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5 Tips To Better Melodies

5 Tips To Better Melodies

One of a songwriter’s biggest challenges is melody – especially if you consider yourself a lyricist!

Original melodies, even if you are a melody writer, are tough to come by. Making them unique to everything else everyone is listening to is an even more daunting challenge.

So how do you find some repeatable techniques to create unheard melodies?

 

5 Tricks To Creating Better Melodies

 

1  Start With Da-Da

This one is a tip from melody master Ken Gaines. He’s a performing songwriter here in Texas who is one of the best at (1) creating unique melodies and (2) building contrast into a song – which in turn influences your melody line.  If you ever get a chance to take a melody workshop with him, do it!

Ken’s tip: There’s nothing wrong with not having words in your head or an instrument in your hand! Sometimes the best way to start is just to come up with a cool little phrasing using non-sense words like “da-da-da” or “da-da-da-dum” – wait, those have been taken! See what I mean!  (“Yesterday” & “Beethoven’s 5th Symphony”).  Keep it simple to begin.

 

 

 

Try “daaaaaaaaa-da-da-da” or “da-daaaaaaa-da-da” for example, then find the words that fit:

“Yeeeeees – there’s a hole in my heart”

I caaaan’t leave you for a new love”

And remember, the words you pick should sound like they fit naturally into the “da-da” pattern you’ve chosen, not forced into the cadence.

 

2  Musically Create “Opposites” In Your Verse & Chorus

If your verse is long smooth lines with even phrasing, your chorus can be shorter words, more fast paced (John Lee Hooker & Van Morrison “Gloria”) .  Or the opposite: your verse has short metered phrases and your verse has longer phrases (Brantley Gilbert “Small Town Throw Down”).

 

John Lee Hooker & Van Morrison “Gloria”

 

 

3  Build Off A Beat & Launch To Your Chorus

It’s probably more common to build off the beat or drum track in pop songs than country, but it’s a helpful way to start. And to create some separation between your verse and chorus, it never hurts to go up to start the chorus.

You don’t need a huge vocal leap either, just something that sounds that way.  Lady Antebellum’s live version of “Downtown” with songwriter Luke Laird setting it up is a great example off starting with a beat and creating a “leap” to the chorus. This song is two chords!

 

Luke Laird & Lady Antebellum

 

 

4  Use Repeated Melodic Phrases

This creates continuity across the song and gives your listener a repeated melodic phrase to hang onto throughout the song.  Keep in mind, this doesn’t need to be some complex riff on the guitar, just a recognizable melodic phrase that’s easily recognized and remembered.

David Nail’s “Whatever She’s Got,” written by Jimmy Robbins and Jon Nite, does a great job of picking up the pace and creating “peaks” in the chorus that are highlighted on the “blue, mood, do, moves, too” sounds. Nice device to create contrast.

 

David Nail “Whatever She’s Got”

 

 

5  Create Climbs Or Descents Using Adjacent Notes Or Leaps

Traveling up to or down to something, especially if the words are indicating the same motion is always a great way to get from point A to point B. So if you’re talking about “going down to the river,” make your melody line descend. Going to heaven? Then the opposite. A great example of form follows function.

By the time I get to Phoenix – she’ll be rising” (goes up)

 

Justin Moore “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away”

 

 





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