Writing a melody for your songs is a magical process that feels like it would be impossible to teach to someone else.
For people who wish to be songwriters but feel like they could never, it seems like melodies just fall out of the sky for those who are lucky enough to have the gift.
But creating a musical melody for someone to sing or play along to is not as mystical as it seems to be, and is an accessible hobby for professionals and non-musicians alike!
Sure, some melodies will come out better than others, but we can all have fun trying, and the final product doesn't always need to be perfect.
I happen to write music as a part of my career since I'm a vocalist and songwriter for hire.
I want to give a few tips to beginners and intermediate songwriters and musicians who want to get better at their abilities to write a melody for a song that will appeal to listeners.
If you're starting from scratch and feel like you have nothing to give you inspiration, the first thing you want to do is listen to a few of the best songs from some of your favorite genres.
You won't be stealing the melodies from the songs, but there is also a phrase that goes, "there is nothing new under the sun."
Listening to other songs will help you to craft your own ideas for the melodic part of your own creations.
Be sure to tune into the song's structure to see how different parts of the song differentiate as the track plays on. How does the verse sound? How about the chorus melody? Begin to internalize how popular songs work.
Many people write melodies by ear, which is the most "magical" way to go about the process, I suppose.
If you are able to write melodies by ear, that means you have an extensive amount of musical consumption and/or creation in your history, and can almost automatically identify how a song's melodic structure can go.
The problem with writing by ear is that anyone can claim the ability to do so, but could be writing melodies that don't actually fit the song's scales or chord progression.
This can create a song that won't make melodic sense and could be audibly unappealing for a listener.
A sure way to go with the creation of melodies that will provide you with a visual way to construct your song is to follow the rules of written music theory.
Those who have studied music theory are able to compose melodies with sheet music and follow "correct" melodic rules.
The problem with this method is that it can take away from the "magic" of the creation process and become more calculated instead of inspired. I personally like to use my knowledge of written music theory and ear training to create melodies for my songs!
In order to write a song that will make melodic sense, you will want to know what type of scale you are working with when choosing the notes you can use for your melodies. Y
our song may be in a major scale or a minor scale. It could be in a unique scale like a pentatonic scale or an aeolian scale.
Knowing the musical scale you are working with for your song will ensure that you are accessing all of the right notes that will fit within your song's key signature when you are writing that melody.
You also want to be aware of who can sing what notes when it comes to the scale you are working with. You might want to avoid creating a melody that has notes beyond 3 or 4 octaves, because how many people can realistically sing along to it?
You will also want to have a good idea of what the chord progression is doing that you are writing your song to.
This is where written sheet music and chord tabs can really come in handy to help you understand what melodies work with what chords and what would not.
If your song is giving off a sense of sadness and depression, you probably won't want to create a melody that will be rhythmically bubbly or follow a happy melodic phrasing.
When you are writing an upbeat song, you don't want to create a melody that has tons of long and boring notes that don't change much.
Use your creativity to make a melody that has an energy in itself and is separate but following the energy that the lyrics in your music are providing.
You want the melody to be able to tell the story, even if someone was hearing your lyrics be replaced by a simple hum.
A good way to set your melody apart from the millions of other song melodies that have been created is to push the boundaries with your rhythmic flow.
In more modern music releases, songwriters find themselves getting creative with their rhythmic flow, thanks to the debut of genres like hip-hop and electronic music.
Using an instrument is a great choice if you feel like you are a songwriter that may not have the best singing voice.
I work with many talented songwriters that send me their ideas via instrument, and it allows them to express their ideas in a way that feels comfortable for them.
Writing a melody with the help of an instrument can also help you tap into new inspiration depending on the emotion that the instrument you use can provide. Writing with a piano can really help with bringing out the passion in a ballad, for example.
One common songwriting exercise is to write and/or perform words and melodies that come to your head without forethought.
This is how I often start writing songs that I am given, and while I go back and make edits most of the time, sometimes my first freestyle recording is a winner!
I like to use the gibberish method that I found from the songwriter Ryan Leslie, where he records a melody without having real lyrical ideas set and making random noises on the mic. It's fun and very helpful for coming up with melodic ideas!
The most important melody will be the one you choose for the hook, also known as the chorus section of your song. This is the best part of your creation that will leave the biggest impression on whoever hears it.
The height of your creativity should be highlighted in this part of your track, and it could serve as the climax in some cases, depending on how you want to do the bridge section of your song (and if you even want to add a bridge section to your song).
Making something catchy will often involve repetition or the creation of musical themes that reappear, also known as musical motifs. This is how you get phrases stuck in people's brains forever!
Some songs work when the chorus is the most climactic point, while others work when the bridge is the climax of the song. In some cases, the highest point of the song is in a later verse. Which part do you want to hit the hardest for your song?
Oftentimes, the climax is paired with some of the highest notes on the scale that your song is using. This is when you want your melody to really feature those sweet high notes that will be backed with a ton of energy and possibly harmonies as well.
There are many ways you can add contrast when it comes to constructing your melody. One option you have is to use melodic contrast and put high notes in some sections and low notes in others.
You can use rhythmic contrast to make some phrases long and dramatic and others short and energetic. You can also use dynamic contrast to make some sections of your melody loud while others are sung softly and sweetly.
Don't rely on your memory when it comes to melodies like I've tried to do and failed many times before when I was trying to craft them while out and about.
There are countless ways to record yourself! Use your phone, your computer, your watch, an old-school tape recorder, or anything that will effectively store your ideas.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her recent collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!
If you are in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her services page. As an Amazon Associate, Yona Marie earns from qualifying purchases. Amazon and other affiliate products are recommended to genuinely help readers and keep this site up and running as well.