5 Tips for Writing Melody

1. Make it sing-able. If you are not a singer yourself, ask a professional singer (or a voice teacher, or an advanced voice student) to sing your melody and give you feedback. Sometimes there are too many syllables (or too few) or too many consonants. A good singer will notice these and other problems right away.

Of course, if your style is rap or Gilbert and Sullivan, perhaps too many syllables isn’t an issue. Were Gilbert and Sullivan the first rappers?

2. Make it sing-able, part II. Keep the singer’s range in mind. Write for a tenor or an alto range, not for those rare super-singers who can hit notes in the bass range and handle soprano notes, too. Again, having a professional singer try out your melody will quickly bring these issues to light.

3. Make is sing-able, part III. Everybody has to breathe. Leave spaces for the singer to breathe and for the song to breathe. Miles Davis says the space between the notes is sometimes just as important as the notes themselves. Too much space between the notes, and people would think that the concert was over and go home…

4. Make it memorable. More easily said than done, but think about this – you want people to hear your melody and remember it after hearing the song once. Sure, if your song gets constant airplay on the radio, we’ll all eventually know your melody. But if people hear it once (say, in concert), will they leave the concert humming it? Will they remember it if they hear on the car radio, while negociating rush hour traffic, making a phone call and holding a cup of coffee?

One trick is to keep it simple. Another is to repeat it. Memorable lyrics help the listener remember the melody as well.

5. Make it fit. Make the overall feeling of your melody match the feeling portrayed in the lyrics and vice versa. A good melody complements and enhances the emotional quality in the words.

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