Is a Truly Original Melody Possible?

Question: How is it possible to write an interesting melody without inadvertently ‘borrowing’ a few similar notes from somebody else’s composition?

Answer: It may be literally impossible to create a melody that does not contain a short phrase from an earlier composition (given the millions of songs and musical pieces ever written).

There are only a limited, finite number of notes in western music. So with a limited number of notes to choose from, there would mathematically be a limited number of different melodies or phrases that exist. Every composer is stuck with this same limitation.

sheet music

My advice: don’t sweat it. Chances are you are not the first person to borrow this same fragment of a phrase. Also, just because you use the same 4 or 5 notes in a row (maybe even with the same note durations), you probably are not using the same chords in the same places.

Clearly, if you are a professional songwriter and you have identified a phrase in one of your songs as coming from somebody else’s song, you should run it by your lawyer. I’m not a lawyer and you should not take my comments as legal advice.

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