How To Write A Song

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How To Write A Song

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CHAPTER 7

Writing Melodies


Writing melodies is perhaps the most important part of being a songwriter – it’s crucial to get them just right.

In this chapter we’ll show you how to write amazing toplines, which are the melody of your vocals. We won’t go into detail about instrumental toplines.

How to Get Your Topline to Write Itself

In an earlier chapter we said it was generally easier to write a song if you finish the lyrics first and then write the melody. There is a really good reason for this: It’s because of how we speak.

Puzzled? We’ll explain.

While you’ve probably never paid much attention to it, the sentences, words, and syllables we use when speaking have distinct pitches.

You probably know that if you say a question out loud, our natural tendency is to raise the pitch towards the end of the sentence. Say this out loud: “Is the pitch of this sentence increasing?” It did, right?

We don’t only change the pitch when asking a question. The word “listen” has one of the most obvious pitch changes. Say it out loud and listen for your natural tendency to say “Lis” higher than “ten”. The higher pitch is called a stressed syllable.

As a songwriter you want to preserve the natural shape of a language when writing melodies. To the listener this makes the melody seem natural.

Here is a sample lyric:

I leapt down after you
Into the pit I followed you

Let’s mark all the stressed syllables in bold.

I leapt down after you
Into the pit I followed you

When writing your melody, simple follow the natural pitches of the lyrics by ensuring the syllables in bold are higher than the ones in regular font.

Isn’t that easy?

Of course, there are times to go against the natural flow of language but you’ll probably want that to be the exception, not the rule.

Tricks to Writing Topline Melodies

Here are a few tricks you can use to really make your topline melodies shine.

Align the Time Signature to Stressed Syllables
If you want to be a songwriting ninja, you can write your melodies so that the stressed syllables align to the strong and weak beats in the time signature.

For example, in 4/4 time the volume of beat one is strong, beat two is weak, beat three is medium, and beat four is weak. You can write a melody that fits this pattern, either partially or exactly. The more exact it fits, the more powerful your song will feel (making this an excellent tip for a chorus).

Keep it Basic
The most popular songs in the world tend to have melodies that are pretty simple. There isn’t a lot of complexity involved and the songs are actually kind of repetitive. This is by design.

A good melody doesn’t need complexity to be interesting, but should stick in people’s heads. When writing melodies be sure to keep them simple. Don’t make your melodies too long and don’t use too many notes. This will make them easier for an audience to remember.

Write Melodies That Fit Your Song’s Structure
A melody should always fit the portion of the song they’re going into.

Set the chorus as the pinnacle of a song by making it as catchy as possible. In the verse you want to be sure the melody sets up the pre-chorus/chorus (this can be done by gradually building pitch or rhythm). Likewise, work to ensure that the bridge ties everything together in a unique but engaging way.

Don’t Forget About the Singer
Our last tip is to keep the singer in mind while writing. While good singers have impressive ranges and vocal abilities, it’s worth noting that the human voice does have limitations. Constantly having a singer jump octaves, sing high or low for too long, or belt continually can be exhausting.

In Conclusion…

This wraps up our songwriting guide! We sincerely hope you have found it to be helpful.

Songwriting takes a lot of practice and the only way to improve is to keep working at it. Best of luck!

P.S. When you have your next masterpiece finished, we’d love to listen. Send it to [email protected]