Easy Methods to Make Your Melodies Sound Pro 1
What’s your favorite song?
Well, I have too many to pick from but the first ones that stick out to me were catchy. They are the types of songs that any listener can get stuck in their head in an instant.
While there are many elements of a great song to appreciate whether that be a grooving bassline or tight drums, the melody is the attention grabber. The melody is the catchy collection of notes and rhythms that your audience is going to remember.
Today we will dive into the building blocks of melodies that will take your writing to the next level!
Let’s Get Started
To begin, let’s discuss the principles of this basic melody. There are 3 important aspects to discuss.
- Phrase length
The first element that makes this melody memorable is its 4 bar phrase. This is easily restatable and fits into larger forms such as AABA and fits common chord progressions commonly used in songwriting across multiple popular genres. This is crucial for adhering to common song forms because it helps you, the writer, be more idiomatic with your writing and truly encompass the genre you are writing for.
Another important point about this melody and its construction that makes a melody catchy is its range. Notice this melody sits within a comfortable range being a major 6th. For the average audience, this is well within their common singing range of an octave. This makes it easy to sing, hum, or whistle along with. Writing melodies that are comfortable for audiences helps them remember them. This principle is very crucial in the next point for audience retention.
Motion is not quite as easy to grasp on the surface as the other building blocks of this melody, but is arguably the most important for the audience. When writing melodies, motion refers to the distance between consecutive notes. While this is related to range in regards to distance between highest to lowest notes, motion is concerned about the distance between notes and how they get there.
Look at the melody and notice the first three notes and how they have no space between them. This means they move stepwise according to the key they are in and the scale they belong to. Stepwise motion is technically referred to as conjunct motion.
Next, look at the notes under the Cmaj7 in the third bar. They do not move stepwise as there is a large gap between the E and the G. This type of motion where there is a jump between pitches is called disjunct motion.
Now that we have established the difference between conjunct and disjunct motion, let’s discuss the balance we must establish between the two. Notice our original melody and that the majority of its motion is stepwise or conjunct. This is important for your writing to follow suit as it’s easier for you and me to remember and sing stepwise motion.
Even though conjunct motion is our target for catchy melodies, disjunct motion helps create interest and outline the harmony. Since both types of motion are important for your melodies we can strike a comfortable balance between the two. Strive for about 60-80% conjunct motion with 40-20% disjunct motion respectively.
Where to go from here
Utilize the three building blocks phrase, range, and motion in your writing.
Write catchy melodies in groups of 4 bars phrases. This phrase fits well in 8, 12, or 16 bar forms that follow common forms and progressions. For example, a 12 bar form could be a blues which has a common chord progression. Your 4 bar phrase would be easily adaptable to a 12 bar blues.
- Next, consider range. Keep your melody within one octave so that the average audience can sing or hum along. This helps the audience participate with and remember your song!
Lastly, consider the trickiest part of writing melodies. This is the balance between conjunct and disjunct motion. Remember to strike a balance with about 60-80% conjunct motion versus 40-20% disjunct motion.
Today, we covered the building blocks of a catchy melody. If you want to learn more techniques to improve your writing, make sure to catch my next couple of posts where we will discuss rhythm and harmony in relation to melody! Thank you and reach me at email@example.com for questions and info about in-person or virtual lessons.
Hi, I’m Cj Rhen and I am a composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. You can find some of my work at cjrhenmusic.com or on sounds.com where I write and record high-end sax and horn loops for your music. Also, you can check out my live streams at twitch.tv/cjrhenmusic to see me writing music like this post live and ask questions and chat.