Tips on Writing Catchy and Memorable Melodies
We’re often asked: How do I create catchy melodies that people will really like?
Honestly, I wish the answer were as simple as saying “here’s exactly what you need to do and done…” but unfortunately its not that simple.
Melodies are often times, hard to write. You may feel that the melodies you come up with sound horrible or they sound like something that has been created before.
If you’re looking for a way to improve, look no further. This article was written just for you!
(Note: This is not an article on theory but having basic knowledge in music theory will definitely make it easier to follow).
Below are some suggestions for helping you create melodies that are catchy and memorable.
First of all, lets start with the term Melody and its definition. Melody is defined by a sequence of single notes that is musically satisfying. Melodies are very special in that they are distinguishable and are easy to sing or hum along to. Melodies are not just a random combination of notes strung together. They’re actually a well thought out sequence of notes with varying pitches one after another in an organized way.
Characteristics of a melody
We know that a melody is the result of various notes being played at different pitches/tones. Not only does the chain of pitches and tones make a melody memorable or catchy, there are also a few elements that you should consider when writing you melody.
- Melodic Intervals
A memorable melody follows a particular shape. This shape will outline whether your melody will descend, ascend, incline or decline. Honestly, there are no set formulas. You do not have to have a melody that rises and then falls and you do not have to have a certain number of leaps and drops. But be mindful that different shapes will stimulate different emotional reactions from your listeners. A melody that ascends will sound uplifting and joyful rather than a melody that descends. It’s really all preference and what you’re going for. So, test out various shapes and run with what makes you feel good!
In music the range is referred to as the distance between the lowest to the highest note of the melody. Consider how large or how small of a range you want your melody to occupy. Some melodies will occupy up to 2 octaves or more while others occupy a very small range like an octave or half. But always keep in mind that a broad range will make a melody slightly more difficult to remember. Where a constricted range will have limited variations in pitch and will not sound as remarkable.
An interval is the difference in the pitch between two notes. A melodic interval happens when two notes are played in sequence. Why are intervals important? Intervals provide the basic framework for mostly everything in music. Having basic knowledge in intervals will help you tremendously when working out your melodies. Not only will intervals help with your melodies but you’ll also be able to identify scales and the quality of chords i.e. whether a chord is major, minor, diminished or etc…
Very much like song structure, your melodies should have structure too. Pick a song, any song you like and follow along with the structure. You’ll see that the song is divided into sections, an intro, verse, (Pre-Chorus), Chorus, Bridge, Hook and an outro. Now listen to the melody lines within that song. In most cases, you’ll notice there is an “A” section, a “B” section and sometimes a “C” section in the melody. When you divide your melodies into sections you’re creating movement and keeping the track flowing.
A scale is a collection of notes that are grouped together and span an octave. There are several scales to with, Major, Minor, Chromatic, Pentatonic and more… by learning different scales you’ll be able to learn chords mush easier as chords develop from scales. Not only do chords sprout from scales but melodies and harmonies also derive from scales.
Approach to Creating
You can start by playing random notes until something sticks but I suggest starting with a bit of structure. This way you’ll be able to create an outline of which tone you want to set for your song much faster and easier.
Feel free to write your melody before or after your sound selection phase, this is completely up to you. I actually like to choose a sound beforehand as I know that having a good sound will inspire and influence my writing decisions.
Create a Rhythm
Now that you have you sounds lets build a rhythm. You did find some good drums right? If not, no biggie you can use your metronome for the time being. Speaking of drums… Theproducerkit.com and Soundoracle.net have some amazing quality samples that is definitely worth taking a look at.
Back to the subject at hand… Your melody is a rhythmic succession of notes not just a sequence of notes chained together.
Choose a scale
As mentioned above, a scale contains a collection of notes and these scales are octave repeating. From these scales you can create chord progressions, melodies and harmonies. Starting with a scale will save you from wasting time hitting random keys and plotting each note by ear. I decided to run with the C Natural Minor scale which consists of C, D, D#, F, G, G# and A#.
Here is the chord progression I quickly created from this scale:
Draw a shape
Now that we have our sound selection done, we have a rhythm we vibe with and we have a nice chord progression from our scale we’ve chosen. Its time we start drawing the framework to our melody. This is where you let you’re imagination fly. Start painting a mental picture in your head of how you feel your melody should sound/look like. How many octaves would your melody occupy? Will your melody ascend or descend? What emotional messages are you trying to send out and will your artist(s) have space to work with or around your melody?
