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We’re often asked: How do I create catchy melodies that people will really like?
Honestly, I wish the answer was as simple as saying “here’s exactly what you need to do and done…” but unfortunately it’s not that simple.
Melodies are often times, hard to write. You may feel that the melodies you come up with sound horrible or they sound like something that has been created before.
If you’re looking for a way to improve, look no further. This article was written just for you!
(Note: This is not an article on theory but having basic knowledge in music theory will definitely make it easier to follow).
Below are some suggestions for helping you create melodies that are catchy and memorable.
First of all, lets start with the term Melody and its definition. Melody is defined by a sequence of single notes that is musically satisfying. Melodies are very special in that they are distinguishable and are easy to sing or hum along to. Melodies are not just a random combination of notes strung together. They’re actually a well thought out sequence of notes with varying pitches one after another in an organized way.
Characteristics of a melody
We know that a melody is the result of various notes being played at different pitches/tones. Not only does the chain of pitches and tones make a melody memorable or catchy, there are also a few elements that you should consider when writing you the melody.
A memorable melody follows a particular shape. This shape will outline whether your melody will descend, ascend, incline or decline. In all honesty, there are no set formulas. You do not have to have a melody that rises and then falls and you do not have to have a certain number of leaps and drops.
But you should also have in mind that different shapes will stimulate different emotional reactions from your listeners. A melody that ascends will sound uplifting and joyful rather than a melody that descends. It’s really all preference and what you’re going for. So, test out various shapes and run with what makes you feel good!
In music, the range is referred to as the distance between the lowest to the highest note of the melody. Consider how large or how small of a range you want your melody to occupy. Some melodies will occupy up to 2 octaves or more while others occupy a very small range like an octave or half. But you should always keep in mind that a broad range will make a melody slightly more difficult to remember. Where a constricted range will have limited variations in pitch and will not sound as remarkable.
An interval is a difference in the pitch between two notes. A melodic interval happens when two notes are played in sequence. Why are intervals important? Intervals provide the basic framework for mostly everything in music. Having basic knowledge in intervals will help you tremendously when working out your melodies. Not only will intervals help with your melodies but you’ll also be able to identify scales and the quality of chords i.e. whether a chord is major, minor, diminished or etc…
Very much like song structure, your melodies should have structure too. Pick a song, any song you like and follow along with the structure. You’ll see that the song is divided into sections, an intro, verse, (Pre-Chorus), Chorus, Bridge, Hook, and an outro. Now listen to the melody lines within that song. In most cases, you’ll notice there is an “A” section, a “B” section and sometimes a “C” section in the melody. When you divide your melodies into sections you’re creating movement and keeping the track flowing.
A scale is a collection of notes that are grouped together and span an octave. There are several scales to with, Major, Minor, Chromatic, Pentatonic and more… by learning different scales you’ll be able to learn chords mush easier as chords develop from scales. Not only do chords sprout from scales but melodies and harmonies also derive from scales.
Approach to Creating
You can start by playing random notes until something sticks but I suggest starting with a bit of structure. This way you’ll be able to create an outline of which tone you want to set for your song much faster and easier.
Feel free to write your melody before or after your sound selection phase, this is completely up to you. I actually like to choose a sound beforehand as I know that having a good sound will inspire and influence my writing decisions.
Create a Rhythm
Now that you have your sound lets build a rhythm. You did find some good drums right? If not, no biggie you can use your metronome for the time being. Speaking of drums…
Back to the subject at hand… Your melody is a rhythmic succession of notes not just a sequence of notes chained together.
Choose a scale
As mentioned above, a scale contains a collection of notes and these scales are octave repeating. From these scales you can create chord progressions, melodies and harmonies. Starting with a scale will save you from wasting time hitting random keys and plotting each note by ear. I decided to run with the C Natural Minor scale which consists of C, D, D#, F, G, G# and A#.
Here’s a list of 10 tips derived by studying the best song melodies across most musical genres. If your melodies aren’t quite making it for you, check the list, and see what you might do to improve them:
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See ya, Cosby!