In this post, we’ll show you what melody is, why they stick in your brain and the tools you need to write them.
But first, think of your favourite song.
What part of it sticks out in your memory? The chord progression? The bassline? It’s probably the melody.
Melodies are the most important part of a song that make people remember your songs. But they’re also the hardest to write.
Coming up with great melodies is challenging because it seems like everything has already been done before. Don’t worry, it’s simply not true.
There’s a universe of incredible new melodies out there. You just have to know how the music theory works and then know how to find them.
What are melodies?
Melody is a linear sequence of notes that the listener hears as a single entity. The melody of a song is the foreground to the backing elements. It is a perfect combination of pitch and rhythm. Sequences of notes that comprise melody are musically satisfying and are often the most memorable part that makes other remember a song.
When you sing “Happy Birthday” to your Great Uncle Bill, you’re singing a melody.
From catchy choruses to infectious guitar riffs, melodies define the music you know and love because they’re the part of music you’re most likely to remember. This is the reason why melodies are essential in all kinds of music.
Melodies are produced through the human voice and any other instrument that produces pitches––marimbas, flutes, synthesizers, glockenspiels, guitars, etc.
Remember, there’s a difference between harmony and melody: A melody transforms into a harmony when completely different notes are stacked above or below it and are played at the same time. This is how chords, vocal, and instrumental harmonies are constructed.
As you just begin to write your own melodies, It’s essential to keep in mind that melodies are linear lines of single notes.
How to use melodies in your music
Think about your melodies like a movie’s scene in a movie. Your chords create the scene and melodies are the characters on center stage that tell the story.
A good melody will capture and hold your listener’s attention. Songwriters and composers use melodies in their music to tell stories and give audiences something to remember and connect with.
The most obvious way to use melodies in music is via verse, chorus, and bridge vocal lines. However, instrumental melodies are also important.
Here’s some different kinds of melodies that will explain how melody works in songs:
1. Instrumental melodies
Instrumental melodies are produced on pitched instruments. Parts like riffs, solos, and musical material that responds to the vocals in a song are examples of instrumental melodies.
The intro guitar melody from “There She Goes” by The La’s is a great example of important instrumental melodies can be:
The sultry string orchestra intro in Etta James’ “At Last” is another great instrumental melody:
The intro guitar melody of Wye Oak’s “The Louder I Call The Faster It Runs” is also catchy line:
2. Vocal melodies
When it comes to popular music, nothing is more defining than vocal melodies.
All aspects of music can connect with listeners, but vocals are the most human and relatable parts of songs.
Covered here by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” features one of the most hauntingly beautiful vocal melodies in music:
The vocal melody in Vagabon’s “Fear and Force” is another great example:
Now that you know what melodies are, how do you come up with your own great ones?