Tips for Making Your Melody and Lyrics Work Together

A good melody can help your lyrics really pop and come to life. And it’s really important to remember that all aspects of a song work together, not separately. So a lyric is only great in a song if the melody and chords are working together to make it great. I call melody, lyrics and chords the “three buddies:” they must work together.

If you’re the kind of writer that likes to think of text first, and then create a melody that works, try considering the following advice:

If your lyric:

  • expresses feelings of anger, determination or forthrightness, or expresses strongly held opinions: your melody should use many repeating notes, should start on a strong beat, and should be pitched high in the singer’s range.
  • expresses feelings of love, compassion, tenderness: your melody should use a motivic leap i.e., a leap, generally upwards, that gets repeated throughout your song, and should be placed generally in the middle of the singer’s range.
  • tells a story: your melody should use lots of stepwise motion, with leaps at those climactic moments.

If you havent considered that rule, that melodies and lyrics need to work together, you really need to go back to your songs and take another look at them. If youve been a struggling songwriter, it may be why your songs just aren’t making it. If your melody feels like aimless wandering, don’t expect the listener to connect with the song, no matter how powerful the lyric is.

-Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:
Songwriting tips Write Better Chords, Melodies and Hooks.

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    • Creating a text for a melody should start by saying the text to yourself a lot, and finding the natural pulses of the words. You’ll find often that those natural pulses and accents will start to imply melodic shape and direction. Words that get a lot of emphasis will often sound better if they’re pitched higher, and so on.

      As you construct a melody this way, you’ll of course need to be mindful of guiding your melody by thinking of underlying chords.

      So it’s really doing several things at once: coming up with initial melodic ideas, finding the natural pulses and accents of the words, and then modifying your melody (with chords in mind) to fit with those pulses.

      Hope this helps.

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