So, you want to start writing great melodies, but every time you try to come up with one, it sounds like complete crap. You start well, but end up hitting more wrong notes than Trinny and Suzanna pick wrong clothes.
Perhaps you’re thinking your musical heroes come up with all their great melodies off the top of their heads, with some divine inspiration, as if like both Mozart and Britney Spears, they got it from God. Maybe you think that if you bang around blindly on your keyboard long enough, you are eventually going to come up with something masterful. Well, I can tell you right now if that is what you are thinking, you will spend a long time making that album. You could even be one of the wise ones, deep down your thinking there is some secret method to this melody writing stuff that you don’t understand, well your right, there is. The secret melody writing method is 100 percent fail-safe, tried, and tested for over 500 years and! It isn’t even an eBook! Read on.
Learn Music Theory
Yep, the truth is that the majority of great artists don’t come up with their melodies by chance; they come up with them by design, that’s what makes them great artists. Of course, the occasional great melody does come out by chance. However, most consistent artists will have at least some knowledge of music theory and what binds a melody together.
Music theory is a very complex topic, though; sometimes, it can be challenging to figure out which part of it you are supposed to learn for melody writing. Well, if you want your melodies to be genuinely great, the answer would be all of it. However, I know you want to start writing melodies right now! Today! So I’ll cut to the chase a bit here, I am going to do this by bypassing a lot of background music theory and get straight down to ‘how to write melodies quickly and effectively.’
First, let’s look at the scale. A scale is a collection of notes that fit together. Different scales consist of different combinations of notes.
When you are writing melodies, you must choose a scale to use. All the notes in your melody will lie within the boundaries of this scale. If you use notes outside the scale, they will not work, and the melody will go wrong. You don’t need to know why or how, for the moment, accept this as fact.
Shown below is the C Major scale. The C Major scale consists of the notes CDEFGAB. When you reach the next C, you are entering a new octave where the scale begins again. You do not need to know why for now; all you need to know is that these notes CDEFGAB make up the C Major scale.
You must also understand the notes in a scale have an ascending numerical order.
The numerical order of the notes in the C Major scale is C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6, B=7. However, we do not refer to the notes as just 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7; we refer to them as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. Like this C=1st, D=2nd, E=3rd, F=4th, G=5th, A=6th, B=7th.
Using any combination of notes within the scale to write a melody will keep everything sounding correct, but it will not make everything sound good. In order to make things sound good, you need to understand the relationships between certain notes in the scale. These relationships between notes are numerous. Some notes will ‘call to’ other notes; some notes will ‘answer’ those notes. It is as if some notes ‘like’ some notes better than others.
You will learn which notes ‘get along’ as you practice playing, but for now, you need to know that the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes in a scale-like each other very much. Just like George, Tony, and Cherie, they have a ‘special relationship.’ You will exploit this ‘special relationship’ to write effective melodies.
So, let’s look at the relationship a little more closely.
In the C major scale, C is 1st. He is like the ace in the deck, the main man. Because C is the most important note, he will usually drive the melody. All the other notes will revolve around C, and when the melody comes to rest, it will rest upon C.
F and G have a special relationship with C. For example; if you play C and then play F, your brain will automatically expect to hear C again. If you play C, then G, your brain will also automatically expect to hear C again. Both F and G return the melody to its resting point C. However, F and G also have a special relationship with each other. You can bounce the melody between F and G before playing the C and allowing it to rest. This is difficult to put into words, but trust me, once you start playing and writing more music, you will understand.
Try playing around with the notes C F and G on your keyboard and see if you can hear how they fit together.
Please note, the notes C F and G only have this relationship when you are using the C Major scale because they are the 1st, 4th, and 5th note in the scale. Once you switch scales this relationship is between whichever notes are the 1st, 4th, and 5th, of the new scale.
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