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
IDKjunior | Producer | Guest Blogger
IDKjunior is an aspiring music producer based in Vallejo, Ca.
IDK’s passion for music began as young child being exposed to other producers and dj’s. While in high school, IDKjunior saved enough money to invest into turntables and began DJ’ing Hard House, Jungle and Trance. This hobby slowly turned into an obsession. He then began wanting learn more about music production and eventually bought his first DAW, Fruity Loops (FLstudio) and the rest is history.