Melody Writing For Pop Songs

Sep 2, 2014 | Melody

The below is taken from a chat board and it part of a much larger post.  I’ve broken it up to create an easier read and added a few embellishments here and there.  Thanks to Jason “The Millenial” for the great tips!


Melody Writing Tips


Keep It Simple

The simpler your melody is, the easier it is to remember. If your melody is too complicated, it will alienate your listeners.

I often ask songwriters the question – could a preschooler sing this thing? If not, make it simpler.


Here are some tips to help simplify your melodies:


Use Stepwise Motion
Most pop melodies are comprised almost entirely of stepwise motion (meaning the space between each note is primarily a whole step or less).

Most melodies rarely leap more than a major third. When writing a melody, try to limit yourself to mostly stepwise motion – this will make it easier to sing along to (and easier to remember).


Limit Range
The range (musical distance between the lowest and highest note) of a typical pop song’s melody is just over an octave.

Try to limit the range of your song’s melody – this will make it easier to sing along to (and also easier for the artist to sing, as most pop singers have a limited register in which they sound their best).


This is perhaps the most important parameter you can manipulate with regards to your melody. Tessitura refers to the highness or lowness of a melody.

Writing a melody that is higher in a singer’s range will cause them to sing with more intensity, vocal strain, and energy – while a lower melody will sound more reserved.

The trick to manipulating tessitura comes when you pair it with song structure. A great melody mirrors the arc and energy of a song – often by being lower in tessitura in the verses, rising slightly (perhaps by a third or fifth) during the pre-chorus, and then hitting the top of its range in the chorus.

It’s no surprise that most melodies reach their highest pitch in the chorus – it’s where the song needs the most energy! By manipulating the tessitura of your melody, you can literally “add” emotion where it is needed the most.


Note Stability
Without getting into music theory too heavily, it’s important to know that certain notes in a given key will feel more stable than others. What I mean is that certain notes give the listener a sense of resolution, while certain notes make the listener sit on edge – thinking that there is more to come.

The tonic (the “1” of a key – aka the note “A” in A major) and the dominant (the “5” of a key – aka the note E in A major) are more stable than any other notes. Use this to your advantage when writing your melody – try to save the tonic for the chorus if you can.

Chorus melodies often end with the tonic as well. Why?

Because the tonic provides the strongest sense of resolution and completion – as should the end of your chorus!


The rhythm of your melody can serve to provide additional contrast between various parts of your song. If your verse melody includes lots of short choppy phrases, try constructing a melody for your chorus that has a few long, connected phrases.

The same goes for where your phrases begin. If your verse phrases begin primarily on offbeats, try constructing a chorus melody where each phrase begins on the downbeat.

The downbeat of “1” is the strongest and most “grounded” place to begin a phrase – if you this place for your chorus, it will feel more “grounded” and stronger than anywhere else in your song (which is exactly what you want!).


More Articles


Pop Song Essentials: Song Structure

Pop Song Essentials: Lyrics

Pop Song Essentials: Music & Melody


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