How to Create a Melody: Songwriter Tips

Songwriting Mini-Course
Click the image to get your FREE Songwriting Mini-Course!

The melody of a song is one of the most important parts. It sets the tone and mood for the song, as well as conveys emotion to listeners. When you are writing a song, you want to make sure that your melody is effective and memorable so that people will enjoy listening to it. In this post, we will be discussing how songwriters can create great melodies!

There are a few things that you can do to create an effective melody:

Start with a strong hook

The hook is the part of the melody that catches people’s attention and makes them want to listen to the rest of the song. This is the part of the melody that songwriters come up with first. Then they build the rest of the melody around this musical idea.

It should be catchy and memorable, so make sure to spend some time crafting it.

If you don’t know how to start, try humming the hook of another song and see if it sticks in your mind. Write down any musical ideas that come to mind while doing this.

Start with a simple melody that repeats itself

When it comes to creating a melody, many songwriters start with a simple melody that repeats itself. While you want your melody to be catchy and memorable, you don’t want it to be too complicated. People will lose interest if the melody doesn’t stand out or sound important.

To get started, you can experiment with a few notes that sound like they go together well. Then, you can turn those notes into a simple melody. This will give your melody a basic idea to start from.

The melody is what listeners will remember the most. You will know you have a good starting point if it’s easy to remember and interesting. If the melody doesn’t stick in your memory after playing it a few times… maybe it’s time to try again.

It may take some trial and error before you come up with the right tune though. You don’t want to get too complicated or else people won’t be able to sing along.

Keep it simple, and you’ll be on your way to creating a great melody for your song.

Use repetition for emphasis

One way to make your melody more effective is to use repetition for emphasis.  Repeat certain parts of the melody in order to make a point or create a specific mood.

For example, if you want to convey sadness, you can repeat certain notes at the end of the melody that will give it more weight.

Remember that you are writing a song, not just creating melodies for the sake of it. You want to make sure each element adds something important to the overall effect of your song- and this includes your melody!

This is especially true when you use repetition. Make sure that there is some reason why certain parts are repeated in order to make them effective.

Use Chord Progressions to Inspire A Melody

To get started, you can use a chord progression as a guide for the melody. To do that, you will need to choose a set of chords that evoke an emotion. Then, experiment with adding notes from those chords to create a melody.

(You can see some popular “ready-made” chord progressions on our article right here: Songwriting Where to Start).

For example, let’s say your chord progression is a “happy-sounding” I-IV-V chord progression, such as: C Major – F Major – G Major

In this example, you can use the notes from the C Major scale (all of the white notes on the piano) to improvise a melody that more or less follows the notes of the chords being played.

You can use this basic melodic idea to inspire the rest of the melody.

Create variations of your basic melody

Once you have a basic melodic idea, then you can create variations. There are several ways to do this.

One way would be to start your melody with this basic idea, then add another section afterward that is different. It should go with the main melody but a little something different, a “twist” that keeps the listener interested.

Verses in songs often follow this pattern. The first part of the verse will have a familiar melody but the second part of the verse will be slightly different.

Create more impact by going up an octave

A simple but powerful trick to give melodies an extra dose of drama is to go up an octave on the last line. This will create more impact and can really grab listeners’ attention because it changes things up.

Going back down an octave after doing this also gives the melody some symmetry, which makes it sound even better in most cases. You don’t always have to follow these rules though.

You’ll notice this change after a chorus ends and the song goes to the next verse. Things were exciting and dramatic during the chorus, then we take it back down a notch and go to the verses.

It’s very common to use this trick during the last final chorus of a song. Going up an octave piques the listener’s interest because it’s familiar but different from everything that came before.

Going up an octave also gives the singer an opportunity to shine and add more energy to their vocals.

Overlap two ideas to create a counterpoint melody

Once you have one basic melody you can develop the melody by adding a second melody on top.

Counterpoint is a type of music that uses two or more melodies at the same time. It’s most famous for appearing in Baroque classical music, but this technique can be used in modern music too.

The trick here is to have one melody be a little less melodic and just follow along with what’s going on underneath it, while the other melody tries to create some counterpoint by being more melodic than anything else in your song.

This can add interest because you’re basically having two melodies that don’t sound like they go together and yet somehow it works.

Here’s an example of counterpoint in prog rock:

“Gibberish” by Spock’s Beard

Use melody to change keys or create song transitions

You can also create a series of chord changes by using this trick. Instead of just doing one melody at a time, you have multiple counterpoint melodies going on top of each other simultaneously to follow the chord progressions underneath them.

This is helpful if you want to change the chord progression but want it to sound natural and smooth for the listener. It’s also a great way to add more interest and variety to your song.

