#1
I know you guys are fed up with me (at least some of you) and sick of my questions ... but I think this question is good. Let's say I have some half-way decent lyrics (at least) written and want to have a nice vocal melody. However I don't sing (I hate my singing voice and sound like a drunk nerd) and can't stand listening to my own singing voice. So how would I go about writing that vocal melody to my lyrics. 

I know how to at least write riffs and can write melodies for my electronic music (which really has been getting a lot better over time). I'm thinking about forming a band one of these days and being the bassist and primary songwriter. My question is about vocal melodies for lyrics and notating them.

I'm done with the style and mode questions and am just going to continue with my music. However I think learning to write vocal melodies is an important skill. Please no "Do it yourself" advice (If I could do it myself, I wouldn't be asking these questions). Here's a few examples of great (in my opinion) vocal melodies (all sung by skilled singers).

Dio was one of Metal's greatest vocalist and here's a famous example of his talents.


Next is "Shiny" from Moana. It's wonderful to see a classic Disney villain song these days and this one is great. The vocals are performed well and have a catchy glam rock meets Disney musical melody.


Michael Jackson is one of Pop's greats and a master vocalist. Here's just one example.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
Last edited by RonaldPoe at Jun 11, 2017,
#2
Speaking as a non-singer myself, you can still sing well enough to write a vocal melody. You have the ability to pitch your voice high or low, and various degrees in between. You may not be able to pitch reliably in tune (I can't, at least not quickly enough), but you should be able to hum a note and find that note on guitar. If you think you can't - you CAN! Try it, don't give up.

Your voice (almost certainly) will not have the range or reach of any of the singers you admire. So stop thinking about highly skilled singers like your examples. Find your own natural range, using the humming-to-the-guitar method. Write within that range. So, you'll never be a heavy metal (or R&B vocalist. So what? The point here is that to write a convincing vocal melody, that you can imagine being sung (by someone maybe a little better than you). Singing it yourself - even just grunting it roughly in tune - will teach you valuable lessons about phrasing in particular.

Still, it's quite OK to compose vocal melodies which you will never (in your wildest dreams) be able to sing - planning for that future band that will have a good singer. You can play them on the guitar instead (or - perhaps better - on the keyboard). The melodies you're currently writing may well be suitable for singers already - you just need to add lyrics! (That's the hardest part...) Just remember the limitations of the average human voice (even the good singers):

1. Breathing. Keep melodic phrases short enough that they can be sung in one breath. Leave space for breathing in.
2. Range. Keep the range of a melody (of the entire song) within an octave and a half, ideally less. Untrained singers (like you and me!) tend to have trouble even spanning one octave. If you're writing for a specific singer, you would write within their range, but it wouldn't matter to begin with because a key can always be changed.
3. Mix scale-wise moves with occasional skips or leaps. Don't use big jumps, except just ocasionally for dramatic purposes.
4. Bear in mind the quality of voices at extremes of range. At the bottom, voices tend to be quiet, moodier - that could be either seductive, or menacing, or simply introspective. At the top of a person's range, they sound intense and passionate. They may even scream, or move into falsetto.
5. When setting lyrics to music, think "prosody" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosody_(music) - This means, basically, not putting rhythmic accents on weak syllables, like having words like "the" or "a" on beat 1 of a bar. Let lyrics follow their own natural speech rhythms - just exaggerated or simplified for musical purposes.
Last edited by jonriley64 at Jun 12, 2017,
#3
Coming up with lyrics first may help you with writing the melody because that will help you shape the melody. It will give you rhythmic ideas, and those rhythmic ideas may give you melodic ideas.

I may have given the same advice to you before, but think in phrases and base your melody on some kind of a motif. The motif can be rhythmic or melodic. If we use Thriller as an example, notice how all of the phrases in the verse start with a similar rhythm (8th, 8th, 16th, 16th), and they all start on the "and" of three. They all also use syncopated rhythm. So that makes the melody of the verse sound coherent. Another thing that makes it sound coherent is the structure of the melody - it's aabb' (and all of the phrases are the same length). So it starts with one phrase that repeats and then there's another phrase that also repeats but with a slight variation in the end (the melody goes up) that basically sets up the chorus (that starts from a high note). Notice how the verse starts from low notes, then in the middle of the verse it goes a bit higher, and in the beginning of the chorus is the high point of the melody (chorus is usually also the "climax" of a song so it makes sense).

