Songwriting Techniques 3: Melody

For the third instalment of the Songwriting Techniques series the topic is ‘Melody'. In many genres of music the melody is arguably the most important element of a track, its 'the tune', and the part we often remember, sing and hum back to ourselves. There are lots of approaches to writing melody and some key points to bear in mind when composing, here are this weeks 5 points for you to consider:

The catchiest songs are often made up of simple and repetitive melodies which make them easier for people to sing-along to. With this in mind, try writing a melody using only 5 different notes.

If you are trying to write a catchy melody that you would like people to be able to sing along to avoid using large intervals between successive notes. Melodies that jump around are hard to remember and difficult for people to imitate.

As an example of points 1 and 2, take a listen to Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol:

3. However, if you want to try something that contradicts the last 2 points in this article, then why not write a melody that uses a large range of notes. Using a wider range of notes to construct a melody will make for an interesting and unique outcome.

4. When working on a full track it is essential to consider aspects of the arrangement and structure of a melody within different sections of the song. With this in mind try varying the rhythm of the melody between different sections, this makes for a more interesting melody and helps to keep the listener engaged. For example, if you have written a fast paced verse, try writing a chorus melody using longer sustained notes.

As an example of points 3 and 4, take a listen to Hooting & Howling by Wild Beasts:

5. Again when considering the structure, try using the highest pitched note of the melody in the most important part of the song, in most cases this will be the chorus. This gives the melody and the track as a whole a sense of building to the chorus or climactic point.

For a good example of this last point listen to how Coldplay lift the track In My Place with the a rise in the pitch of the vocals when the chorus hits at the 1 minute mark: