How to Write a Song – Creating the Melody
When it comes to songwriting, one crucial element that can make or break a composition is the melody. The melody carries the emotions and conveys the message of the lyrics, acting as a musical thread that binds the song together.
In this article, we will explore the process of creating melodies that complement and support the lyrics, as well as contribute to the overall prosody of your song.
This blog post aims to summarise the third part of our video ‘5 Simple Steps to Write Your First Song’. Click here to watch the video for more details, explanations and examples.
Keeping it Simple and Restrained
The key to crafting a successful melody is to keep it simple and restrained. By doing so, the melody can enhance the lyrics without overpowering them.
It’s important to ensure that the melody and lyrics work together, as well as support and elevate each other. By maintaining a sense of simplicity, the melody can become more memorable and accessible to listeners.
Drawing from The Chords and The Key
To create a melody, one effective approach is to look at the underlying chords and the key of the song.
By analyzing the chords played in a specific key, the songwriter can identify the scale from which the melody notes can be drawn. For example, the following notes come together to make up the G Major scale:
G A B C D E F# G
When you draw your melody from the above notes, you ensure that it will be in harmony with any chord progression you’ve chosen from the key of G.
To help you get a better understanding of the relationship between the chords and the key, click below to get instant access to the free PDF ‘Functions of Chords in a Diatonic System’
Questions to Ask Before Starting Melody Writing
Prior to starting your melody writing, there are a few important questions you need to ask yourself:
- How should your chosen chord progression be played? Should it be played fast, slow or mid-tempo?
- Do you have a rough idea of the mood that you’d like the song to be?
- What is the key of the song?
- Do you have an approximate tempo for your song?
The above questions help you create a solid base on which your melody is able to stand on. After all, it’s important to remember that the goal of your melody is to complement your chosen chord progression, and contribute to the mood of your song.
Melody Writing Methods
Below are some methods to help you come up with melodies for your song:
- Matching the melody to the lyrics of your song.
Song example: “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
The haunting and contemplative melody of “Hallelujah” perfectly complements the introspective and emotional lyrics. The rising and falling melody emphasizes the heartfelt and introspective nature of the song, creating a powerful connection between the music and the words.
- Develop a call and response. For example, you could develop a simple motif that revolves around 4 notes for the first line of your lyrics, followed by a motif that answers for your second line. So, maybe if your first line of lyrics ascends, then descends, then your second line can descend, then ascend instead.
Song example: “Respect” by Aretha Franklin:
Aretha Franklin’s soulful anthem “Respect” showcases call-and-response elements throughout the song. The backup singers respond to Aretha’s lead vocals with phrases like “sock it to me” and “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” creating a lively and interactive musical exchange.
- Use repetition. Once a melodic phrase or pattern is established, repeating it or slightly varying it can create a sense of familiarity and catchiness.
Song example: “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift:
The chorus of “Shake It Off” features a repetitive refrain, “Shake it off, shake it off.” This repetition reinforces the song’s theme of resilience and letting go of negativity, while also making it incredibly catchy and easy to sing along to.
Conclusion: How to Write a Song – Creating the Melody
Crafting a melody that harmonizes with the lyrics is a vital aspect of songwriting.
By keeping the melody simple, drawing from the underlying chords and key, and using techniques like repetition and call-and-response, songwriters can create melodies that enhance the emotional impact of the lyrics. This process will help you create cohesive and captivating melodies for your song.
Remember to let the chords guide your melody and strive to create prosody between your words and music.
Level up your songwriting with five radically practical exercises used by professional songwriters around the world.