the beginning of its relative minor (Aeolian Mode). So for C Major it would be A, G major it would be E dorian. Try playing A B C D E F G and you have the A natural minor scale, C Major’s relative minor. You can flip it too. Every 3rd note of a natural minor scale it its relative major, E natural minor’s relative major is G. Try experimenting by changing from a major key to its relative minor or using different modes. For further explanation either ask or google Tonal Modes and there is a HUGE amount of information, or go get some lessons. Better yet, go back to school!!

  • Pingback: A Quick Guide to Adding Chords, Melodies, and Basslines in Key | Optikal Dubs Records()

  • Pingback: Catch DJ Tech Tools’ three-step guide to creating musicality in key | EuroAdrenaline News()

  • Pingback: Catch DJ Tech Tools’ three-step guide to creating musicality in key – Beatport News()

  • RazR


    Great site to actually learn music theory instead of cheating

    • Fuyu

      What’s your fcking problem? Live and let live!! Go yourself and learn and leave us alone!

  • Pingback: Friday Roundup: Things That Don’t Make You A Better DJ()

  • CUSP

    I think this is a great article for anyone getting out of their comfort zone and into doing new things. Sure, it’s just a primer, but it’s something. There is a (translated from Chinese) proverb that goes something like this “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. – Lao Tzu” I applaud anyone encouraging others on the path to self-betterment.


    Very useful article.
    For the “study before producing” crew: I started making music in 1993, had 4 singles in the Euro top 10 chart plus various other regional hits, without even a basic knowledge of theory.
    Critically, most proper musicians used to tell me that no trained musician would ever come up with the music solutions I reached just by “ignorance”.
    Now I am a trained musician but I can honestly say that studying did not improve my creativity, just the opposite. Maybe the help of some quick “trick” or harmony software strikes the right balance.

    • Suntropology

      Floooooorfiiiillllaaaa in da house :D :D

  • Andre Leite

    Music theory could be hard for some people like me, so this helps a lot. At same time, I always defend the concept “educate yourself”, so this helps again.
    There are many ways to learn and you can’t cheat yourself.
    Thanks you DJTT, this thing is helping and I’m sure many others.

    • RazR

      Music theory is a very complex thing, I’ll give you that. However, as you study it more and more, you find out just how many patterns there are within scales, chords, progressions, etc.

      For example, every major scale consists of the same stepping pattern:
      Whole step, whole step, half step, whole whole, whole, half.

      This holds true for every major scale, and shows how music is based on patterns. It’s quite interesting to learn music theory and makes producing a lot more fun because you understand what makes a good melody and allows you to, in my opinion, make better music.

  • mikefunk

    So, I am the only one that actually liked this article and think is great? Reading comments I can see a lot of Master Haters here. I wonder why people always do this. If you don’t like it go elsewhere. I found this article very helpful for uneducated ass like me and it’s a great starting point with some shortcuts. If I’d need more I will read more elsewhere but for now this is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks DJTT!

  • Marco Hooghuis


    Go and read some actual material before building a track, please.

  • I like http://www.hooktheory.com and use HookPad. I believe they’re going to add a “HookPad Plus” soon, but this “basic” one is still free. I like it. Also, once you’ve gotten something pretty sweet, you can use Liquid Notes to alter existing MIDI to build tension and transpose existing chords: http://www.re-compose.com/liquid-notes-music-software.html After that, I like EZKeys with my digital piano to get an idea of what I want to work with, and the built-in Circle of Fifths to see what better options might be. http://www.toontrack.com/product/ezkeys-grand-piano/

  • minimalmac

    harmony does not hurt

  • Toontown

    One of my favorite DJs at the moment is Trevor Nygaard–his 3dektek mixes have been really inspirational. He routes Ableton into Deck D of Traktor and controls it with Push. Aside from the obvious clip launching and drum sequencing, he occasionally adds an arp or lead overtop of the mix, which adds some nice subtle depth. Push makes it pretty easy to play in harmony as long as you set it to the right key.

