A melody is a memorable series of
It carries the lyric and it's the part of a song a listener is able to perform.
It's usually simple, or it's made of
simple patterns that repeat themselves in predictable ways.
Good melodies should
The melody can also be the main tune an instrument plays.
is the thread that ties a song together. If done poorly, every
seam will be apparent
and it won't hold together
Tone Tendencies Symmetry Structural notes Controlling the speed Melodic Placement Summary
There are two
types of melodic motion.
the melody moves
from one scale step to the next. See intervals.
melody jumps to any scale step.
The rhythm of the melody is a variation of the
songs rhythm. It reflects the essence
of the song.
The melody notes can
go up, down, or
stay the same. The pattern of rising or falling is called the contour.
A melody is made
of melodic phrases.
These phrases act like sentences
in a language. They begin and end at a point of
Short phrases are combined to make longer phrases. Most phrases
are 1 - 4 measures long.
are labeled based on similarity.
is another name for a
Rhythm is the easiest way to compare
If phrases have different notes but
the same rhythm, they're considered variations of
the same phrase.
There's many development techniques
to provide contrast between phrases.
How disjunct is the melody?
Too many interval skips makes the melody hard to sing.
the vocalist breathe between phrases?
You should try
the vocal range too great?
Does it change too
Keep the range
manageable. A 2 octave range is hard to sing.
hit song must be singable. The average person wants to sing
along. A masterpiece can use many octaves.
Develop a sense of melody.
Listen to music and
sing along with the singer.
The easiest way
to write melodies is to start singing.
It takes time to develop
this skill, but it's worth it.
It's essential "that
the writer sing the melody, feel it in
the voice, reach for the high notes, and focus on experiencing the
relationship between the lyric and the melody."
More singing exercises
Singing link to key exercises coming soon
interesting without chords behind it.
It has enough rhythm and note variations to
keep people listening.
"America the beautiful" is an example of an independent melody.
Each interval has different amounts of tension.
This tension is transfered to the melody.
You control the
melody tension with your interval choices.
Tension is measured by comparing a note to the root note.
If you're confused
see music theory, intervals, overtones
or relative tension.
Otherwise keep reading.
Tense unstable notes resolve
to stable notes.
unstable notes don't always resolve in a melody.
you understand a notes natural resolution
you can decide
to let it resolve or not.
This choice can satisfy or frustrate the listeners expectations.
ending on a stable note is closed
The root note (1) provides the most closure. The root note
is usually the last note in a song. Stable notes are
often used at "stopping points" when resolution is desired.
A natural stopping point is called
A cadence is a form of musical punctuation.
Cadences occur naturally, based on the form of the song. They're
with the use of
stable or unstable notes.
phrase ending on an unstable note is open tonally.
The most open
scale note is 7 (the leading tone).
chromatic notes (non
scale notes) are very open. The b7 is the most closed (resolved)
chromatic note. It has a strong relationship to the 1, 3, 5
Unstable notes are used at cadences when forward motion is
An unstable note that resolves to a stable note creates forward motion.
can be maintained by using stable or unstable notes at the end of
The terms open and closed can
be applied to every element of a
you play any single note,
the sound you hear is a mix of
many overtones (other notes).
I recommend the music
theory overtones page
. This is a review of that page. If you're confused, see beginner music theory.
in the Major Scale
The tension in any note is
measured by it's relationship to the root note
Some Major scale intervals are very
The Major 7th
in the overtone series), and the Major 2nd
These intervals create a sense of motion in the
These notes want to resolve
(or move) to stable notes.
Relative tension in the Major scale
(note) is stable or unstable.
We measure this stability by comparing it to the root note (1).
1, 5, 3 sound right
you play them.
2, 4, 7 want to resolve
when you play them.
These notes tend to resolve down to the
closest stable note. That's not a rule. Notes can resolve
upwards, or not at all.
for the unstable notes.
and chromatic resolution patterns
This is a review
of the diatonic - chromatic
Diatonic notes are scale
notes. Chromatic notes are any
Natural resolution patterns for
the chromatic notes Green
the most right.
These are recommendations.
resolutions sound more
intense, but they're still resolving .
notes are often called wrong notes. But great musicians
throughout the ages have used them. They can't be wrong.
They're simply tense or harsh.
