Melodies That Sit on One Note Belong in the Verse

It’s possible to make static melodies work. You just need to make sure you don’t do it all the time.


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David Guetta - Nicki Minaj: Turn Me OnThe conventional wisdom in music composition is that you should be always trying to give your melodies a good sense of contour. In other words, you want to create a melody that moves up and down rather than dwelling on one or two pitches. The reason has to do with listeners’ memory: a nice melodic shape is easy to remember, and if you want to build an audience base, that’s going to be crucial. But these days more than ever, you’ll find lots of hit songs that feature a good chunk of melody that sits in and around one pitch.

A good example currently in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 is Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe“, as well as “Turn Me On” (David Guetta Featuring Nicki Minaj). Both songs use melodies that dwell mainly in and around one note.

Most songs use at least two, and often three, separate melodies – a verse and a chorus, with an optional bridge melody. For the songwriters that design melodies limited to one or two notes, it almost always happens in verse melodies. There’s a specific reason for that: repeated notes will intensify lyrical meaning.

If you’re writing a melody that uses lots of repeated notes, there are ways to make sure it’s going to work well in your song. Check out the following tips:

  1. Static verse melodies should be balanced with a chorus melody that has lots of contour. In other words, let your chorus melody come alive and move about, exploring highs and lows.
  2. Static verse melodies should be accompanied with a more active chord progression. Don’t let a verse melody which uses only one or two notes be accompanied with only one chord. Even just two chords will animate the accompaniment sufficiently.
  3. There is such a thing as a melody that’s excessively static. Once you’ve done one or two lines that sit on that one note, you should look for ways to get things moving off of that pitch. Then a good sense of contour happening in the chorus is going to sound exciting and natural.
  4. Try moving a static melody to a new pitch level. After a line or two of sitting on one pitch, try moving the melody up to a new level. Suddenly sitting on a higher pitch helps build energy. (Moving it down usually kills song energy.)
  5. Static melodies will also work in a bridge. That’s because the static nature of a melody has a way of building energy, and that’s what you often want to do in a bridge. But in a bridge situation that builds energy, higher pitches will work better than lower ones.


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