The Psychology of the Melody

by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:

For most songs, melodies are what we use to convey our lyrics. And it’s important to realize that in general, the kind of melody we write for use as a chorus will not be the same as what we’d write for a verse. There’s psychology that plays into how we construct an effective melody.

There are other components of songs as well: prechorus, bridge, and so on. For each element of your song, you’ll notice that the melody you’ll write will take on a different shape and characteristic. Here are some tips to consider when you compose melodies:

  • Since the lyric of a verse tends to be narrative and somewhat inconclusive, you will find that the melody that works well will be lower in range than a chorus melody. Also, try experimenting with melodies that dwell on a note other than the tonic (key) note.
  • Since the lyric of a chorus tends to be conclusive, and descriptive of the emotions the singer is feeling about a situation, try pitching the chorus a bit higher than the melody. This will help accommodate the higher energy level you usually get with a chorus. Also, choruses often work well if they feature the tonic chord and specifically the tonic note more than a verse.
  • Bridges exist for two main reasons. First, and probably most common, they help to continue the building of energy. In this case, you’ll want a melody that hits high notes, and possibly your song will want to feature its very highest notes in this part of the song. The second reason for a bridge is to simply act as a welcome variation in material, particularly if the verse and chorus are similar in style and melodic shape; it helps prevent boredom. In this case, find melodic shapes that don’t exist in the verse or chorus, and present them here.

There are cases where a bridge actually does the opposite of what bridges normally do. Some bridges will allow energy to dissipate. This is a great idea if your song is a high energy song, and you need a moment to allow the basic energy-level of your song to diminish, setting up a much more powerful chorus to conclude.

No two songs are the same, and some songs seem to defy this type of analysis. But to summarize, don’t leave the structure of your melodies to chance. There’s something natural about a good melody, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t in control. Take a look at the melodies you write, and see if maybe they need some rewriting.

Posted in Melody, songwriting and tagged , , , , , , , .

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