Understanding form is pretty important if you want to understand how a melody is constructed. But in the end, you just need a musical idea. You can come up with great melodies by just starting to sing something without thinking about anything. And sometimes writing a melody too "theoretically" may end up sounding too cliched. So maybe a good starting point would not be thinking about the theory behind a melody. Analyze songs to understand what's happening in them, but don't treat it as a rule. Something that you come up with naturally is usually going to sound better than something that you create by following some "rules" literally.

Remember that there is no one correct way of writing a melody. What sounds good is good. And yes, I'm going to tell you to figure it out yourself, because that's what you need to do. I can give you advice, but in the end you still need to figure this stuff out on your own. When it comes to writing music, that's just something that needs to come from yourself. Analyzing music helps and when you do that, focus on the things that I mentioned in this post.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Jun 12, 2017,
#4
MaggaraMarine, this time you've given good (if not great) advice. I've got about 2 dozen melodic motifs but I've never thought of separating my melodic motifs into a specific structure. I usually get inspired (listening to fragments of about 10 pieces in one session and having a theme)  and improvise a little with my guitar until something sounds nice and fits the theme. Then I write the nice lick down and use it. As you know I write eccentric (I've gotten better over time) Electronic Music (recently based on strange yet subtle percussion and my licks) and am thinking about retooling a piece to test this concept. I'll try posting it when I'm finished. This time I thank you a lot.

Now I'm just curious about matching lyrics to melody and notating the vocal melody. Johnriley64 also gave some great tips on vocal melodies and I thank you as well.

I still hate my drunken nerd singing voice and refuse to show/post any examples (any that I uploaded have long been deleted from my Youtube channel). 
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
Last edited by RonaldPoe at Jun 12, 2017,
#5
Quote by RonaldPoe
I still hate my drunken nerd singing voice and refuse to show/post any examples (any that I uploaded have long been deleted from my Youtube channel). 

You might want to check out Boy in a Band's YT video where he tries to teach himself to sing in, like, a month. Educating and interesting since he has not been blessed with golden vocal cords.
#6
I already take guitar lessons (mainly to learn new melodies and improve my techniques) and can't really afford singing lessons too. I know my singing voice sucks (I wouldn't even sing backing vocals) and accept it (my band would obviously have a decent vocalist recruited). Anyway I'd like more tips while I try writing better and more structured melodies (maybe in an A B A form). I've also found some interesting concepts for writing video game music (most my Electronic music is already video game related and I love game music) with homemade stems/layers and might try that as well. I'll post the base soon.

I have trouble making chord progressions work with my music but so many other people incorporate chords that it's typical. Now how do you sync and notate lyrics to melody?
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#7
Song writing and singing are two different things. Listen to these two examples of the original composers version and the more well known version. I suspect there many more songwriters who cannot sing well than there are singer/songwriters.



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Here's another example



Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
#8
Bob Dylan is my go to example of what you're saying. He's a subpar singer (sorry Dylan fans but it's kinda true) and mediocre guitarist (I'm not insulting him) but his songwriting is excellent. I believe he's comfortable with his voice though. Also quite a few people like Tom Waits and his voice (it's brutal and unique). He's got many great songs that he sung himself (his singing and style aren't for everyone though) and he made it in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this decade (although his style is barely Rock).

How do I improve my songwriting with a bad voice? I find it hard to make vocal melodies that match the lyrics when I don't sing. I'm fine with electronic melodies but there's always room for improvement ...
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#9
The only thing you need to be able to do is to sing in pitch. Your voice has little to do with your songwriting abilities.

Before writing the melody, come up with the rhythm first. When you have some kind of a rhythm, just find notes that would sound cool with that rhythm. And you don't need to use your voice for that - you could use your guitar or whatever.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#10
For the purposes of coming up with a melody it doesn't matter if you don't like the sound of your voice. Nobody else has to hear it and you don't have to record it or anything. Just hum a tune, find the notes on the guitar, and play around.
#11
As a singer I find it easier to find a melody that I like and then put lyrics on it afterward. You need to find syllables that fit the rythm of your melody. I can think of a guitar riff for example and imagine a melody that fits to it almost instantly. Just practise using both components and it helps a lot.
Last edited by BillDemote at Jun 16, 2017,
#12
I'm going to try some of these tips and hope I can come up with a good vocal melody. More tips can't hurt but I think attempting some of this will help. Thanks everyone and have a great day.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).