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How to write melodies

March 18, 2014

I recently Google-searched the phrase “how to write melodies.” The results have a different perspective than searches related to ‘how to improvise.’ In fact, the strategy should be very similar.

Why is this? It’s because improvisation is ‘spur of the moment’ or ‘real-time’ composition. This ‘hurry-up’ aspect leads us to need tools to enable this type of composition. Thus we have compendiums of chord/scale charts and licks of our favorite players. But these amount to devices and do not go to the real question – how to write good melodies?

On the other hand, the classically trained musician learns about motif development but these too are devices which allow the student to gain insight and understanding but still do not answer the fundamental question – what makes a melody good vs. just ‘okay?’

I certainly don’t have the answer to this question. I’ll continue to research this and write more posts. Here are a few of the links I found in my initial search:

http://songwritertips.com/songwriting/melody-mining-how-to-write-melodies-out-of-thin-air/

http://www.wikihow.com/Compose-a-Melody

http://blog.dubspot.com/music-foundations-tutorial-pt-4-theory-basics-how-to-compose-a-strong-melody-w-max-wild/

http://faculty.smu.edu/robfrank/temporalelements.htm

http://www.musicradar.com/us/tuition/tech/how-to-write-and-program-a-melody-580767#null

http://www.artofcomposing.com/melody-writing-part-2-the-tools-of-melody

http://www.davidnevue.com/pianoadvice2.htm

http://www.how-to-write-music.com/WritingAMelody.htm

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3 Comments
  1. Jon Brantingham permalink

    “what makes a melody good vs. just ‘okay?’”

    I think this question can’t really be answered, as a “good melody” vs an “okay melody” is really in the ear of the beholder. There have been plenty of melodies that I love, that other people I know don’t like at all.

    I think a better question might be:

    What makes a bad melody within the context of it’s musical system? For instance, a great jazz melody may be a terrible children’s tune melody. And an excellent classical melody may not be a good movie theme.

    If you can identify what you shouldn’t be doing, and why, that is half the battle. I guess its about knowing what makes a logical melody.

    As far as making it good, that is about tinkering. Try just singing it back to yourself. Does it feel memorable? Is it catchy? The same rules apply at that point to Mozart just as much as they do to Mahler, or Justin Bieber.

  2. Thanks Jon for your post. Your site is excellent — I enjoyed it very much. Very well written.

    -Allen

  3. Jon Brantingham permalink

    Thanks.

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