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Old 06-18-2013, 08:41 PM   #1
brett.endsley
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help composing melody

for some reason im having trouble composing melody. I cant find a guide that helps at all. I was hoping for someone to be able to direct me to a good guide or explain themselves thanks.
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:01 PM   #2
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There isn't really a guide or set of rules that can help with composing a melody. You just have to start writing.
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:10 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Nietsche
There isn't really a guide or set of rules that can help with composing a melody. You just have to start writing.

being me i need theory without it it just doesnt feel right. I did watch a vid however with a guy building a rhythm from chords to use as a backing track for the melody and he was using theory for the backing track. but he was a bit confusing as he rushed over the ways he obtained the chords through the key using the tonic and so on. I worked through how he got the chord but he didnt make sense as i got a diferent chord but i was positive i did it right
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Old 06-18-2013, 10:02 PM   #4
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If you're having trouble, start by studying melodies you know and love. Find out what notes go well over what chord, what degrees of the scale make you feel a certain way, and what the melodic shape is, what melodic shapes do you tend to enjoy hearing, and how the chord progression works with the melody.

What I would recommend is starting with a standard vi IV I V progression and writing an almost 'connect the dots' melody, start the melody with the first, third or fifth degree of your scale, keep in mind that you want the high point of your melody to be in the third and seventh bar, where chord I appears, and you want your melody to end on beat one of the final bar, which will be bar eight, as you will play the chord progression twice.

With those guidelines, you can create a full melody that will satisfy audiences. For chords, generally, your most us able chords are chord I, chord IV, chord V and chord vi, and sometimes chord iii, so don't worry about obtaining chords. A lot of beginner songwriters avoid the 'cliche progressions' like the plague, but an existing chord progression is a tool, if you want the sound of a I V vi IV, use it, you'll find them in many great songs because they are great progressions.

It might be a bit of a 'soulless' way to think of music, as melodies are sometimes thought of as an arcane, mystical entity that comes into your mind and opens the doors of inspiration, but, really, a great composer or songwriter will know exactly how to make their audience feel a certain way with music, I've done quite a bit of professional work and there are certain melodic shapes and patterns that are useful to put across different feelings, like for a relaxed piece, you would find yourself writing a melody that descends, rather than ascends,, as ascending patterns in melodies creates tension, so if you want a dramatic piece, you'll use more ascending patterns.
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Old 06-19-2013, 03:06 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brett.endsley
being me i need theory without it it just doesnt feel right. I did watch a vid however with a guy building a rhythm from chords to use as a backing track for the melody and he was using theory for the backing track. but he was a bit confusing as he rushed over the ways he obtained the chords through the key using the tonic and so on. I worked through how he got the chord but he didnt make sense as i got a diferent chord but i was positive i did it right

Theory isn't "rules" to tell you what to do.

It's simply a way to describe what you've done. It's impossible to write music "without theory" because it applies to all music.
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Old 06-19-2013, 03:16 AM   #6
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Sing. Sing a melody over what you're hearing. If you can do that, you can do it on guitar.

So start with that. Then you can simply play it with a guitar, then embellish it per your taste.
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Old 06-19-2013, 03:42 AM   #7
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listen to some music TS, jeez you make music sound like a chore
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Old 06-19-2013, 05:55 AM   #8
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Cool

There is a treasure trove of melodies waiting to be stolen from Franz Schubert and incorporated into pop and no one will know. Like said above, study why the melodies you like work and try singing em. Work at it and it gets easier
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Old 06-19-2013, 07:04 AM   #9
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There are a lot of tips and tricks to help with melody. Here are some...

Try to move stepwise or in thirds as much as possible without too many big leaps. But don't ONLY move stepwise and in thirds you need to have a leap or two in there. E.G. Twinkle Twinkle starts on the root then jumps a fifth and moves stepwise to the sixth and then back down step by step to the root.

Repetition is your friend but you need to provide a twist with the repetition (familiarity vs originality). Amazing grace for example is a timeless melody and you can see how it uses stepwise or third movements with the occassional larger leap.

