The composition of a melody visual

The composition of a melody

Today, Bruno of Composersimplement.com (french version) is back on Moja-audio to share with us an excerpt from his Ultimate Guide to Music Composition (french version). The topic of the article: the composition of a melody. At the end, not only will you be able to write your own, but you will have acquired the technical basics of melodic creation. It is up to you, Bruno:

What is melody?

In my opinion, melody remains one of the most important components of a song. Without it, your composition will be nothing more than a bunch of chords and rhythmic, but nothing more! According to the National Center for Textual and Lexical Resources, a melody means:
  • 1. A sequence of sounds ordered according to the laws of rhythm and modulation, resulting in a melody that is pleasant to hear.
  • 2. Character of what is beautiful to hear.
Well, if I summarize it simply, to compose a good melody, it must be beautiful to hear and be ordered according to rules.
It doesn’t help you? Don’t worry! I’ll show you!

Before we begin

To write your melody, there are 2 ways:

- Write the melody first and adapt the chords to fit.
- Write the chords first and adjust the melody.

Overall, both methods work very well! However, writing the melody first is the best way to harmonize! With the chords first, you can hum your melody perfectly and it will harmonize almost by itself! If you don't hum, you can listen to your recorded chords again and try something! How should we start? I go back to what I always say: it's up to you! My goal is not to write a method to be followed by the book, but to give you some starting points! However, I'll give you a few tips on how to write your melody:

Write a melody

One of the first things to do is to find out what scale you working on:

C Major? A Major? E Minor? G Minor?
Thing is, knowing your scale will save you precious time! Because it will be very important for the sequence with chords and everything!

Start with a note that is part of the chord:

Basically, assume you have your chord progression. Let's take this one!


Now I'll tell you a secret: for the melody to always sounds good, the note played at the time of the chord must be part of the chord. Not sure you understand? I'll show you! I will dissect the 4 chosen chords by writing their notes.

  • C: C-E-G
  • G: G-B-D
  • D: D-F#-A
  • Em: E-G-B
Now we know the composition of the chords, let's apply the rule!


Of course, I've come up with something very basic, but do you understand? Every time a new chord is played, the melody contains a note that is part of that chord. So your melody will always sound good!

Power of repetition:

Another winning formula for a catchy melody is repetition! In your melodic sequence, you take a passage and repeat that part, but keep the rhythm and take different notes. Look at the following excerpt:


See? Measures 1, 2 and 5 are identical in structure, but different in notes!

But that's not the only way to make repetition! Here are some other ideas:

I. Changing the dynamics, especially by decreasing and increasing the volume.
II. Changing the instrument
III. Changing the rhythm while keeping the same notes
IV. Adding harmonic techniques (e.g. slide or hammer-on/pull-off for guitar, ghost notes for drums)
V. Adding another instrument or effect

These were a few ways to keep the attention on your melody. However, beware! Too much repetition kills repetition!

Contrasts

Here, it's a question of creating two different melodic parts in order to put a contrast! Moreover, this change of melody will add tension and interest to the listener. Here is an example of this:


For simplicity, I've done it on 8 bars. But even if there is a repetition of pattern in the 2 parts, the other measures are not identical, especially the 6th one. That's the beauty of it!

Variations

Okay here, I won't bust my head. It's a combination of repetition and contrast! And I'm using the same melody you just saw:


Varying note ascents and descents

For a melody to be catchy, it's important that it's not just a rise or fall in notes. Otherwise, it will just be a scale demonstration! You see, the melody has to vibrate and be alive!
That's why having passages where the melody goes up and down is essential! Look at the example below and see how the notes are placed:


In the end, melody has to be dynamic, which is why the ups and downs have their place!

Degrees

In music, a degree represents the place of a note in a scale.


Well, I won't give you a lesson on degrees, but I'll just explain their role in writing your melody. Tonic is the most important note. Indeed, it represents the fundamental of the selected scale. So it's better to start and end your melody with this note, because it sounds stable and also gives a release towards the end (to say that the melody is over). Afterwards, subtonic, dominant and subdominant are important because it adds maximum tension. So, they need the tonic to regain stability. You can improvise something with these notes because it always goes well.

In addition, the subtonic, the mediant and the submediant contain a moderate level of tension. Without being used less, it's possible to create a melody without using these degrees.

That's it for the theory! On the other hand, I want to say that these are starting tracks! No need to always compose melodies with 4 notes!!

Conclusion

To resume the whole thing, you can write the melody first as well as second. Make sure you know the scale you are using. When a chord is played, make sure that one of the notes in the chord is played at the same time. You can use the repetitions to make a melody that will be remembered. Don't forget contrasts and variations. It is recommended to put up and down notes. Also, remember the degrees that can help you theoretically.

If you want to learn more about the other parts of a song, I invite you to check out the entire Ultimate Guide to Music Composition directly on mywebsite (french version). It is also available in offline mode here (french version).

Enjoy composing and take care.

Bruno, Composersimplement.com