Easy Methods to Make Your Melodies Sound Pro 3
Your melody has a lot more potential than you think.
It’s memorable, singable, and everyone gets it stuck in their head. You used all my other tips and tricks to write it and add variation.
It’s perfect… but why does it get old so quick!?
One of the biggest challenges when working with a great melody is everything that goes with it. What chords go there? What counter melody can you write? How do you prevent clashing notes? How do you change up your chords so they do not get too repetitive?
There are so many elements to consider when actually putting your melody in a song, and harmony is one of the most important. Today we will look at techniques to complement your melody and keep your song interesting!
There are a couple of techniques we are going to discuss over the next couple of posts. All of these techniques are related to altering your existing chords while preserving your melody.
Below are a couple of the techniques we will discuss over the next coming weeks:
- Modal borrowing
- I to iii substitutions
While these sound like complex, intimidating music theory terms, they are super easy to approach following simple steps!
Today, we will be discussing inversions which are simply changing a chord from its typical or root position. For example, root position C major chord would be C E G. See below.
An inversion is simply using the same notes but moving the bottom note to the top, so a different note is the bass. See the diagram below:
This works for triads and 7th chords as you can see below. Note the names starting with 1st inversion being the first inversion after root position.
Now that we understand what inversions are, how do we use them? One example is to add more chromatic or stepwise motion. Listen and watch along with the example below.
This example added tension and made the C chord not just a stable C chord, but made it want to move to F. This is because C first inversion had the E in the bass, and it wants to move up to the F. It also made our voice leading smoother instead of jumping multiple steps to get to the next note.
Check out this next example and try to listen for the bass note and the change that was made from the root position chord, E7.
This example added tension with the bass note now being a G# moving to A instead of just the E. This change is once again changing root position to first inversion. This example is unique, however, because it utilized multiple instruments, not just a piano. This is important because the bass determines inversions in a group!
Since the bass affects the inversions of chords and only plays the bass note, that means the other instruments are available to freely voice chords however they choose as long as they do not play lower than the bass.
Inversions and Your Melody
Take a look at the short melody and progression I wrote below.
Now, let’s think about where we can put inversions. Notice the movement between C and F major. The C chord can be changed to first inversion, so E is in the bass.
Listen to the example below with our changes.
Notice how much texture was added from the voice leading in the bass while completely preserving our melody!
The concept of inversions is really simple to understand, but the application can be a little hazy. It should be noted that not every chord has to or should be an inversion. Use it to add voice leading and density to your harmonic progression where you see fit.
If you have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and even ask about lessons in songwriting and composition!
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.