Without them music would be boring.
wrong notes right
Slide or bend to the next stable note.
faster you move to a stable note, the better
If you play it once, it's wrong. If you
play it twice they praise your chromatic
the way out.
Every chromatic note has a sequence that makes it sound
good. These sequences vary depending on the style of music you're
Play it like you mean it.
are conditioned. Only the true artist and
are non conditioned." -John McLaughlin
(sameness) and asymmetry
(difference) combine to
create form and structure
the two is the ideal we strive for. Music that is too symmetric is stiff. Music that is too asymmetric
has no form.
of the phrases.
of the phrases.
The order of the phrases.
An even number
of phrases the same length
An odd number of phrases the same
A group of
three phrases can be balanced by a second group of 3
A phrase followed by another phrase
with the same number of measures.
Or a phrase followed by two or more
phrases that equal it's length.
A phrase followed by a phrase of a different length. Or multiple phrases
of different lengths.
These phrases could be balanced by allowing them to repeat.
of the phrases
Matched Inexactly matched
rhythm of the phrase matters when analyzing symmetry.
(each phrase is 1
(there are 2 phrases)
The rhythm is not symmetric
. Measure 1 is different from
To make the rhythm symmetric
you can re-write either measure using the same rhythm.
Or we could repeat both phrases. Now we have two, 2 measure phrases.
isn't always what we want. Variety (or asymmetry) is nice too.
Matched phrases have the same rhythm.
Matched phrases are labeled with the same letter.
Phrases can be matched, even if notes
are tied together.
The last two beats in each phrase are equal to quarter notes.
A' has a
different rhythm in the first measure,
but the second measure is the same as phrase A.
are labeled with the same letter, plus an apostrophe. A
rhythms are a good
place to use rhyming words in the lyrics.
Two short phrases can be balanced by a long
Outer matching occurs if the outer rhythms match.
The long phrase
is labeled with a new letter C
, and the matched phrase is letter B.
Or you could put the long phrase first and balance it with two shorter
A second phrase
can have an internal
that matches the first phrase.
is effective over
matching inner rhythms.
are unmatched if the rhythm is different.
These phrases are labeled with different letters.
Phrases with different lengths are
Phrases with different lengths can
have matching outer rhythms.
Structural notes form the melodic outline.
Structural notes are the essence of the
and simplify the melody until you
can't cut anything else away.
of structural notes.
are found on:
beats of the measure
(beats 1 and 3)
The beginning note of a phrase
The ending note of a
The highest or lowest
notes of a phrase
They're also found on:
notes that stand out.
syncopations (offbeats) or anticipations
(notes that lead into longer notes).
The melodic outline is a simplified version
It helps you add harmony (chords) later.
the melody into whole note or half note (rhythm
) sections. Decide which
chord is happening in each section.
the longest notes are the best choice for the melodic
You can use triads to
suggest a chord. (Major = 1 - 3 - 5) (minor = 1 - b3 - 5)
See Major - minor
If a power chord (1 - 5) is occurring, that also suggests a chord.
The easiest melodic motion is conjunct
This is true
for the melodic outline and for individual melody notes.
jumps to any scale step.
For simplicity I'm
using a new notation system. This shows a C major scale without sharps or
add multiple sheet music
examples for music majors. This is simplified for
beginners. If rhythm notation is confusing, click here
The jump from C
to F is disjunct
The jump from F to G is conjunct
The jump from G to C is disjunct.
This melody is NOT meant to be good. It's an example.
This chart shows a
complicated melody. The numbers at the bottom of the chart show
intervals in different
confusing, see music theory
, chord building
is a C Major triad 1 - 3 - 5.
is a E minor triad 1 - b3 - 5.
complicated. You have a choice.
It could be a D
minor chord (red).
The scale fragment suggests a Dsus2sus4
It could be an E
minor chord (tan). The scale fragment suggests a Em7sus2 (green
sounds different than Em7-sus2. You decide while writing the
is easy. The first half note is E. The second half note
analysis is my opinion. You might disagree.
making a song and any note or chord feels wrong, change it.
should go somewhere. A melody that stays in one
place is boring.
The contour tracks the melodies movement.
There are five
basic contours. This chart shows phrase contour.
