5 Tips for Making Melodies More Memorable

The memorability of a song depends on a strong melody coupled with a good lyric. Here are 5 tips that will help.

Bruce Springsteen - Born in the U.S.A.It’s the dream of every songwriter to write a tune that becomes part of the world’s musical culture. By that I mean a song that can be hummed or sung by almost anybody in almost every part of the world.

Those huge, iconic hits — “Hey Jude” (The Beatles), “Like a Rolling Stone” (Dylan), “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (The Rolling Stones) — they’re the kinds of songs that quickly became part of the cultures we’ve all grown up in. But what is it about those tunes that allowed them to become monster hits?

One of the biggest problems with failing songs is melodies that are too long, too aimless, and lacking in internal structure. If you really want to improve your melody writing skills, take a look at the following tips:

  1. Construct melodies that use repetition. Most good song melodies will use short, 3- to 6-note fragments that get repeated over and over, sometimes literally and sometimes approximately. You certainly hear this in “Like a Rolling Stone” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,”  but other huge hits show the same structural characteristic: “Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson),”Born in the U.S.A.” (Springsteen), and “Rolling in the Deep” (Adele), to name but three.
  2. Use short, easily sung phrases in the chorus. While verse melodies will work quite well even if they are a bit long and wandering, a chorus melody usually needs to be simpler in construction, and easier for people to hum or sing along with.
  3. Create melodies that have a strong sense of harmonic goal. This can be a somewhat complicated characteristic to describe, but here’s an easy way to grasp it: try singing your melody a cappella, with no accompaniment whatsoever. As you sing, it should be obvious where the chords would change, and the notes you choose for your melody should make it fairly obvious what chords you’d use.
  4. Construct melodies to sit within a clearly delineated range for each section of your song. For example, usually you’ll write a verse melody that sits lower in pitch than the chorus. In that verse melody, resist any temptation to suddenly have the melody rise out of the range you’ve set for it. This range is sometimes known in music theory circles as the tonal framework. As you move from one song section to the next, you can establish a new tonal framework.
  5. Use a song’s lyric to help contour a melody. Look for key words in your lyric, especially words that hold high emotional value, and use those words to create important moments in a melody. The coinciding of important words with distinctive melodic shapes helps rivet those moments in the listeners’ minds, and make them more memorable.

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

1_ess_15_banner_sm“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook BundleChapter 5 of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” is where you’ll discover the secrets of putting lyrics and melodies together, and really make them effective. Get it today, along with the entire 10-eBook bundle.

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