Melodic Hardcore 101

author: motortallica date: 08/27/2014 category: music styles
rating: 6.4 / votes: 21 
Melodic Hardcore 101
Just a random little lesson I made about Melodic Hardcore. Sorry if the order and structure is a bit weird.

Melodic Hardcore is a genre that started around in the late '90s and has been growing since but has never actually become "mainstream." Some notable bands are Counterparts, Heart In Hand, Napoleon, Defeater, Hundredth, Being As An Ocean, Landscapes and Acres

The way to get a similar sound to these bands is to do the opposite of what most nowadays metal bands do which is to complicate everything and have technical riffs. Melodic hardcore is more chord based and takes influences from post-rock, grunge, hardcore punk, emo, a bit of metalcore and ambient music. Theory is very important in this type of music. Chord knowledge is essential as its very chord based and knowing the intervals will be a life saver in writing melodic hardcore.

To get that "melodic" feel, you need to start adding colourful notes to chords and arpeggios to make the riff sounding 3-dimensional.

E.G.: Instead of having a typical F minor power chord in Drop C, put different notes of the scale into it:
D-----------------------------------------------|
A-----------------------------------------------|
F-----------------------------------------------|
C-5--------5---------7--------8-------------5---|
G-5--------8---------5--------5-------------6---|
C-5--------5---------5--------5-------------5---|
Basic Added 7th Added 9th Added 3rd Added 6th
Bands also tend to use the second fret on the lowest string as the open note, acting as if you are still in standard tuning so that you can make melodies using the open notes on the g, b, and e string to give it an overlapping sound as if its being played on the piano with added sustain. They stay in a drop tuning so that playing chords is easier and adding colour notes to a chord will be easier. 

An example of a melodic riff that uses open notes for sustain effects is the intro riff to "Heart in Hands Broken Lights":
Db|---0---0---0---0-----0---0---0---0----------------------------------|
Ab|-5---5---5---5-(5)/7---7---7---7-----0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0--|
E |-----------------------------------7---7---7---7---5---5---5---5----|
B |--------------------------------------------------------------------|
Gb|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
B |--------------------------------------------------------------------| x2
Lead and rhythm guitars play completely different roles in melodic hardcore and both are needed as much as the other. Lead guitarists play the melodies that fit over the chords that the rhythm guitarist plays and the rhythm guitarist uses the rhythm from the bass and drums with the right chord that the melody fits with. A melody without the correct chords won't give the same feeling and won't sound melodic, so if you are wishing to start a melodic hardcore band with only one guitar, good luck.

Some techniques that lead guitarists use is trilling. They also put a lot of reverb and delay on at this time to give it an ambient feel. The trill technique also makes the note last longer instead of it decaying quickly.

With melodic hardcore, try and stay away from dropping the tuning too low, as you aren't trying to sound heavy, evil and brutal this time. Bands tend to use Drop C, C# and D. Bands rarely use Drop B, but if they do its sometimes because they still want a metalcore feel to their sound, or their vocalists range fits it better.

For melodic sections, try and play the chords slower, or break them down into broken chords. After all, you aren't trying to sound technical and fast. Its about making a catchy melody in hardcore music.

An example of a broken chord used in melodic hardcore is the main melody riff in Being As An Ocean's "The Hardest Part Is Forgetting Those You Swore You Would Never Forget":
|-------------------------------------------------------------|
|---10------10------10------10------10------------------------| cont.
|-7-------7-------7-------7-------7---------------------------|
|------10------10------10------10------10---------------------|
|-------------------------------------------------------------|
|-------------------------------------------------------------|

|-------------------------------------------------------------|
|---10------10------10------10------10------------------------| 2x
|-7-------7-------7-------7-------7---------------------------|
|------8-------8-------8-------8-------8----------------------|
|-------------------------------------------------------------|
|-------------------------------------------------------------|

Simple, melodic, catchy and colourful is the way to go with making these kinds of riffs.

Of course you could also do what Counterparts and Hundredth do if this approach isn't your thing, which is to speed it up a bit, put more doom inspired riffs, dissonant chords and tapping melodies into the music. Their take is a bit more aggressive but still melodic and ambient sounding.

One of my favourite riffs by Counterparts is the intro riff to "Compass" which goes something like this:

|-----------------|-----------------|
|-----------------|-----------------|
|----------14-----|-------------3---|
|-----------------|---------------7-|
|-17xxx17----13---|-12-12--8-8------|
|-13xxx13-0----12-|-8--8---5-5------|

|-------|---------------------|
|-------|---------------------|
|-------|-5--5--5--5--5-------|
|-7-7-5-|--3--3--3--3--3--7-5-|
|-0-3-2-|---7--7--7--7--7-3-2-|
|-0-3-2-|-----------------3-2-|

|----------------|--------------|
|----------------|--------------|
|-14-----14-14---|--------------|
|----------------|--------------|
|---13---13-13---|-12-12--13-13-|
|-----12-------0-|-8--8---10-10-|

|----------------------------------8----8----8----8--|
|---------------------------------6-6--6-6--6-6--6-8-|
|---5------5-------5------5------9----9----9----9----|
|----7------7-------5------5-------------------------|
|--8---8--8---8---8---8--8---8-----------------------|
|-8---8--8---8---8---8--8---8------------------------|


I also recommend watching them play this song as a playthrough on YouTube which can be found below:


A lot of chords, muted notes and syncopated rhythms with the drum beat is how to approach this style of melodic hardcore. Also, stay away from typical verse, chorus, verse, chorus type of structures as its over used. Most bands just tend to use more progressive structures, arch form and binary and ternary forms.

Thats all I know on the matter. If I missed anything out, please message me or comment the correction in the comments and I'll fix it straight away. I made this as there aren't any lessons on this genre and I've been asked how to approach this genre a few times.

Cheers

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