#1
Wondering you guys' opinion on this topic. I recently started to seriously get into song writing and melody seems like the most important aspect of a song. I'm still a complete beginner when it comes to writing songs (only wrote 1 decent song so far) but one thing i noticed is that melody is like the song's unique fingerprint. Thoughts?
Last edited by J23L at Feb 16, 2016,
#3
It's clear you're new to this, because nobody who has any experience writing music thinks this way. Melody, harmony and rhythm are NEVER mutually exclusive. The melody is the thing you hum and remember, sure, but without even knowing it you're humming the rhythm and the harmony. You can't have a melody without rhythm, it's impossible, at some point the note will end, and the next will start, and depending on how this is used will determine the rhythm, and many will argue it's importance over melody (the earliest forms of music were entirely rhythmic). And along with this, you're also at least implying the harmony. Think of Fly Me to The Moon, one of the most memorable melodies, and is so easy to hum along to. The reason why it works so well, is because it targets chord tones, and without thinking about it, when you whistle this tune, you're underlining the chords, which makes it sound so musical with just one voice. In fact I always prefer a song with unique harmony to one with just a unique melody.

Music is not just melody, harmony and rhythm glued together, it's the synergy of these elements, that creates something much greater. No element is more important, because they're all inclusive. You want to write good music? Don't think of these as separate entities, just think of music as a whole, and these elements will naturally come out.
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#4
Quote by Jimjambanx
It's clear you're new to this, because nobody who has any experience writing music thinks this way. Melody, harmony and rhythm are NEVER mutually exclusive. The melody is the thing you hum and remember, sure, but without even knowing it you're humming the rhythm and the harmony. You can't have a melody without rhythm, it's impossible, at some point the note will end, and the next will start, and depending on how this is used will determine the rhythm, and many will argue it's importance over melody (the earliest forms of music were entirely rhythmic). And along with this, you're also at least implying the harmony. Think of Fly Me to The Moon, one of the most memorable melodies, and is so easy to hum along to. The reason why it works so well, is because it targets chord tones, and without thinking about it, when you whistle this tune, you're underlining the chords, which makes it sound so musical with just one voice. In fact I always prefer a song with unique harmony to one with just a unique melody.

Music is not just melody, harmony and rhythm glued together, it's the synergy of these elements, that creates something much greater. No element is more important, because they're all inclusive. You want to write good music? Don't think of these as separate entities, just think of music as a whole, and these elements will naturally come out.

Yes, I understand this. I know that rhythm and timing is very important, but melody is what gives a song its own identity. It's like a fingerprint. I don't think of melody, rhythm, and harmony as different entities. I know they all have to work together in order to sound good, but the melody is still what largely makes a song unique and memorable
#5
Quote by J23L
Yes, I understand this. I know that rhythm and timing is very important, but melody is what gives a song its own identity. It's like a fingerprint. I don't think of melody, rhythm, and harmony as different entities. I know they all have to work together in order to sound good, but the melody is still what largely makes a song unique and memorable


I think you missed entirely the point of my comment. A song's "melody" has just as much harmony and rhythm as it does actual melody. Once you start writing your own material and analysing others', you'll quickly realise that music is much more three dimensional than "melody is what makes a song unique and memorable". Music isn't like a jigsaw puzzle, with each piece being added separately to form one big picture, it's more like a cake mix. You don't think "man the vanilla is what really makes this cake memorable", because within that cake mix, everything is so mixed together that they are no longer separate ingredients, instead it has become a one entirely new concoction. You can no longer separate the melody from the rhythm and harmony, because they're now fused together like an alloy, and have become "one".
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#6
Quote by J23L
Yes, I understand this. I know that rhythm and timing is very important, but melody is what gives a song its own identity. It's like a fingerprint. I don't think of melody, rhythm, and harmony as different entities. I know they all have to work together in order to sound good, but the melody is still what largely makes a song unique and memorable


You can have two melodies with the exact same notes with different rhythm and different chords backing them up, and it would sound like a completely different song. If I had to pick, I'd say that rhythm is much more of a memorable part of a song, and makes a bigger difference between two songs. But that's a redundant argument anyway, since as was already established they're all important factors.
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#7
Quote by Kevätuhri
You can have two melodies with the exact same notes with different rhythm and different chords backing them up, and it would sound like a completely different song. If I had to pick, I'd say that rhythm is much more of a memorable part of a song, and makes a bigger difference between two songs. But that's a redundant argument anyway, since as was already established they're all important factors.


