Singer songwriter

Humming to Fix a Melody

The quality of a song’s melody rates pretty high when it comes to listing elements of a song that are most easily recognizable by people. It’s what we hum, so it’s important.

How hummable are your song melodies? Here’s something you should try with any song for which you’ve spent any time at all working out the melody: record yourself humming it.

Humming isolates the notes of your tune from everything else. You’re not thinking about the chords underneath it, and you’re not considering the lyrics. Humming pulls the melody out from all distractions and allows you to focus on it.

Here’s what that allows you to do:

  1. You get a sense of the chords implied by the shape of the melody. Your musical mind assembles the notes that happen on the strong beats and creates an imaginary chord progression.
  2. You notice the structure of the melody. Good tunes aren’t just random lines up and down. There’s contour and structure.
  3. You get an idea of the role that repetition plays in your melody. Whether it belongs to a verse, chorus, or some other section, repetition is a key ingredient to people being able to remember the tune.

And more than anything, humming your melody gives you a clear indication of whether or not you’ve written a good one. If you want evidence of that, take one of your favourite songs — one that you’ve loved for several years or longer. Now, start humming it, and I’ll wager that you’ll have a smile on your face.

Good melodies may be hard to define; it may be one of the “you know it when you hear it” kinds of things. If you find that your melodies are lacking and you want to take your writing of them up a notch, improvement begins by humming.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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