A lot of my posts lately have dealt with melody, specifically issues surrounding melodic shape. It’s usually the shape of the melody that determines how memorable it is. Melodies that lack shape, seeming to dwell on one or two notes, usually need an intriguing lyric. But you can partner contour with a flat shape – a sort of “igloo” approach – as a great way to construct a melody.
The song “Dynasty”, featuring Haley, and written by Kaskade (A.K.A. Ryan Raddon), uses this igloo-shape idea, and I really love this tune. If you think of the stereotypical igloo shape, you’ll get what I’m talking about:
To construct a melody using this igloo shape, you’ll want to begin by writing a melody which features a rise and fall. In “Dynasty”, you actually get a rising/falling figure that first becomes apparent in the opening line, “All eyes on the stage..”. This dome-shaped idea is replicated and used as a contour map for the entire verse.
The dome shape is then used as a chorus plan, and as should be typical for choruses, it’s pitched higher than the verse. The lowest pitches are at the beginning and end of the chorus, while “..tonight we’ll live it up..” is the highest.
So it’s like a double-dome. What remains is the refrain, “This is a dynasty.” This is the level entry way of the igloo: the melody simply oscillates between the notes E and F.
As I’ve been mentioning a lot lately, melodies need contrast, and whatever you do with a verse should be countered in the chorus or refrain by an opposite of some sort.
In the case of “Dynasty”, the melody works so well because the verse and chorus both partner together to present a similar dome shape. Think of it as a 2-domed igloo. Then the static 2-note refrain is the perfect contrasting idea.
So my point, songwriters, is that it’s not enough to simply say that melodies need contour. While it is true, you need to consider the entire song, and all the various melodies you assemble to create that song. If the majority of your melodic ideas show a particular distinctive melodic shape, it’s probably good to finish off with a melody that is contrastingly devoid of shape.
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