The phrases are 4 measures long. Phrases can be longer or
many phrases with the same contour is boring.
can examine the overall contour
of several combined
The arch contour
is very satisfying,
with structural notes.
If you start
with a melodic outline, you'll want to enhance it. There
are several ways to do this.
The best way is to
sing and record variations.
Sing until it feels
You can use the academic approach. There are many ways
to embellish structural notes.
Repeat the note rhythmically.
This note occurs between a structural notes and it's repetition.
Lower Neighbor occurs below the structural note.
Upper Neighbor occurs above the structural note.
A two note embellishment that uses both the upper
Scalar Pattern links structural notes with a scale step motion.
Tone links two structural notes a 3rd apart.
The Anticipation leads into the next structural note.
It's shorter and is often found on the weak
part of the beat.
I left out the 8th note rest for simplicity.
Leap: jump to the next structural note
Leap 2: jump to any note, then jump to the next
these tricks however you like.
Learn how they work and use them while singing and playing. With practice, these embellishments will happen naturally.
You can change the speed of your song without changing the tempo.
Change the length of the phrasesChange the rhythm within the phrases.
This creates contrast between sections.
The length of
your starting phrase establishes a pattern.
If the following phrases remain the same, the phrase acceleration is constant.
Longer to shorter creates acceleration.
This highlights a
If the phrases return to the
longer phrase it relieves
decelerationShorter to longer creates deceleration.
two tricks can highlight sections of a song.
They can focus the listeners attention (perhaps on the title line).
can provide contrast from one section to the next.
Speed up the rhythm using rhythmic strikes, while maintaining the same rhythmic
Or you could say: move from
a large rhythmic division to a small one.
decelerationMove from a small rhythmic division
to a large one.
Play slower, keep the rhythm.
Get to the essence.
Rhythmic acceleration and deceleration creates a tension that is
resolved when the music
returns to it's original rhythmic pattern.
This could be used to highlight a title line.
placement of the melody in each measure is important.
Phrase endings &
cadences Phrase beginnings Weak part of the beat
endings and cadences
best stopping point for a phrase is at a strong cadence.
areas in the song where rhythmic activity comfortably stops
cadence is the first beat of the last half
of the phrase.
On that beat, the first half of the phrase just heard could be
The 2nd strongest cadence is the first beat of the last fourth
of a phrase.
You decide how strong of a "stop" is needed in each phrase and section of your song.
Don't use the same cadence in every
phrase or section. It makes the music sound stiff.
You can stop at a non-cadence point.
This focuses the listeners attention because it isn't
Most phrases begin on the first beat, or soon after it.
are shorter notes that lead into the first beat.
They highlight the first melody note.
part of the beat
first half of a phrase is stronger than the second half.
A phrase can start anywhere
Starting on a weak beat creates interest
by focusing attention on an area not usually emphasized.
You're using two measure phrases.
You start your next phrase on a weak beat (the second
and for added emphasis you start on the weak
part of the measure (the second half).
Try starting your
phrase a few beats before the chorus.
This highlights the title line on the first beat of the
Examine the starting point of each phrase in each section.
You can create contrast
between phrases, either within the section, or with a different
Rock and roll
Melodies are often simple and mono-tonal
They often use one or two
To avoid monotony:
Change your vocal tone.
Use rhythmic acceleration or deceleration.
Change the chords behind the melody. This gives each
note a different harmonic effect.
music can have strong
melodies, it depends on the band and singer.
Some Rock songs use
aggressive rap-like verse lyrics and melodic chorus lyrics.
to the Beatles. They are pop.
Work on your vocal tone.
Find (or be) a sexy singer.
Listen to top 40 hits.
are rare in rap songs.
Most melodies exist in short
Rap is very attitude
It flows with word rhythms, instead of vocal tones.
can be used effectively in the chorus.
Listen to hit country
songs and sing along.
The patterns will get stuck in your head. Many country songs are
It will be in a
The verse melody sets
up the chorus melody.
If it sucks, the listener will stop listening.
Keep it simple,
but never boring. Don't distract
from the lyrics.
attention from the chorus.
The chorus melody has to be better than the verse.
Use less melody in the verse. Use more images and
Use intervals that reinforce the
Use spaces between phrases
This lets the listener think and allows the singer breathing time
The pre-chorus sets up the
pre-chorus often starts on different
chords (vi minor or IV Major).