Laying down our thoughts
At this point, we should have a pretty solid foundation on how your melodies will sound/look like. So, lets start laying down these ideas! In my case, I wanted the melody to stay within one octave and move up and down throughout the bars. Remember, if the original melody you came up with sounds off or it doesn’t sit well with you; change it around until you vibe with it! Below is a snapshot of what came to mind. This is just the foundation so it may change as we move forward with this track.
Now that you’ve laid your initial thoughts down, you may be thinking that you’ve got a good melody but it can be better. Start making adjustments to your melody here and there. Try adding extra notes and increase or decrease the length of some notes to make sound interesting and give it more life!
So, this is a basic example of how you can strategize and structure your creation process when writing melodies. Here are some additional tips that I think you’ll find helpful.
Creating a melody from chord progressions
- Pay attention to the rhythm of your chord progression
- Your melody should move with your chord progressions. So, if your first chord is a C Major. Your melody should be within the notes of that chord C, E and G.
- Vary the lengths of the notes in your melody
- Swap instruments. Perhaps a bold synth will sound fuller as opposed to a piano
- Meditate… seriously! This works wonders with creativity and overall value in life
- Move your notes up or down in octaves. Deeper tones will give you a darker, melancholy like feel. As with higher tones will sound joyful and exciting
- Delete notes or add notes. Always and I mean ALWAYS split test. Your melody may sound good but it could sound better with different variations
Things you should avoid:
- Constant rambling. A good melody has a beginning and an end. If your listener cannot decipher when and where your melody begins and ends it will not be as memorable and as catchy as you first indented it to be
- To start, minimize the amount of variation. Too much variation in pitch and rhythm can confuse your listeners. Simplicity is key
- Like constant rambling… lack of repetition is a no no lol. Remember, repetition will give your listeners a guideline of what’s to come… Verse, Hook, Bridge, etc…
Composing melodies will always be challenging but it should always be fun as well! If you find yourself with a lack of inspiration or are stuck on an idea. Just stop… Put your project to the side for a bit and give yourself some time to think or forget about it all for a minute. Read a book, meditate or spend some quality time with the family. You can listen to a song that fits the mood you’re going for and deconstruct the track. You can study other artists/producers, learn their ways and make it your own. Do whatever you need to get you back on track!
Now, you should have a better idea of how to go about writing melodies. So we hope you got a new wrinkle in your brain and we hope that you’ve gained some knowledge you can add to your melody creation process. Now get out there and start creating!
Written for TheProducerKit.com by
Friday is here. Hope everybody had a good Memorial Day. This week I found some great stuff for you guys.
The Legendary Jazzy Jeff sits with Ableton and talks production and how to collab. I got alot of good takeaways from this.
For Your Safety
A life lesson I have been learning is save and save often. I just got a Transcend 1TB External Drive. Its been super dope so far I've dropped it a few times (which i don't recommend) but its holding up great.
Dope Video about what it takes to be a manager in the music business.
The Dream sits down and breaks down his process and lessons learned about songwriting. This one is a longer one but def worth it.
As always please let me know your request and suggestions on Instagram @triza. Which topic above is your favorite. What do you want to see more or less of? Let me know.
In this day in age “808’s” have become an essential tool for music producers.
808’s are used in a wide variety of genres including EDM, Trap, R&B and much more… In most cases, 808’s are the core of the track and carries the track melodically.
As we know 808’s are important and you can easily drag and drop an 808 sample into your track and call it a day. But without understanding the proper techniques on how to use 808’s your track can be doomed from the start.
Below we’ve written 8 Tips For Crafting your 808’s to sit properly within your mix.
So let get started!
If you are using an 808 from a drum kit, it is essential that you choose the right sample that suits the genre and feel of your composition. Carefully choosing your samples from the start is very important. If you load samples that do not match the overall feel you’re going for, chances are you will struggle when mixing everything together.
Your 808’s should sound good before any processing has been done.
Audition several samples before deciding on the right one for your track. If you’re having a hard time choosing one, load multiple 808’s and toggle between them as you make progress on your song. Split testing your samples is a great way to experiment with your sound. This will give you different variations you can draw inspiration from and help determine which sample works best for your track.
So when you’re in your sound selection phase of your composition, be sure to be picky with the 808 you choose. You want to be sure to choose the right Sample that’ll translate the emotions you want to convey onto your listeners.
Additionally, this mindset also applies to all other sounds/samples.
Tuning Your 808’s
99% of the time you’re 808’s don’t sit properly in the mix because they’re out of tune with your song. 808 samples you download will almost always sound out of place when played with your melodies. I actually recommend Subculture 808’s because these samples are professionally made and pre-tuned.
