Writing Melodies (2 of 3)

© 2000, Tyler Tullock. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission. In the "Memorable Melodies Part 1" I walked you though the basics of how to write a solid melody. This time we are going to discuss how to add some real life to that solid but somewhat mechanical sounding piece! First, I would like to reiterate the purpose of this article… To teach you how to write melody form the ground up, step by step from a completely mechanical point of view. This will help you to learn to write melody by taking the "artistic risk" out of the process. Eliminating "Artistic Risk" I don't know of a single writer who thinks that the first song they wrote was great! In fact I always tell my students to write 5-10 "crumby" songs, record them on a crumby tape recorder, then put them in a shoe box in their closet and they will never have to play them for anybody! What this does is to eliminate the "artistic risk" so you can get on with the process of learning to write songs without the pressure of having to write a good one. Inevitably, you probably will end up liking and being proud of one or more of your songs but the beauty of this approach is that you aren't expecting anything out of yourself! It really works!!! More About Rhythm In part I we ended up with a solid melody idea over 4 chords. The problem with what we have so far is that rhythmically it is quite boring. Each note is held for the same amount of time (1 beat). To make your melody more interesting, try making some notes 2, 3 or even 4 beats long. You can also make a note last only 1/2 of a beat (an eighth note). * A lot of pop music phrases end with a note that is 2 beats (or more) in length.

More About Connecting the Dots In part 1, I mentioned that it is usually a bad idea to have too many skips in a row. I recommend no more than 2 in a row. Don't forget to try skipping back to the note you just came from as in… C > F > C or E > G > E (as in bar 2 of ex. 4) Also don't forget about repeating the same note 2 or more times in a row. This is a very common melodic tool! Such as… G > G (as in bar 1 of ex. 4) or E > E > E These moves should be considered steps for the purpose of my melody writing technique. Song Structure We have now learned how to write a solid melodic line. The next step is to learn how melody lines are grouped together to create sections of a song (Verse, Chorus, etc). At this point I need to explain a few songwriting terms for those who are just starting to write songs. SONGWRITING TERMS
  • 1 BAR (MEASURE) OF MUSIC 4 beats (foot taps)  
  • Intro (Usually music only) Memorable melodic phrase or catchy rhythm to prepare the listener for the first Verse.  
  • Verse Vocal melody & words. It tells the story, as in chapters of a book. The words are usually different in each Verse.  
  • Chorus Vocal melody and words (The catch phrase or hook of the song, the part that gets stuck in your head and you find yourself singing it over and over (sometimes even when you hate the song!) The words are typically the same from chorus to chorus in a song.  
  • Bridge The job of the Bridge is to breakup the monotony of Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus, to cleanse the musical pallet so to speak. Almost anything can work as a Bridge since it's job is to simple create a temporary diversion! A Bridge can be drums and bass only (a breakdown), a whole new section of music and words that reach for the highest level of energy in the song, or anything else you can think of!
Growing a Melodic Idea Melody lines usually work together in groups of four to form parts of songs (i.e. Verse, Chorus, etc.) . As in the 1st Verse of my song "Avalanche". 1. Ion powered lights (2 bar melody line) 2. Are shining all the way (2 bar melody line) 3. To your desolation (2 bar melody line) 4. Night will turn to day (2 bar melody line) Then these parts are often connected like this…
Verse 1
Chorus 1
Break / re-intro (music only, 2-4 bars. Often, the intro is simply played again.)
Verse 2
Chorus 2 (Often, Chorus 1 played 2 times)
Verse 3
Chorus 3 (Often, Chorus 1 played 4 times while fading out)
So try these ideas and next time I will show you how to write four melody lines that interact & work together to lead the listener to a new part of the song! Feel free to email me with any questions! --Tyler

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