People sometimes ask me what is more important, the melody or the lyrics of a song. The answer is easy, and no...it is not both. The melody is by far the most important part of a song.
Can you recite to me all the lyrics of Ghostbusters? But I'm sure at the mention of the name you know the melody. How about the song from the end of the movie "Armageddon or Titanic", do you remember the lyrics or the melody. Blink 182, Shania Twain, Michael Jackson, Chuck Barry, Aretha Franklin, Coldplay, BlackPink?
If you take anything away from this blog remember this...
"Melodies make songs memorable, lyrics make songs meaningful"
Writing Great Melodies
One of the best ways to learn how to write great melodies is to starting writing melodies. I record a new melody to my phones Voice Notes almost daily. I've been doing this for almost ten years. Ed Sheeran once said in an interview, that songwriting is like turning on an old water top. The first bit of water comes out like sludge, after that it runs smooth and yellow. Eventually the water flows clear and fast.
The best way to learn is to write, and write often.
But here are a few more practical tips:
Look to create tension in your melodies
Start the verses and chorus on different counts in the measure of the song
Try leaving space in the melody or singing more staccato and quickly
Melodies don't always need words, try leaving room for instrumental solos
Play a chord progression and sing a melody, then play the same progression and sing two more melodies. Pick your favourite one and move to the next part of the song, or lyrics.
Start with a verse melody in a low register, then move to higher notes in the chorus. We call this "Adding a Lift" in songwriting.
Try the same melody in a different key. This may help you find a chorus or verse idea you would otherwise never think of.
Try playing in different chord progressions.
Depending on your instrument skill level, you can try playing a melody on your instrument first, then sing the melody and play the chords.
Finally - just singing whatever pops into your head and make a voice memo. I've gotten melodies to entire chorus while just out for a walk.
Knowing Great vs Good
Knowing you have a great melody vs a good melody comes with time, and feedback. Songwriters are often nervous receiving feedback, but it will make you better. Like mining for gold. After you've done it long enough you begin to learn the difference between stubble and gold.
If you want feedback in a trusting environment Grace Abbey Studios has a $25/mth plan specifically designed for such purposes.
We hope this helps. If you love songwriting keep reading all our Songwriting blogs.