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A lot of song-writers don’t really think consciously about melody. By which I mean they don’t think about how melody relates to their lyrics. They just start singing…

There’s a lot to think about here, but I only want to mention a couple of things.


 Things to consider

In any song you sing, be aware of:

  • Rhythm: is there a variety of note durations or is it mainly the same? A lot of songs have consistent note durations (1/4 note or 1/8 note usually) with a long note at the end of a phrase. Varying this pattern will stretch your ear.
  • Note choices: are the notes in the melody mostly notes that are in the chord? Are there any tension tones (notes that are a half-step above or below a chord tone). What about passing tones (notes that move between chord tones).


Sensitivity training

Again, these are basic things to be aware of. You don’t have be obsessive about how many chord tones you have in your melody. But just knowing the difference between chord tones and tension tones makes you more sensitive to the way that melody works. This will change the way you hear and write melody.

Here’s a useful exercise: strum a chord and sing only the notes that are in the chord (play each note individually first so your ear knows what they are). Can you make an interesting melody just with chord tones?

Now add some tension tones, moving away from chord tones by a half-step and then back. Then sing the notes between the chord tones.


This exercise sensitizes your ear to a wider range of possibilities for making melodies.

You don’t have to use what you come up with. Just do the exercise, then write stuff the way you normally do. The range of what you consider natural might expand.





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