    • wacom

      I use maschine and a novation synth, but it’s the same concept. Having both handy helps fill in when a track goes quiet in the middle, and lets you bring chord progressions back in 2 or 3 songs later. It’s *magic*

      • CUSP

        I totally agree. I use Maschine and a Novation keyboard in my (Serato or Traktor) sets as well. No one would rightfully ever accuse me of having a boring set, but it’s very hands-on, so I might get accused of having “computer face.”

        I gotta’ talk shop with both you guys. :)

  • Are we serious?

    Why don’t you go and study some actual music theory? Wikipedia? Seriously? It’s like trying to speak another language with google translate.

    • Stephen Rudolph

      Agree on so many levels! “Guides” like this perpetuate bad habits and laziness, and is a big reason why so many DJs/Producers come off sounding so damn stale. Not to mention, most of these guides and tutorials are flat-out wrong or leave out important information.

      Take this quote from the Chord section above: “Try playing any combination of notes in a key from our graphics in step
      two, which will work in key—no dissonances (or off-key sounds) will

      Wrong. Dissonance is not the same as being out of key. There are dissonant sounds within the key of G# minor. Go ahead and play a C#, D, G#, and A together, tell me that’s not dissonant, despite those notes being diatonic to the key of G# minor.

      Another example of misinformation and wrongness is Ean’s “Advanced” Key Mixing video where he introduces an equation that lets you mix a major key into a minor key, perfectly, every time. The problem is that it won’t work every time, because mixing the two keys the equation gives you will only work in certain conditions. It sounded great in Ean’s video because he met the conditions. The minor track he mixed in had no qualities of being minor, it was a syncopated rhythm playing the root, with the occasional jump to another note that’s diatonic to major key he’s mixing out of. It’s not until he drops the third loop that there’s anything being played that lets us know we’re in a minor key now. F Major and F Minor (7B and 4A respectively) are not harmonically compatible as is.

      Go buy a harmony book, and each time you feel the need to surf Youtube for videos on how to mix harmonically, read a few pages out of that book. A lot of them come with audio examples now so you can hear exactly what’s happening and train your ear to do the things on the fly that these tutorials try to teach you.

      • DND

        A good explanation of parallel and relative keys would have made that article on advanced key mixing actually make sense. Then proper modulations could be used and mode mixture could happen properly too. Although a lot of any genre of EDM is so ambiguous in the sense of a tonal center, even going as far as being atonal, a lot of tonal theories rules would not make sense in most situations anyway.

    • BrainOfSweden

      I’m pretty sure Wikipedia is a decent source for basic music theory, it’s not exactly rocket science. Google translate also works surprisingly well in simple situations, say when you want to order food or something, the mobile app even has a specific feature for such occasions. Remember that just like no one would use Google to learn speaking a language fluently, this article is aimed at beginners, and while some prefer reading a lot of theory when learning stuff, others, like me, prefer the practical way of actually doing stuff, often by trial and error. But some tips like these can come in handy, it’s not very plausible to create a decent tune by randomly clicking buttons AND not having studied music, but it’s also not impossible to create something without studying music for years first. Now I’m not saying anyone should expect to produce the next banger after they read this article, but again, that’s not really the purpose. I should also note that while I currently don’t have a lot of musical knowledge under my belt, I want to learn, and I learn a lot by doing, but I don’t want to look up charts on Wiki for the rest of my life, but I would assume this will get stuck in my head after a while, making it easier to move on and gain deeper knowledge.

      TL;DR Some people prefer messing around with stuff rather than reading about it, but everyone needs a little help in the beginning.

  • MikeLT

    I personally use Sundog Scale Studio. All those things in one single 30 bucks program. Nice and smooth ;)

  • PAnpan
    • Guest

      Thanks for the tip. Speaking from experience, even being a trained keyboardists plugs like this are super super awesome at getting you out of niches. Most of the keyboardists (with classical theory) are terrible producers because they are always too wrapped up in their heads on playing the harmony and can’t hold a groove or “pocket” since the brain only can focus on one thing at once. Plug ins like this eliminate that problem and let you focus on rhythm, timing and groove.

      • CUSP

        If you’re saying certain preferred techniques are reinforced over less-preferred, which results in “go to” solutions over “experimental”, I totally agree.

  • just the image alone reminds me of my old Casio sk1