I have laid out the bars here purely to illustrate the repetition this melody employs. All the lines are very similar but no two lines are actually the same.

There is a clear climax at the end of the second line and and a clear resolve at the end o (f the fourth providing balance and a sense that you went somewhere and came back so you feel like it's complete or "resolved".

The first and third bars are very similar except the first three notes. But the rhythmic structure is identical in nearly every line. And to think the whole thing only uses five pitch classes and spans a single octave. A good example of simple but effective.

I would take this further and show how the lines form a contour but I don't have time I'm running late. Here's the score.



Find some other melodies that you like and try to take them apart. Look for repetition, note range, melodic contour, note movement (stepwise, thirds, leaps etc).

Most importantly LEARN the melodies - learn to play them in different keys, learn to sing them. Then improvise your own melodies, write them down, study them, listen to them, experiment and play. The more you do the better you will get.
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:20 AM   #10
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^^ good post!

Check out this http://smu.edu/totw/melody.htm

There are no rules, do whatever works, ehh. I think this is a half truth. One side of the coin, there is an endless well of musical ideas to explore. You can go any direction, but you need a place to start. That website should have some good guidelines of what has worked in the past. Multiple intervallic leaps and no repetition are tough terrain for creating a memorable melody. You'd probably pick it up through trial & error as you study more melodies in depth, but it doesn't hurt to have theory spell things out. You learn it faster that way so why not?
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Old 06-19-2013, 10:17 AM   #11
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Many singers "write" melodies by just singing whatever comes to their mind over the chord progression/riff (for example Ozzy Osbourne and I think Jim Morrison did that too).

What kind of melody are you trying to write? Is it a vocal or instrument melody? I think trying to sing a melody is still the best way to do it because then you really use your ears don't just repeat all the patterns from your finger memory.
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Old 06-19-2013, 11:05 AM   #12
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Work on your ear.

Melodies often come from a mysterious place inside you, and you'll find that you're much better at coming up with them spontaneously if your ear is well trained.
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Old 06-19-2013, 11:54 AM   #13
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Like 20Tigers was saying, there are some guidelines to follow when composing a melody that you'd find in textbooks for music theory. Combine stepwise and 3rd skips with the occasional leap; there should be a climax somewhere near the middle of the melody, which will often be achieved through the use of a leap to reach a high note; don't leap in one direction without immediately balancing that leap with motion in the opposite direction (it's supposedly best to follow a leap with stepwise motion in the other direction, rather than another leap); avoid sequences of notes that are too repetitive or sound like scale exercises (ex: two notes up, one note down, two notes up, one note down, etc etc); the overall shape of the melody should have a good shape/arc to it, and shouldn't only go a little bit above the starting/ending note and a little bit below. You don't want to "worm around" the tonic note without traveling any significant distance in any direction.

That being said, these are all rules held over from as early as the 17th century in classical music, and any melodies that you write following these rules may well end up sounding too "classical." A lot of the melodies you hear in popular music nowadays completely break some of these rules. Sometimes you'll hear lots of leaps in different directions, or a melody that uses only three notes, etc.
That being said, it all depends on what kind of music you want to make. There are successful rock groups that utilize classical-sounding melodies, but some people don't go in for that, because it just sounds too "corny" or something. I'm not sure what motivates people's tastes these days. You can also try and take a more modern approach that follows less rules. Whatever you try, however, I think it's important to mention that very few composers, classical or otherwise, are likely to have composed their greatest melodies by simply looking at them on paper. They likely all worked them out by humming or tinkering with a piano until they found something they liked, because at the end of the day, it's your ear that counts above all else.
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Old 06-23-2013, 12:11 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brett.endsley
for some reason im having trouble composing melody. I cant find a guide that helps at all. I was hoping for someone to be able to direct me to a good guide or explain themselves thanks.


You gotta use your ears. Use your ears by learning music by ear. even If its music you made up.

Listen more intensely. and transcribe and simplest of melodies.

then You will know,then you will know and then you can do.then you can do. what it is you ask.what it is you ask.
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