Exactly. Marty Friedman made a video showing how the same lick can sound different depending on the chord it's played over:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_T1VZfP2_k

Likewise, Paul Gilbert explains here how you can get the exact same rhythm of one song, but play different notes to create something new. Both just go to show that you can't think of these elements as individual, because the second one element changes, EVERYTHING changes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As0qoBUvJnE
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#9
Some songs are more melody oriented, some are more rhythm oriented and some are more harmony oriented. Everything of course matters.

There are songs that have melodies that only work in context. On their own they would be boring melodies but when you add harmony, it sounds great.

For example this piece wouldn't really make sense if you just played the melody:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ry_-2edtJo

Then there is funk music where I would say groove is the most important thing.

In this song the harmonies are simple, it doesn't really even have a melody and the lyrics are basically nonsense. But it has a cool groove and that's why it works:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AKF8Iupox4


But yeah, I think in most songs it's the combination of melody, harmony and rhythm. And it's of course also about how you perform it and the arrangement you use. You can totally ruin a good melody with a crappy arrangement, even if you keep the melody, harmony and rhythm the same. And it's the same thing with performance. Even if you play all the right notes in time, it's not necessarily a good performance.

Also, some boring songs can be made sound good if they are performed by great musicians.
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#11
Quote by Kevätuhri
You can have two melodies with the exact same notes with different rhythm and different chords backing them up, and it would sound like a completely different song. If I had to pick, I'd say that rhythm is much more of a memorable part of a song, and makes a bigger difference between two songs. But that's a redundant argument anyway, since as was already established they're all important factors.


I agree 100% that rhythm (as used in phrases) is critical for memorability ... hence my earlier comment.
#12
Stravinsky used to say the melody was God and that's the understatement of the century.

Change anything else and the arrangement changes.

Change the melody, and it's a different song now.

Melody=song.

That being said, duration is the fundamental element of music.
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#13
It's all about the melody. The rhythm and any harmony are important but it's really all about melody. You can take any song and rearrange the rhythm or the tempo, play it on different instruments, do it in another key and that melody is still the thing that identifies it. You can't sue someone for plagiarism based on chord structure, titles, rhythm, tempo or keys. It only applies to the melody.
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Last edited by Rickholly74 at Feb 16, 2016,
#14
If you went up to random people and asked them to "sing you a song", the majority of them are going to sing the melody.
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#15
^ Ideally in rhythm.

Seconding tateandlyle.
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#16
Quote by Rickholly74
It's all about the melody. The rhythm and any harmony are important but it's really all about melody. You can take any song and rearrange the rhythm or the tempo, play it on different instruments, do it in another key and that melody is still the thing that identifies it. You can't sue someone for plagiarism based on chord structure, titles, rhythm, tempo or keys. It only applies to the melody.

That's exactly what i was thinking.
#17
Quote by steven seagull
If you went up to random people and asked them to "sing you a song", the majority of them are going to sing the melody.
Precisely. What else would they do?
You can't sing chords. (Well, OK, a bunch of people can....)
You could clap the rhythm, but that's unlikely to be recognisable as a specific tune.

In short, a "song" is something that is "sung". Therefore melody (which includes rhythm as well as pitch) is fundamental. Lyrics would be a close second. The identity of a "song" resides in its melody and lyric, the rest is decoration.

If we're talking about the most important aspect of a piece of music, that's an entirely different question. But the OP quite clearly used the word "song", and "songwriting", in which one would assume that "singing" is an essential part.

It's arguable that even in an instrumental piece of music (no vocal), the melody is its identity. That's if it contains pitched notes at all, which it needn't.
#18
Quote by Rickholly74
You can take any song and rearrange the rhythm or the tempo, play it on different instruments, do it in another key and that melody is still the thing that identifies it.


So you're telling me that if I take the notes used in the melody for Autumn Leaves, and I completely change the rhythm of the notes to something completely random, you could still tell it was Autumn Leaves? Yeah, good luck with that.
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#19
^I'd say the rhythm of the melody is part of the melody. Melody isn't pitch only, it's the the pitches and how long each one lasts.
#20
Quote by Jimjambanx
So you're telling me that if I take the notes used in the melody for Autumn Leaves, and I completely change the rhythm of the notes
That's not what he was telling me.
He said the "rhythm", not the "rhythm of the notes (of the melody)".
By "rhythm" I understood him to mean "rhythmic accompaniment" (perhaps metre and time sig too).
When he said "melody", I understood that to mean retaining the notes of the melody in correct order and (near enough) the same phrasing and time values. (The rhythm of a melody doesn't need to be retained exactly, otherwise where would jazz singers be?)
#21
Quote by The4thHorsemen
^I'd say the rhythm of the melody is part of the melody. Melody isn't pitch only, it's the the pitches and how long each one lasts.


Yes. You can test this by singing a great melody to the note lengths of a different great melody and see if it sounds as good. The answer will probably be no.

Also, tempo is important.