The notes are higher than the
and lower than the chorus.
It often has a new word rhythm.
Pre-choruses give a song
They anticipate the chorus.
If the the pre-chorus sounds like a
the chorus sound even better.
It has the highest notes, and the
intervals between notes.
can also try the opposite.
Make the chorus melody different from the
acceleration or deceleration (speed control
Use key changes.
Parallel mode changes.
Drum acceleration, instrument changes.
verse is stronger than your
chorus, switch them.
A bridge provides contrast.
The bridge melody depends on the
rest of the song.
Point of view
any chords from the verse or chorus. Use different chords or chord substitutions.
An instrumental bridge.
It uses an instrument to restate the melody musically.
It’s your last chance to say something
If you have nothing left to say, you don’t need a bridge.
This section is truly optional.
If it works,
the listener waits for it. If it doesn’t, it’s extra baggage.
Melodies “come into your
Guitar players also say this about their
The secret is to be in the zone.
See meditation or athletics.
simple melodies. Learn what makes them work,
to music. Eventually
you'll hear melodies all day long.
Improvise on an instrument.
Melodies are simple. They're easier than chords, riffs, licks or solos.
and sing a scale. Make the scale notes into a simple melody. Simple
things can sound good.
Play a single chord with a rhythm. Sing a melody over it. Record it. Substitute chords.
Change the melody to fit the new chords. Change the chords if it doesn't work.
Write random notes on sheet music.
This develops sight
reading and singing. Change notes that don't sound right. That will be most of them. Give it a rhythm.
Use software like Finale or Sibelius.
helps you make sheet music for melodies. You can listen to it as
you create it. You can save it as a WAV or export it as a midi
Another popular program is Sibelius
. I am trying both right now.
First takes are often the best. If you don't
record them, you're missing out.
melody can inspire something later.
Buy sheet music for your favorite
Sing the melody over the chords. Study how the melody interacts with the chords.
The intervals between melody notes. The range of the notes (high and low).
How does the melody
change between sections? How does major or minor emphasize the mood?
a chord progression. Play it over and over. Take it on
a walk and sing over it. Record your ideas if they're good.
come to you at any moment.
are all around you. Listen
Let the sounds of the world inspire
Singing gets melodies in
Sing and use the ear training exercises
Buy a portable recorder. Call home and use your answering machine.
Call a friends phone.
Write sheet music. Sing it until
it's stuck in your head. Believe that
you'll remember it.
A Zoom H4N is about 70$
Make melodies into songs.
Start simple. You can get
more advanced later.
Apply any principle. Choose. Options will hold you back if you can't decide on one.
One person can create the song
structure with chords, or produce it in a DAW. The melody writer can record melodies over top of it.
Or you can write the melody together as a team. Or you can split up verse and chorus duties and see what happens.
In the car or walking.
Make a CD of chord
progression variations, or DAW backing tracks. Play it and sing melodies. Record
with a separate recorder.
Or, have one tape player playing and
another one recording.
Play the chord progressions with an mp3 player and sing into a headset
mic. Plug both into a dual line recorder like a zoom H4N.
You can analyze the audio in Ableton or FL studios and extract the midi
information from the notes. You can open that midi file
in Finale or Sibelius. See above
Tune in to the universe
Every instant someone is dying, making love, getting crippled, killing
themselves, having a birthday, winning, losing etc.
A star is getting eaten by a black hole, right now.
All energy manifests. Tune into that energy and write your song.
beyond your standard cliches.
Tune in and become one. The universe is making music right now. People are
rocking out right now.
Listen close and
you'll hear it.
meditation. Remove the distractions of the world. If you want to hear the quiet music inside you, you have to be quiet.
Melody writing is technical
change the chords, try note
combinations, rhythm variations. Inspirational:
and develop the best variations.
you know what you want, find the notes.
If you don't know, experiment. If
you can't find a melody you like, don’t try to
Wait and let your
brain process it a few days.
The best melodies focus on the music.
Don't try to be
memorable. Try to be good.
The listener feels the songwriters mood.
If the listener feels something it’s good. If they
get goose bumps on their skin or cry, it’s great.
a complex melody if the chord
progression is simple.
a simple melody if the chord
progression is complex.