Let’s say you’re on a bus or out for a walk, and you’ve just come up with a great little bit of melody. It’s got great possibilities, you’re thinking, but you’ve always found it hard to remember the tune after even ten minutes, and you feel a bit too self-conscious to dig your phone out in front of others and start humming. What do you do?
I remember years ago Paul McCartney being asked about this — I think it might have been a Larry King interview — and McCartney said something along the lines of, “Well, I always figured that if I couldn’t remember the melody the next day when I got to the studio, it probably wasn’t very good.”
But the truth is that many good melodies are forgotten, simply because you’re in the middle of doing other things. Working, or even just walking. And sometimes it’s not convenient to whip out your phone and record your little gem.
So here’s a bit of a tip: Add words to your melody right away, even if you think you’ll never use those words. The combination of words and melody make it much more likely that you’ll remember the tune.
Those words can be anything, because you’ll have lots of time to change the words to something more meaningful once you’re back home or in the studio.
So if you’ve just come up with something that sounds nice and hook-like, something that really works well, improvise words right away: “Gotta let you know that I loooove you so…” – It really doesn’t matter, because you’ll likely be changing them.
Adding words to a melody is like adding landmarks to a walk along a path. “Turn left at the pine tree… turn right at the brook…” becomes “leap up on this word”, “repeat several notes on those words…” and so on.
And because most of us have smartphones, it’s usually only a matter of minutes anyway before you’ll get to a location where it’s easier to take the phone out and record your idea.
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