Songwriting and technology

3 Tips for Remembering a Melody You’ve Just Thought Up

When it comes to technology that helps us as musicians, we’re living in wonderful times. Using smartphone apps or the internet, we have instant access to tuners, metronomes, mixers and recorders. We’ve got software that can write out our musical scores, then print up the parts, all correctly transposed. We can work out lyrics with rhyming dictionaries that are a button-tap away.

And when we get ideas for a melody, we simply need to sing it into our smartphone, and we’ve got it saved for later. That’s actually something that’s incredibly useful, more than most non-songwriters would know. The ability to capture a tune as it appears in your musical mind has saved many melodies from oblivion.

How to Harmonize a MelodyOnce you’ve got a melody, how do you know which chords will work with it? “How to Harmonize a Melody” shows you how to do exactly that. Shows the secrets of harmonic rhythmidentifying the key of your melodychord function, and more. It’s part of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Bundle.

But if you’re sitting on the bus and that tune suddenly pops into your mind, you may feel a bit self-conscious about whipping out your phone and serenading everyone sitting beside you. Or you may not have it with you. What can you do to remember that melody?

Here are 3 suggestions that you may find will work for you:

1. Use an Interval “Gimmick”

If you can at least remember the first two notes of your new tune, you’ve got a fighting chance of remembering the next ones. Let’s say that you notice your melody starts with the same two notes as “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” You may have trouble remembering how your melody starts, but you’ll likely remember “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” So use the first two notes of that well-known song (or any song you know well that starts with the same interval), and now you’ve got a way of remembering the start of your melody.

You can make up your own list of “gimmick songs”, but if you want some ideas to help, here’s comprehensive list over at the EarMaster website.

You can also use the starting notes of your melody as their own “gimmick.” Sing your new melody over and over, and then concentrate on the first 4 or 5 notes. Sing those ones over and over to yourself, then sing the entire melody again. Then go back to the first 4 or 5 again, and reinforce them… you get the idea. Remember the first notes helps you to remember the whole thing.

2. Draw a Quick Sketch of Your Melody

This can be a great help because it reminds you of the basic contour of your melody. Quickly grab a pencil and paper, and place a dot on the left margin of the paper, about midway up the side. Then, as your melody moves up or down, sketch out a line that moves similarly up and down. If you’ve been imagining any lyrics, throw those along the line.

This contour sketch of your melody is a great way to bring it back to mind later on. In a way, it resembles musical notation, and in fact, notation actually started this way, as a series of lines, dots and other “squiggles” more than 1500 years ago.

3. Imagine Playing Your Melody

As a playing musician, you use a kind of “muscle memory,” and that’s a good thing. Over the years, your ability to imagine your fingers playing something, and having that translate into real music in your mind, has been becoming stronger and stronger for you.

So if you’ve just conjured up a melody, take a moment and imagine that you’re playing it on your guitar, flute, piano, or whatever instrument you call your own. You will likely find that your ability to remember what your fingers are doing is stronger than your ability to remember a tune simply out of thin air. So try to imagine what it would be like to play your new tune, and you’ll have a better shot at remembering it later.

Quite likely these days you’ll have a smartphone with you everywhere you go — something that will allow you to make a quick recording of the musical ideas you’re creating on the fly. But at those times when the phone isn’t available or convenient to use, put your musical smarts to work!

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle packages“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook bundle comes with a free copy of “Creative Chord Progressions”. Learn how to take your chords beyond simple I-IV-V progressions. With pages of examples ready for you to use in your own songs.

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