The melody is one of the most important and characteristic parts of your composition. It’s usually what people will remember and what gives your track identity. In this chapter, we will focus on creating a strong melody that will be the foundation for the main theme of your track.
Melody writing is a fine art, and coming up with great sounding things from thin air can seem very intimidating. However, there are techniques and tips that will help you create good sounding stuff in no time, that have helped me incredibly as a composer. We will have a look at these techniques in this chapter.
What is it that defines a good melody? Or rather, what makes a bad melody? Musical preference is highly subjective. It’s hard to label a melody either good or bad. Classical music veterans might listen to chart-topping pop hits and feel the melodies are boring, uncreative, and repetitive. At the same time, modern pop fans might feel that themes from old classical masterpieces are too unpredictable, weird and hard to wrap their head around, or they might listen to old Bach pieces and feel it’s too cheesy, archaic and boring.
However, both types of music and melodies are skillfully crafted for their purpose, may it be a part of a classical symphony or as the hook of a Rihanna track. That said, if we just put a bunch of totally random notes after each other, I think people from both modern pop and classical background, will agree that it’s just not a good melody at all. So, subjective music preferences aside, what is it that makes a melody good? Or the other way around, what is it that makes just a bunch of random notes a bad melody - and what is it we’re actually doing with the notes to make it into a good, memorable and catchy theme?
Which one do you consider to be the best melody? I think most of you will answer number 2. But what is it that makes us feel that way?
Personally, I think it comes down to a few things. But first, let's write down some observations about the characteristics of each melody line.
A lot of different notes
No recurring elements
No familiar scales or chords
Irregular and unpredictable rhythm
No feeling of structure or form
Limited amount of notes, 6 to be precise
Steady and recurring rhythmical pattern
Predictable, natural step-wise movement
Now, let's look at some ways to use similar characteristics to write "better" melodies. While it’s really hard to put something that’s so subjective into words, or some kind of framework, I have come up with a few things that can be nice to keep in mind for beginner melody writers. These are three elements that can help and guide you into making the right choices, without really going much into music theory. Memorability, emotion, and interest. Let’s have a look at what I mean with this.