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Songwriting Guides
Writing a song
Melody

The melody is the tune of a song. In the best songs it can be remembered easily, hummed or whistled after just one listening. In popular music, the singer in the band usually sings the main melody, while the other performers play an accompaniment that complements the singer.

A song's melody is based around the notes used by the chords in the chord sequence of the song, and 'passing notes'. These are notes not included in the chords that occur between these notes. These help the melody to sound musical and flowing.

Your audience probably won't bother listening to your song at all if your melody is weak.
Steve Hillier

A song's melody is at least as important as any other component of your song. In fact, your audience probably won't bother listening to your song at all if your melody is weak.

Damon GoughBadly Drawn Boy
Writes by noodling around on the piano, building on a chord sequence when he finds an idea he likes. "My ear likes to hear melody."
Listen to the interview Audio help
Here are some ideas to help keep your melodies on the right track:

  • Make you sure you sing your melody as you write it. That way you'll know instantly whether your melody works, or is pitched either too high or too low for a normal vocal.
  • If you are able, try checking whether your melody is catchy by playing it on a piano or keyboard. Does it still sound exciting and fresh? If yes, then you have a strong melody.
  • Some people like to write their melodies down on manuscript paper. This enables them to see the shape or contour of their melody easily and can be a guide to whether the melody is balanced or not. But it is absolutely not essential for a songwriter to be able to use manuscript paper and conventional notation.
  • Do some studying! There will be plenty of great melodies in your favourite songs. Listen to them carefully, work out what you like in each melody and try to incorporate aspects of these in your own songs.
Send us your views or read other peoples'
Send us your comments on: Melody








Andy Birmingham
I'm paranoid about writing a melody that's been done before, even though I've been listening to music since the 60's. If you like a melody that lasts in your head over time however then go with it!

Keagy
I find it very difficult to create melodies without it ending up sound like a song I already know. I play a few chords which I like and think sound well together, but it always ends up sounding very similar to other pieces of music. Any ideas?

Nell
I agree with Mike -- a naturally attentive listener/would-be composer will sort of naturally absorb musical elements without having to consciously reconfigure "favourite" turns. Melodies in particular naturally command attention. I'd advocate 1) listening to as varied a repertoire as you can manage, in a posture of love and 2) singing along. (I think real keeners would benefit from singing in a choir, actually. It's a fantastic way to apprehend -- intellectually, and in a more "organic" way -- both melodic and harmonic structure. Plus, you're learning from the greats: you can't convince me that Thom Yorke hasn't loved Schubert!)

john powers/new york city
"A song's melody is based around the notes used by the chords in the chord sequence". i couldn't disagree more. in fact, melody stands alone. it does not need a chord sequence to make it work. on the contrary, in proper melody writing the chord sequence merely supports the melody. my advice to any aspiring songwriter is this. write a melody on whatever your chosen instrument is and record it on a little recorder. play along with it to determine the chords that accompany the melody. that will be your chord sequence for the song. i guarantee you will come up with better melodies this way as opposed to writing chord patterns first. not that writing chord patterns first is a bad thing, it's just not the same as writing a melody first.

Mike
"Do some studying! There will be plenty of great melodies in your favourite songs. Listen to them carefully, work out what you like in each melody and try to incorporate aspects of these in your own songs." - I dont agree, listen to songs sure, but if you incorporate parts of those songs in yours, whats the point in writing the song? Take points off the song, then use them to make a melody of your own that way you might come up with something original, or mabye even breakbreaking! If it sounds different, dont worry, it just needs to sound good.

Songwriting Guides Writing a Song Genre Structure Verse Chorus Melody Tempo / Rhythm Harmony Lyrics Beginnings Endings Ideas Rhyme Middle 8 Hooks Performing Working with Other Writers In the Studio Publishers Record Companies Management Staying on Track
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Songwriting Game Pick a chord
Play with chords and find out what kind of songwriter you are with the Songwriting Game.


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