TIP 3: Write Memorable Melodies

by Robin Frederick    Check out  Robin’s books at Amazon.com.

If your melody is catchy and easy to remember, listeners are more likely to want to hear your song again. Here are a few tricks that will help you write a memorable song melody with plenty of listener appeal.

Memorable, emotionally powerful melodies use repetition and variation to keep listeners involved. A melody with no repetition sounds unfocused and weak, as if it’s wandering around with nowhere to go.  A melody with too much repetition can become predictable and boring. Good melodies balance repeated, easy-to-remember phrases with phrases that provide variety and interest.

Try a mix of short and long phrases. As you listen to a song, you can usually feel where melodic phrases begin and end; there is a natural break. Melodic phrases can be short (one bar) or long (four bars or more). Varying the length of your melodic phrases is a good way to keep your melody interesting. For example: try starting a verse with two short phrases followed by a long phrase. You can hear this in a song like “Breakaway,” a big hit for Kelly Clarkson.

Good melodies also make use of pace and rhythm. We often think of melodies as being a series of note pitches. We focus on the rising and falling patterns of notes in a melody. But melodies also rely on rhythm (patterns of long and short notes) and pace (the speed of the notes).

Just think of the nursery rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It’s a series of two-note phrases (“Twink-le / twink-le / lit-tle”), followed by a held-out note (“star”). Then the whole pattern is repeated. Each two-note phrase is on a different pitch. This is a great way to write a melody that’s easy to remember: The rhythm pattern stays the same while the note pitches change. You can hear a much more sophisticated example in Paul McCartney’s classic Pop song “Yesterday.”

DO IT NOW – Choose a hit song you like. Identify the melodic patterns. Identify the mix of long and short phrases. Notice which ones, if any, are repeated exactly – rhythm and note pitches. Notice which ones have the same rhythm pattern but use different note pitches. This is a great way to start thinking about melody. Once you can identify repetition and variation in some of your favorite songs, try writing or rewriting a melody of your own to make use of these techniques.

READ TIP #4: Use CONTRAST to Grab the Listener’s Attention.