by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:
If you don’t know why your melody isn’t working, don’t worry, it’s fixable. If you don’t know that your melody isn’t working, that’s a problem; you can’t fix a problem you don’t recognize.
It’s really hard on a songwriting website like this to address good melodic structure because of the number of genres that are represented by the many who visit here every day. For every genre, there are subtle differences in what makes a good melody. The good news, however, is that for every difference, there are just as many similarities.
The real problem is when songwriters don’t even recognize that there is a problem with what they’re writing. They might see that their songs aren’t successful, aren’t working, and aren’t pulling in listeners, but aren’t able to say why.
As you know if you’ve read my posts, a bad chord progression can kill a song very quickly. But bad melodic structure, though a more subtle problem, can be every bit as debilitating. Here are some bits of advice for making sure that your melody is the best it can be:
- A good melody requires contour. Though some songs will work well with a static melody that hovers around few notes, most melodies need shape. Take a look at your melody and determine if it’s got the shape it needs. Melodies should rise toward the chorus.
- In general, chorus melodies will be pitched a bit higher than verse melodies.
- A melody that is too step-wise can be boring. It’s good if your melody exhibits some interesting “leaping”. It injects good energy and necessary for interest.
- A melody that is too leapy can be hard to follow and hard to remember. The “remember” factor is an important one, since hit songs need to be the kind that are hummable by the public.
- A melody that doesn’t repeat anything is going to be too long to remember, so a good melody repeats certain parts, and allows certain intervals and melodic shapes to recur throughout. Hearing things repeat gives a sense of shape and design to a song – vital to its existence.
The two most important factors in determining if a melody is good is: Is it memorable, and is it singable? If either of those questions are answered in the negative, you need to go back and fix that melody.
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