If you want to get a clear picture of how your melody is working, sing it without instrumental backing.
Songs will usually sound their best when they’re all dressed up — with completed instrumentation and production. But today’s production is so slick and so much easier to do than a few decades ago.
Because you can take a song from a fragment of an idea to a completed track in hours or even less, it’s easier than ever to miss identifying even basic problems. This happens particularly with song melodies.
No song element exists on its own. Everything works together to make a song what it is. Because of that, each song element, when performed without the other components, needs to be able to stand on its own. It may sound incomplete that way, but it’s an important step in the writing of good music. Each element needs to be flawless.
In that regard, every songwriter should sing the melodies they write without instrumental accompaniment as part of the songwriting process. Singing a melody unaccompanied in this way gives you the clearest picture possible of how that melody works.
Singing without accompaniment does several things:
- allows you to hear the structure and contour of a melody without the influence (or clutter) of instruments;
- allows you to identify and assess the climactic moment of a melody;
- allows you to create a more interesting and musically relevant instrumental backing;
- allows you edit a chord progression to work more perfectly with the melody;
- allows you to hear the true impact of the lyric;
- allows you to consider modifying your vocal approach;
- allows you to more easily compare verse, chorus and bridge melodies;
So try it right now: take the song you’re working on and sing the melody by itself. Your song may not be “about” the melody, but it needs to work. If, after singing it unaccompanied, it sounds like aimless wandering, don’t get discouraged. Just… get back to work!
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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