Melodic Hardcore 101

Teaching the basics to writing and understanding behind melody driven hardcore music.

Ultimate Guitar
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:
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":
E |-----------------------------------7---7---7---7---5---5---5---5----|
B |--------------------------------------------------------------------|
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.

|---10------10------10------10------10------------------------| 2x

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:





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

YouTube preview picture

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.


32 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Learn some stuff by Misery Signals too, they are fantastic musically.
    Scrolled down to write this post. For anyone interested in playing some of this genre 2 good starter tracks by Misery Signals are The Year Summer Ended in June and Anchor, one of my all time favorite tracks.
    I'm not familiar with the genre, so I can't say anything about if this is correct at all, but if it is I have to say that it sounds like an interesting style of music. There were some weird tips, like "stay away from typical verse, chorus, verse, chorus type of structure because it's overused". If it's not a defining factor of this genre, a comment like that is unnecessary, it's like saying that to play thrash you shouldn't use the low E-string. But as I said, I'm not familiar with melodic hardcore, but if it's in any form similar to hardcore I'd say that it isn't that progressive. But again, I'm not an expert. Nice lesson, there were some nice ideas I could use even though I wouldn't play the said genre. It was a nice read in the least.
    Lotsa good stuff. I always liked songs that follow the traditional song writing rules. I think of Early Hardcore as a no holds barred, anything goes kinda writing style lyrically and instrumentally. When people started putting melodic parts in it, it became a better genre, (IMO). That's why I learn from all types of music, because I use alot of the above in my music. Syncopated Rhythms, Dissonant Notes and Chords and as always Melodic Runs to make it catchy. So you get a 10 good stuff alot of people will have a whole new world of tricks they didn't even know about. Keep 'em coming.
    I love melodic hardcore. other mentionables not in the article, although some already mentioned are misery signals, shai hulud, it prevails (older, pref), the ghost inside, for the fallen dreams. edit: evergreen terrace
    Nice to see something covering hardcore. Im starting a hardcore band and ill use the tips from this article.
    THANK YOU! my cousin and I have been trying to start a melodic hardcore band but i learned guitar on open chords and power chords for nirvana style stuff and couldnt for the life of me find out how to write guitar for mhc. really helpful
    glad you found it useful man! Please, dont hesitate to message me for any help on this
    Jesus christ. I write an article about writing music and the only thing people are talking about is ****ing genre wars. I dont give a shit what happened in the 80's, these bands I listed have been classed as melodic hardcore, because its simply modern hardcore music, with melodic vibes. Im sorry if I missed out your favourite band, I never said that these were the ONLY Melodic Hardcore bands, I simply used a short list of bands to describe what kind of music I am talking about.
    melodic hardcore is like... bad religion and nofx and rise against and shit like that. I mean I like this stuff too but that's more like post-hardcore
    it's not even that if we take bands like Fugazi and At The Drive-In into account...
    I honestly believe that all these new genres need their own names and should stop borrowing them from the 80s. Hardcore / Melodic Hardcore are very different from whatever the kids nowadays are playing. I know, I'm sounding like just another ****ing elitist, but it's just irrating, it makes categorizing bands into genres even dumber than it already is if the genres themself don't mean anything at all.
    Don't you mean metalcore? We really don't need more names for sub-genre's, it's really getting out of hand.
    Melodic Hardcore isn't Metalcore. And Metalcore is actually a thing (and not a thing that includes "metal" bands that chug on their lowest string).
    No 7a7p? No Hopesfall? And people recommend "The Year that Summer Ended in June" as Misery Signal's best? Yikes. Try the Stinging Rain or Five Years for Misery Signals at their best.
    Look, if it has anything to do with hardcore, you can accomplish it by wearing camo shorts and spinkicking teenage girls in the face.
    HI, so I'm new to playing guitar and I'm basically teaching myself, and for a lot of songs, especially on this website those binary code looking charts are used to instruct on the melody. I have literally no clue whatsoever how to read them and would appreciate some kind of 101 big time!
    get started at learning how to read tab before you start on something a bit more advanced than this. I made this assuming people could already read tabs. As its on a website dedicated to tabs