Can Your Melody Be Drawn Like a Line?

A line drawing of your melody gives you a valuable graphic tool to diagnose melodic problems

Rock & Roll BandAs a songwriter, you’re always looking for a way to make your melodies easily sung and easily remembered. It’s a crucial part of hit songwriting. One of the most important qualities of good melodies is the presence of strong melodic and harmonic goals. That simply means that the melody sounds like it’s moving somewhere, not just meandering about.

Another aspect that’s equally important is its ability to be “drawn”, like a line.

If you find that your melodies seem to be a bit aimless, and you can’t pinpoint the problem, try this: Take a blank piece of paper, place a pencil at the lefthand side of the page. If your melody starts on a high note, start at the upper left, and if it starts low, start at the lower left side.

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Now sing your melody to yourself, and as you sing, draw a line toward the right. As your melody moves up and down, let the pencil move up and down.

When you’re done, sit back and take a look at the line you’ve drawn.

In general, the more that line moves about and changes direction, the more difficult it will be for listeners to recall the melody, and the more difficult it will be for that melody to have staying power.

If the line is too flat, you’ve got a different problem: there’s not enough contrast — not enough highs and lows — to give your melody the character and personality to make it distinctive.

This is not terribly scientific, but it can be a good way of starting the troubleshooting of your melodies, particularly if you don’t know what’s wrong. A line drawing can be a useful graphic representation of how your melody is coming across to listeners.


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