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How to Write your Own Music: Create a Melody

I recommend that you create the melody first, if you don’t already have one. So, you have an idea for a song and you took the first step and recorded the idea. You took the second step and found out which of the following was missing (Melody, Lyrics, Chords, Rhythm) and you have found that you need a melody. Or you have a melody but you’re not happy with it and you want to know what to do to make it better.

Start by humming. You can look at words that you have written down or you can just start humming along with your musical idea that you recorded. I find it’s helpful to add a beat to the hum or the words right away. While tapping your foot hum or sing the words you have written down. As you hum or sing, try to feel how the melody wants to move up and down. Keep humming/ singing, don’t stop and don’t correct yourself. When you come up with something you like, STOP. It could be just a couple of notes or a whole line. Now, repeat that bit, over and over, until you memorize it. Record the bit you like, so you don’t forget it, its good to have your smart phone (iPhone, Blackberry or Android etc) on hand because these mobile devices have a voice recording feature, or you can even record with a microphone hooked onto your laptop. Once you have it memorized add more notes (using the same humming/singing process as above) until you have what feels like a whole line or phrase.

Let’s create the second phrase. This phrase has to go with or somehow be connected to the first phrase. Sing the phrase you just memorized and try to sing another phrase that goes with it. Remember, don’t stop yourself. Sometimes, if you picture one phrase as a question you can imagine the new phrase you are creating as the answer. Create two more phrases in this way.

Once you have two to four phrases that seem to go together you have a section of the melody, it could be a verse or a chorus. You can also create a section of music by using the same phrase over and over and just changing the lyrics (if you listen to a lot of pop music- you will hear this often).
Once you have a 2-4 phrase section, work on another section that sounds similar but is different in some way. You can change the rhythm or lyrics. Now, you have two sections of the melody; most likely a verse and a chorus. Whichever one is the most ‘catchy’ should become your chorus. Songwriters like to call this part of the melody ‘The Hook’.

The last part of the melody that needs to be developed is the B section or Bridge. This section of melody, takes the musical idea of the first two parts (verse and chorus) and does something completely different with them. For example, you could sing the notes you wrote for either the verse or the chorus backwards, you could jump way up in pitch or way down in pitch, you could all of a sudden change the rhythm- by getting much faster or slower or you could take the whole melody up a step or down a step (this is called modulating into another key)- these are just some ideas. I like to think of the B-section as the part of the melody that is  the core of what I am writing about. So, if my chorus is the general subject regarding how I feel and my verse is the story about why I feel that way, then the B-section is whatever else I want to say on the subject OR my inner-most thoughts about the subject.

Once you have 2-4 phrases (which could be interchanged – like question and answer) for the verse and 2-4 phrases for the chorus and 2-4 phrases for the B-Section, you have your melody for the whole song!

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