Try a Repeating Melodic Shape to Get Songwriting Ideas

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

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Repeating FiguresWant a great way to generate melodic ideas for your next song? The method I’m going to describe in this article works great because it uses a repeating shape as an integral part of the process. And as you (should) know, listeners love a repeating melodic shape because it acts as a stable anchor as you create new and innovative ideas for the rest of your song. Here’s how that works.

  1. Choose a key. For our purposes, let’s choose the key of F major.
  2. Write a short melodic fragment. I’d recommend something that mixes together stepwise note movement with a melodic leap or two, such as: F C Bb G A F C, sounding like this. (Opens in a new window)
  3. Play the melodic shape many times, and come up with a rhythmic style and shape that you like; perhaps this.
  4. Now try applying a simple chord progression. Hold each chord for the full length of the melodic fragment, like this. For simple, predictable treatments such as the one we’re using, you’ll find that you’ll probably want to change to a new shape for the 4th iteration, to prevent boredom.

Though the samples above used a very simple, strong progression, you’ll actually find that you can create chord progressions that are more complex, and the listener will more readily accept the innovative chords. Why? Because the melodic shape constantly provides the listener with an aural anchor that keeps them rooted. So while strange things are happening, there’s always that melodic shape that acts as the constant stabilizer.

So what do you do with this? Can you write an entire song this way? Well, certainly you can write a verse or chorus this way, and the samples I’ve posted above would serve as a good possibility for a chorus. But even just as a writing exercise, you’ll find that creating shapes in this way can open the floodgates and get you feeling creative again if you’ve been suffering from a bout of writer’s block.

If you’re doing this as an exercise, try mixing a complicated chord progression with a simple melodic shape; then try a simple progression to accompany a wilder melody. In either case, each element will complement the other and provide fodder for new songwriting ideas.

Check out Gary Ewer’s songwriting e-books, and discover all the essential secrets of good songwriting. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” E-books

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