Theory for Producers

The White Keys and Minor Modes

Build on your knowledge of music theory by mastering the minor modes on the white keys.

45-60 Minutes
6 Sections

Created in partnership with

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Welcome to the third installment of our Theory for Producers series! This series is all about unearthing the music theory hidden within popular songs — and how we can use these common musical concepts to improve our own tracks. In part one we looked at the black keys on the keyboard. In part two we explored the white keys and the major scales you can make with them. Now let's dive deeper into the white keys and the minor modes. 

By the end of this course, you'll be able to make your own grooves using four different minor scales. We’ll look at the songs of Mary J. Blige, Miles Davis, Missy Elliott, and Björk to bring these modes to life and show how you can use them to create your own great music.

This course was made in partnership with NYU's Music Experience Design Lab (MusEDLab). Visit their site to find out more about the great work they do! 

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Ethan Hein

Music Technologist & Theory Nerd

Ethan Hein is an adjunct professor of music technology at NYU and Montclair State University, and a founding member of the NYU Music Experience Design Lab, under the leadership of Alex Ruthmann. You can follow all his explorations of music theory, music education, and pop music at

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ethan hein
mused lab
white keys
theory for producers
music theory

Course Outline

  1. Section 1


  2. Section 2

    "Family Affair"

  3. Section 3

    "So What?"

  4. Section 4

    "Get Ur Freak On"

  5. Section 5

    "Army of Me"

  6. Section 6



Who is this course for? 

This course was created specifically with producers in mind, but it could be helpful for any musician looking for a better grasp on music theory. Specifically, we use the piano roll that you might find in a digital audio workstation such as Ableton Live or Logic to illustrate certain concepts. 

What can I expect to get out of this course?

By the end of this mini-course, you'll have a solid grasp and understanding of some important minor-tonality scales, based on the white keys of the keyboard. You should be able to use the scales to make your own grooves and melodies, and potentially even identify it in songs you hear. 

What's next in this series?

What would you like to see next? Let us know at [email protected]. We'd love to hear from you!