"Stealing" Music With Negative Harmony And Negative Melody

Wait, is there such a thing as Negative Melody? Wasn't it Negative Harmony? Let me explain.

Some time ago the theory of Negative Harmony was all the rage on YouTube and other social media. Some people called it a fad (fair enough), and at the same time I think that anything that makes people interested in music theory is after all a good thing.

Also personally, I think Negative Harmony is a fun theory that makes you write interesting music.

Yes, I know that some made Negative Harmony look like a bunch of unusable, mystical mumbo-jumbo. It's actually a very practical thing to use, I added a few more videos about it below if you don't know what it is. It's easier than you think.

What I find surprising is that nobody seems to be talking about Negative Melody, which is as useful and fun as Negative Harmony. At the very least, Negative Melody has been used much more and in fact we have examples that dates at the time of Bach (not that Bach ever used the term 'Negative Melody' mind you).

So, rather than starting a complex explanation, why don't we make an example and see if you like it? I'm taking the example from a master composer (Sergei Rachmaninoff) and how he composed one of his best melodies by lifting a theme from Paganini. Yup, that happened:

So that's Negative Melody. If instead you are curious about the more modern Negative Harmony, and you want a simple explanation without all the mystical stuff, here's the video for you:

And finally, here's how you use Negative Harmony in practice to create variations to your songs. In this video we take a simple melody with a chord progression and we take a hands-on approach.

If you are a songwriter, you totally want to see this video. It will give you TONS of new ideas:


Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio