There is no “six step system” for how to write a melody…
Songwriting, or writing songs and creating melody – is about doing two main things.
Telling a story to your listeners in a way that creates an emotional experience, and crafting the chords, groove, and melody to deliver and effectively enhance that message.
Melody, in every genre of music, is the bedrock, and probably the single most important factor in what people would call a “great song.” Whether it’s a timeless classic, or a mind numbing “flavor of the month” pop-hit, MELODY is what makes a song MEMORABLE.
Being MEMORABLE and having an impact on the listener through some profound transcendental connection, is the key to writing a great song.
The following are 5 well-worn and time-tested tips for how to write a melody that sings, and rises above the noise of hackneyed and mediocre.
Melody Tip #1) – Sketch Out Template ideas with Dummy Syllables
Sometimes you’ll get lucky and the right melody will effortlessly come to you already attached to the right lyrical phrase… For the other times, you’re going to have to work for it a little more.
Dummy syllables such as la, or da, or na, etc. can be very helpful in sketching out your melodies.
Exercise: Choose a rhythm pattern or drum loop that you like, record a simple chord progression to that groove using either piano or guitar, and then sketch out an interesting and inspiring melody using dummy syllables. Play with different rhythms and timing on different beats, as well as tone and sequence.
Melody Tip #2) – Study Popular Melodies, and Write a New Song with that Melody.
Learning popular melodies and melodies that your ears really enjoy, is a fantastic way to analyze the patterns and understand the simplistic beauty of a really great melody. By doing this enough, you will also sort of embed a natural intuition for good melody after a while.
Exercise: Go and select your favorite hit song or favorite songs melody. Break it down, note by note. Then go and lie on your back, or sit in quiet meditation. Visualize the eight notes and as your mind auto-play’s that melody, imagine each of the corresponding notes in the scale are lighting up. Do this for 5-10 minutes. Then ask yourself the following questions.
Can you see the pattern? Why does it work so well? Is it simple or complex?
Next, go and take that melody and write your own song with it. Create a new chord progression, groove, and lyric around that melody.
*Remember, you can’t actually use this song for anything other than a learning exercise because you are using a copyrighted melody, but it is still a good exercise that will help you get better.
Melody Tip #3) – Remember, Repetition is the Key to Catchy
People remember through repetition. People remember through repetition. People remember through, REPETITION.
Get it? That’s why almost all great melodies are fairly simple and extremely repetitive.
Take Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” for example. It’s the same 6 notes at the start of EVERY line of the chorus, leading up the the payoff line, “It’s the CLI—MB.”
Now I’m not saying that Miley Cyrus defines the gold standard for high quality music, or master melody craftsman. But I can assure you there were some HEAVY hitters in on crafting that song and melody. Anyway, it’s a great melody.
Exercise: For your next song, focus on repetition for the first couple phrases, then maybe a slight variance in phrase, and then a payoff phrase. Implement this into either your verse, or chorus, or both.
Melody Tip #4) – Plunk out Interesting Melodies Using Single Piano/Guitar Notes
When you think about your favorite or most MEMORABLE melodies, you can-almost without exception easily hum or whistle the melody and most people who were familiar with the song could name it back to you.
There is something to be said about that. A great melody should be able to be played on any instrument and still be the main focal point that the listener pays attention to.
Melody Tip #5) – Make it FEEL Good, and Make it SING-able For NON-Singers
This is one of the biggest factors for writing a memorable melody. Your melody should be infectious. It should be repeating automatically in your listeners head, hopefully throughout the rest of the day.
If it’s too technical, or complex, or using notes most people cannot hit, then you’ll significantly lose the potential for that catchiness that makes people feel good and enjoy singing along with it themselves.
Exercise: Go and ask your friends to sing the melody and ask for their feedback in regards to being memorable and catchy, as well as easily singable.
The good news is that if you have followed the advice from the previous tips, you should have most of your work already taken care for this one as well.
So there you have it. Five fantastic tips for writing a better melody! Now, don’t forget the most important part of this whole thing, and put this into use while it’s still fresh. Get up and go DO the exercises, and until next time,
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