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Solving a Common Melody Problem in Your Songwriting

A good melody needs to be memorable and at least somewhat easy for the average listener to sing or hum. Someone singing and humming a tune as they walk down the street is one of the proofs that a melody has done its job.

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But zeroing in on what actually makes a melody memorable is a bit more challenging. We know from looking at decades of pop melodies that:

  1. Most melodies include mainly stepwise motion (from one note to the next note up or down) with occasional leaps (jumping several notes at a time up or down.)
  2. Most melodies partner up with the chords that are supporting it.
  3. Most melodies move up to increase emotional levels, and move down to decrease them.

To that last point, this may be one of the most common problems with songs that seem to lack energy: the haphazard way in which your song melodies might move up or down.

And if you’ve written a song where the basic melodic ideas seem good, but the song itself lacks energy, momentum and musical direction, it’s worth taking a bit of time to compare the range of the verse melody with the range of the chorus melody.

It’s an easy assessment to make: find the lowest note of your verse, then the highest note. This is the verse melody range. Now do the same thing for the chorus. When you compare the verse and chorus ranges, you should notice:

  1. The lowest note of the verse is lower than the chorus’s lowest note.
  2. The highest note of the verse is lower than the chorus’s highest note.
  3. The two ranges (verse and chorus) likely overlap.

Overlapping ranges between verse and chorus are common. The problem, though, is if both verse and chorus spend most of their time giving us the same five or six notes, where the chorus perhaps only offers one note higher than the verse range.

In other words, it can be a problem if there’s not much to distinguish the verse from the chorus. If both sections sound too similar, it can be a problem. The fix is usually not complicated; there are always ways to insert higher note choices in your chorus melody, enough to make a more noticeable difference.

If you’ve purposely written a song that uses the same (or almost the same) melody for verse and chorus, you can get the energy boost that you need by considering production elements: making the chorus instrumentally fuller and busier, for example.

So if your song seems to lack direction or drive, start your analysis by comparing the verse and chorus ranges. It will at least let you know if that’s the problem, and then you probably have a few options to try as solutions.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter. Hooks & Riffs“Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how a good hook can make the difference between songwriting success and failure. With great examples from pop music history.Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting ProcessThousands of songwriters are using “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle” to polish their songwriting technique. Discover the secrets to writing great melodies, lyrics, chords, and more. And get a FREE copy of “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process”

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