If you don’t have Subculture 808’s, finding the correct key and tuning your 808’s can be a problem child and time consuming. This is actually a weak point for most producers who are just starting off. The easiest and fastest things you can do are transposing the samples and using with your ears to get the right sound. But if your ears aren’t trained to listen for these subtleties, luckily, there are plugins you can turn to that’ll help get this done.
Ableton actually has a stock plug-in called - Tuner.
Tuner is a very simple audio analyzer that detects notes, frequency and correct pitch in cents. Drag and drop the tuner onto your midi/audio track and let tuner do it’s thing. If you don’t use Ableton or don’t have access to the Tuner plug-in there are free plugins you can use such as, Gtuner or ERSdrums. You can apply this method to other samples that you’re using in your composition as well. Tuning your 808’s and other drum samples can significantly improve the overall sound of your productions.
Layer your 808’s with a kick
Many music producers pair their 808’s with a kick. If your composition feels empty or flat layering a kick on top of your 808 can give you the bottom sub, thump and punch. This technique of layering can add the extra oomph you’re looking for.
But there are some things you want to watch out for when doing this as you can undoubtedly drench your track with so much low-end frequencies that it distracts your listeners from experiencing your composition as a whole.
808’s take up a large chunk of the low-end frequency range. So, you’d want to experiment with layering it with a kick that’s short, tight and typically in the mid frequency range. You can also try grabbing a kick that’s in the higher frequency range giving you a little ‘top’ to the overall sound.
Applying EQ to your 808’s
EQ’ing 808’s is not necessary and probably necessary at the same time. This is actually dependent on the sample, song and role you want it to play in the mix. Here are few good questions to ask yourself when deciding on whether you should EQ your 808’s or not.
Is the 808 tuned?
Is the 808 layered with other samples?
If so, are all samples in tune with each other or are they clashing?
And, What frequencies are causing the problem?
For the most part, you’d want to make sure your 808’s and other samples are in tune and sound good together, usually with no EQ. If your 808’s are layered with a kick then EQ’ing is almost always a necessity.
With that being said, a great staring point is rolling off your lows below 20-30hz and adding a high shelf at around 1-2k.
This will clean up some the mud and give you a neater sound. Again, this is dependent on your track so experiment and try different things!
Applying Side-chain Compression to your 808’s
This is not totally necessary but Side-chain compression is one of my favorite techniques when it comes to mixing.
There are numerous ways to go about side chaining and almost every DAW supports this feature. Essentially what you’re doing is ducking the 808 out of the way when the kick hits. This gives the kick drum space to breathe and punch through those troublesome frequencies while allowing the low-end rumble of the 808 to resonate after the initial hit.
This is definitely the way to go if you’re looking for that pumping effect or if you want to add additional harmonics from the 808 while giving the kick drum room to poke through. There are no set rules to setting this up because every sample is different. You can create some pretty cool vibes using this technique. So be playful and experiment!
Adding Distortion to 808’s
We’ve all had trouble mixing 808’s at some point and that’s because 808’s are tricky to work with. As we’ve mentioned before 808’s are made up almost entirely of low-end frequencies. While your 808’s may appear loud and thumping on your monitors, they can disappear on smaller sound systems.
So how can you make your 808’s cut through on laptops, iPhones or ear buds??? Simple answer… Distortion!
When applying distortion to your 808, you’re basically elevating the harmonic tones of your 808. This causes our ears to think that the 808’s are louder than it actually is. Pretty awesome, aye?!
There are tools available like, SoundToys – Decapitator, that’ll do the trick. But, Ableton has a built in plug-in called: Dynamic Tube. This is actually a great starting point if you have no other options available.
A little color will help your 808’s pop out on smaller systems. So keep in mind that when applying distortion, subtlety is key and as always experiment until you get the sound you’re looking for.
Applying Saturation to 808’s
Saturation is another approach for subtle distortion. Like distortion, saturation also adds harmonics and character to your 808’s making them more audible on smaller speaker systems, such as ear buds, phones or laptop speakers. You want to use this technique sparingly as you can easily and quickly produce a blown out sound and that’s no no… The key to using this method is applying light saturation on the lower frequencies and heavier saturation on the harmonics (mid-range frequencies) of the 808.
As a starting point, use Ableton’s native plug-in - Saturator. Within the saturator, adjust the drive, Freq and width knob to your liking. Drop the ‘Base’ knob all the way down and work your way up until your ears are happy with they’re hearing. What the Base knob is doing is controlling how much of the lower-end frequencies are being affected. So the lower you go, the less the low-end will be affected.
