The Power of the Melodic Leap

An upward leap makes a melody exciting and memorable.

Bruno Mars - Locked Out of HeavenGreat melodies make good use of stepwise motion, which means that the tune moves from one note to the one next to it (a C moving to a D, for example), mixed in with occasional leaps.

The melodic leap, particularly the upward-moving one, has a lot of power, and can pull a listener in and make a melody suddenly come alive.


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For that reason, sticking with mainly stepwise melodies in a verse, and then placing an upward-moving leap in a chorus, will make a chorus singable, catchy and easily remembered.

A great current example is Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven“. The verse consists of lots of stepwise-moving melodies, with melodic shapes that move primarily in a downward motion. The same thing happens in the pre-chorus. But the chorus features an important leap that injects a sudden feeling of excitement (on the word “feel”, for example).

This “trick” is nothing new in songwriting, and over the past 6 decades it’s easy to see this idea featuring prominently in hit songs: the verse of “You Make Me Feel Brand New” (The Stylistics), the chorus of “Stayin’ Alive” (The Bee Gees), “I Want to Know What Love Is” (Foreigner), and many others.

Upward leaps are exciting, and if they are used sparingly they can be very distinctive, hooky moments that make listeners want to keep coming back.


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