Wednesday, June 19, 2019

5 More Tips for Writing A Better Melody

This post we are going to get into some less heard of techniques for developing a melody. I have adapted the following techniques from a discipline of melodic writing called counterpoint. These definitions have other meanings to true counterpoint devotees, but I find they help suit my purposes, so I like to use them.

1. Try using Retrograde motion - So let's say you have half of a melody. Maybe you only have two measures. You want to do something else, but you're not sure what to do. Maybe just flip it backwards and play it in the opposite direction.

2. Try using Contrary motion - A variation on the above is what I like to call contrary motion where as retrograde motion is the reverse of a melodic piece, I like to think of contrary as the mirror image of what you originally wrote. So if the piece goes up, you bring it back down, if it goes down you bring it back up. If you write a line that goes up a third and then plays that note three times. Repeat it by going back to the original note, then going down a third and repeating it three times.

3. Oblique Motion - Oblique motion requires another melody line that you are working against. Perhaps it's the guitar line, or the piano line, but basically while the one line remains mono-tonal (that dreaded word from last post), the other melody will rise or fall against it. This works great with harmony lines of a song.

4. Melodic Doubling - A similar but different technique is to double what another instrument is playing. So if the guitar has a really cool riff, then sing the riff with lyrics over it. Maybe stack up a few instruments playing the same riff and it becomes a really ear catching section of the song.

5. Use Chords to Derive Your Melody - Chords can be used to help you out of a jam. If you are playing a progression that you've written, and you start to decorate up your chords with sus2's and sus4's and 7ths and other interesting ways to doctor up the chords, you can add some of those chord voicings to your melody as well.


6. Hooks - Instead of just concentrating on writing one major hook for the chorus, take the time and craft hooks for each section of the song. If you listen to a song like "Bohemian Rhapsody," every part of the song if taken on it's own, could have been the hook of a song. It's a cool way of approaching your songwriting, and it makes your song strong on every single part.  

If you found these tips helpful, you can find out more about songwriting tips and tricks in my new book: "Lyrics and Music: Music Theory for Aspiring Songwriters" available now at, or with several additional Appendices at Barnes and Noble..;jsessionid=6F73A94CC7BEF9C130CFFEF90E7B8008.prodny_store01-atgap06?ean=9781987082869

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