The beautiful thing about music is that there are no rules to what you can create. So with that being said, there are no set guidelines to 808 placements in drum patterns. In fact, if there were guidelines it’d probably be very basic and boring. But keep in mind, the placement of your 808’s can make or break your track. For example, if you use an 808 with a short release setting, this can leave space in between your counts/beats resulting in a track that feels empty or bland. On the other hand, an 808 with a long release setting can result to overlapping notes or tones and can quickly muddy up your track. And this leads us back to our previous tips, choose wisely, experiment and have fun!
So there you have it, 8 mixing tips on crafting your 808’s.
We absolutely appreciate you reading through this article and hope you take away a few new tricks to test out on your own.
If you’ve made it this far I’d like to leave you with a little secret weapon of mine…
Its called RBass from Waves… This is a plug-in for processing sub bass and IMO a very good one!
What RBass does is, it produces deeper, richer lows that translates very well on most sound systems.
We truly hope you enjoy these fast and easy ways to improve your 808’s!
If you have any questions about anything in this article don’t hesitate to shoot us an email or contact us below!
Thanks again for reading!
Now get out there and create something that the world hasn’t heard yet!
Written for TheProducerKit.com by
You have invested in the music equipment and you spend all day in front of your computer. You have figured out how not to get your kick and 808 to clash. Your making good music. What’s next? How to take these talents you have developed from hours of youtube tutorials and trial and error and make money from it?
All around the globe music artist are in need of beats. You can earn money by selling beats. There is an opportunity of leasing beats to different artists. It’s not easy, but it’s far from impossible, with some practice and luck you can reach larger audience.These sites are really easy to get started with. Everything is pretty much on one page. Easy to accept payments. They get a lot of traffic. However its sooooooooo much competition. Competition that will sell 50 beats for $15. Standing out and providing is the keys to have a great store.
You can create your own website. I believe every producer should have a place to link everything that your doing and your social networks in one place. Your own site provides way more options on what you can do with the site and how it looks. Now the cons to having your own site. TRAFFIC! People underestimate how hard it is to get traffic to your site. SEO wont just cut it. You must provide value. Give people reasons to come to you.
Sound DesignerIf you have been making beats for quite a while now, you can create your own kits and sell them. There are many music producers you are willing to pay for some quality sounds. Some example of the sound designer includes SoundOracle, !llminds, and The Producer Kit.Another way to earn money is to create your own store. Shopify offers an ecommerce store through which you can sell your music easily. Shopify provides a platform through which you can handle everything from marketing to secure checkout. I love shopify because you can run it off of your phone.Gumroad is great for digital products as it sell the products directly to the consumers. Its a great simple way to sell your kits..Another great pick for digital marketing is Sellify. You can upload your work and it will be shared on all marketplaces and on you social profile as well. It is an easy way to reach your audience.Squarespace is easy to setup site that you can sell from. Moreover, you can also build you website through which you can sell your items.
FreelanceFiverr is a marketplace of people selling services starting at $5. I know your thinking $5 doesn't sound like a lot of money. The key to fiverr is the gig extras. You can easily turn a $5 sell to a $50 sell. Its many musicians and producers offering mixing, mastering, session playing etc. Now keep in mind you don’t want to offer a gig that takes you 2 hours to do the basic gig and you make $5. Find your niche, do something that doesn't take much of your time but it adds value.UpWork is a site that provides a freelance platform to businesses and independent professionals to connect and work together remotely. I look at UpWork like Fiverrs big brother. Its often people looking for music for commercials, and video games.Shameless PlugI recently did some music for a mobile game.
TV & FilmLicensing is something i think most producers sleep on or just don’t know about. If your watching TV, Movies, Youtube, really anything you will notice that there is background music. There are many companies who allow musicians to licenses their music for these exact reasons.
"Obscurity is the problem, not money. Get known and be extraordinary." Grant Cardone
You can have all of the talent in the world but if nobody knows you then it serves no point. Network not just with artist but other producers songwriters. I know I've said this a million times but add value. You never know when someone will return the favor. Your network is were the money is.
BUILD YOUR EMAIL LIST
One of the most important part of any business is lead generation and getting customers to return. Collecting email address keeps your clientele in the loop of new products, sales, etc. Add value and don’t spam people.
Learn about business
The music business is still a business. You are trying to sell a product. Online its a lot of valuable info and sells that can easily translate to you being a musicians. These are some of my favorite people who talk about everything from mindsets, to online sells.
Bills, taxes, and responsibility are real.