Experiment with rhythms in your melody

Adding rhythms is another way to make melodies more interesting. You can use different note values, or even experiment with syncopation (playing notes off-beat).

This will add some groove and life to your melody, making it more engaging for listeners. You can vary the rhythm by having part of the melody be very flowing and smooth. Then, contrast that phrase with a very short and punchy melody.

Some examples of rhythm being used creatively in the melody are the following:

“Private Idaho” by The B-52S

There’s a big contrast between the short, energetic delivery of Fred Schneider compared to the smooth vocals of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson. You can also hear this contrast between the verses and chorus.

“Telephone” by Lady Gaga

The melody in the verses is very staccato (short and choppy), sort of like a telephone ringing that is “annoying” the listener. In this case, it makes the song super catchy!

“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.

The theme song for the Ghostbusters movie has become a classic due to its catchy lyrics and determined groove.

If you listen closely, you’ll notice that the melody has a very syncopated feel. The melody in the vocals emphasizes the upbeat while the underlying drums are playing a solid downbeat rhythm.

Create variety and excitement with bigger jumps in the melody

One way to add variety is to use stepwise motion in your melody. This means that the notes of your melody don’t stay close in pitch to each other, but they jump higher or lower than expected.

The notes of most melodies stay within a half-step or whole-step of each other. Change it up by jumping two or three whole steps up or down the musical scale. Generally, jumping up in pitch sounds more energetic while going down mellows things out.

Experiment with melodic contours

The contour of a melody is how it rises and falls in pitch. You can use this to great effect to create tension and release in your song.

A common way to do this is by starting the melody on a low note and slowly ascending in pitch until you reach a high point. This creates tension because the listener expects the melody to keep going up. However, when the melody finally does resolve to a lower note, it releases this tension and feels satisfying.

This technique takes many forms, including “anticipation” or the Picardy third. Sometimes you don’t want to resolve your melody because it creates a sense of ambiguity that intrigues and excites the listener’s ear.

This can be especially effective if you want to create an air of mystery in your song.

“Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse

An example of going down in pitch would be the song “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse in the second half of the song. Coupled with a slightly slower tempo, this gives the chorus a somber and intense impact.

Force yourself to use different keys or scales

To inspire new melodies, you can try to only use notes from a certain key, or you can limit yourself to using only two or three pitches.

This will make your melody writing process more challenging, but it can also lead to some really interesting and creative results. You might be surprised at how much variety you can create within such limitations.

Try using scales that you don’t typically use. This can add a new flavor to your melody and make it sound more interesting. For example, if you’re used to writing melodies in the key of C Major, try using the D Dorian scale for a change. This will give your melodies a slightly “exotic” feel.

To give an example of the impact of using a different modal scale, check out this song written by Tears for Fears which was later covered by Gary Jules:

“Mad World” by Tears for Fears

Get unconventional

Sometimes songwriters get stuck in a rut and need something to shock them into new creative territory.

Sometimes you just need to do things differently to inspire new ideas. Here are some ideas:

Imitate something else with your melody

What if a bird was singing this melody, how would they sing it? Or a whale? What if your musical instrument was the engine of an airplane? What would that sound like?

Use a different instrument

Simply changing the instrument you write with can inspire new ideas. Musical instruments have certain limitations that force the songwriter to use different techniques.

How would the melody change if you were composing on a harp? What if you were using a clarinet?

Write in a different environment

Change the environment to inspire new ideas. What if you wrote melodies in a different room, or outside? What if you wrote them on the bus, or in the shower?

What if you wrote a melody that was only one note?

Or two notes?

Three notes?

You get the idea.

Creativity is all about breaking boundaries and trying new things. These are just a few ideas to help you get started but don’t be afraid to experiment on your own as well. The possibilities are endless!

Take a break

Sometimes all you need is to take a step back and clear your head. Songwriting can be an intense process, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

If you’re feeling stuck, take a break and come back to it later. Maybe try working on another song, or just take some time to relax. You’ll be surprised at how refreshed you’ll feel when you come back to your melody writing session.

To wrap it all up…

I hope this post has given you some insights into how to write a melody that will resonate with listeners. Just remember to be creative, experiment, and have fun!

Creativity is all about breaking boundaries and trying new things. These are just a few ideas to help you get started but don’t be afraid to experiment on your own as well. The possibilities are endless!

The melody of a song is one of the most important parts. It sets the tone and mood for the song, as well as conveys emotion to listeners. When you are writing a song, you want to make sure that your melody is effective and memorable so that people will enjoy listening to it. In this post, we will be discussing how songwriters can create great melodies!

Recent Content