Want to Write a Great Melody? Draw a Picture

Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website
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If you want to write a killer song, it’s got to be something that people will remember easily, and one that they’ll walk down the street humming. That means it line_melneeds an interesting shape. One way to do that is to get your pen and paper out, and… start drawing.

A line drawing of the basic shape of your melody, the ups and downs, etc., make it easier to consider how it works with your lyric. In general, you’ll want the more narrative part of your lyric (i.e., the verse), to be generally pitched lower than the chorus. Emotion-laden words will be the kind of words that will be pitched higher, as the higher range will hit home more.

You’ll be able to see all of this more clearly if you actually do a line drawing of how you think your melodies will unfold. In a way, it’s similar to doing a map of the energy of a song, because energy is so closely linked to vocal range (in other words, melody.)

A melody map will remind you, as you write, that your melody needs to have certain features, and the most important of these will be a high point.

So follow these suggestions:

1) Get a piece of paper and turn it sideways (landscape).
2) Write the verse text and chorus text horizontally (you may need to tape a couple of pieces of paper together.)
3) If you envision your melody to start mid-range in your voice, moving upward after that, draw a line that moves roughly upward.
4) Decide when and where the melody moves from there. Make decisions based on the emotion of the text. Words that carry greater emotive value should generally be higher.
5) The second half of verses (including the pre-chorus) will want to move upward.
6) Chorus melodies will generally be pitched higher than verse melodies.

Once you’ve got the basic shape of your melody in this sort of line drawing, you’ll find that your imagination will be more stimulated as you start to craft your song. And writing your melody will feel less like aimless wandering, and more like it’s got a purpose – a starting point and a goal.

6 Songwriting E-books“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” shows you how to write great songs. It’s just one of a suite of 6 songwriting e-books written by Gary Ewer. (His newest e-book, “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting- Chord Progression Formulas” is being offered for free when you purchase any other of his songwriting e-books.) Let these six e-books show you every aspect of how to write great songs! Read more..

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  1. Hi Nick – Thanks for writing. I appreciate your observation about melody, and I think part of the problem with many writer’s songwriting process is that they focus on chords to the *detriment* of melody.

    Thanks again!

  2. Hi. I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your focus on melody. That’s what it’s all about. Beginner songwriters don’t seem to realize this at first. To me, melody is everything. So thank you for sharing and please keep up with this blog. There are not a lot of forums on the Internet that delve so deeply into songwriting (at least not that I know of).

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