What’s going on with the strange rhythm of Radiohead’s Pyramid Song?
It feels like it stops and starts, and it’s hard to place the downbeat – Is it really in 4/4?
The key is understanding its unique 2 bar rhythm, outlined by the piano, which consists of 2 dotted quarter notes, followed by a half note which carries across the bar, followed by 2 more dotted quarter notes.
It is also a heavily swung rhythm, which is something that might not be immediately apparent by listening to the unaccompanied piano.
If you break down each bar into 8th notes – it might be a little easier to understand. You can count it 3-3-4-3-3.
So if your mind has been melting while trying to internalise this weird rhythm while trying to learn Pyramid song in Melodics on Drums or Pads – this will help clear things up!
So we all know the instantly recognisable arpeggiated chords from Dr. Dre’s iconic Hip Hop classic Still D.R.E — but what is the actual music theory that underpins this catchy slice of hip-hop history?
Initially these chords might seem kind of strange. The first is C-E-A, followed by B-E-A, and then B-E-G.
Each chord only changes a single note from the previous one, making for a delightfully simple, yet very effective little progression.
An easy way to figure out what is going on is to look at the bassline, which alternates between A (which accompanies the first chord), and E, (which accompanies the last two chords).
With the bassline defining the root notes of these chords, it becomes clear that these are actually inversions. C-E-A, our first chord, is the first inversion of A minor, which means that the root note, A, has been moved up the keyboard, above the other two notes.
The next two chords (B-E-A, and B-E-G), are the second inversions of Esus4 and Eminor respectively. The second inversion means that both the root note AND the third have been moved up the keyboard, leaving the fifth, B, as the lowest note in these chords.
It’s like a minor i-v chord progression, with a suspended chord thrown in there to add a little tension and release.
Still D.R.E.’s 3 basic chords have left an everlasting impact on hip hop. Yet this song is a great example of how using simple chord inversions can lead to really exciting chord voicings that still don’t need you to move your fingers a large amount.
Download Melodics for guided courses on practical applications of music theory like using chord inversions, and many, many more.
Let’s talk about an essential tool in a producer’s toolkit: sampling.
Sampling is an iconic component of many different musical genres — especially in the worlds of hip-hop and electronic music, but increasingly in pop and rock. A sample can be a brief audio clip that is used as an instrument, a drum beat or “break” that provides the rhythmic foundation of a beat, or an entire audio passage that may serve as inspiration for the melodic and harmonic elements of a new song.
Sampling is ingrained in the culture of contemporary music, and our brand-new Songs catalog even contains a few excellent examples. We’ll run through a couple of iconic uses of samples, and share our guided listening playlist which compares the original side-by-side with the sample.
Here’s some examples.
Consider the song “Just a Friend” by Biz Markee. The characteristic piano melody in this late 1980s hip-hop hit, which is a sampling of Freddie Scott’s 1968 hit “(You) Got What I Need,” is instantly recognisable. Biz Markee cleverly transforms this soulful original, in which Freddie Scott sings about a woman who makes his life better, into an ironic story about his experiences with women.
Another example is “Avril 14th” (also available in our Songs catalog.) If you pay close attention to the piano melody at 1:38 when listening or practicing this piece, sped up (and pitch increased), you might recognise it as the sample used in “Blame Game” from Kanye West’s groundbreaking 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
The Art of Sampling Playlist
Check out this Spotify playlist that showcases a range of samples in popular music. Included are both the original samples, as well as the songs that sample them.
Some samples will be very obvious, and others might be a little harder to identify — see if you can spot them all!