Melodies are the moving, grooving spearhead of songs. They can also be hard to write. So here I show you how to write a melody in 4 ways.
4 wholesome, simple ways to bake up a fresh batch of melody moving, grooving, may-cause-gastric-flatulence goodness.
Lets do this.
1. Chord Tones
You can use chord tones to write melodies. If you’re unfamiliar, chord tones are the main notes of a chord; the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th notes.
First, pick a chord progression.
GMaj7 – GMaj7 – BbMaj7 – CMaj7
Then, identify the chord tones/ main notes. For now, lets just look at the 1st and 3rd notes of each chord.
For the following, I am naming the notes, but you can just play them by ear if you know them: the sound is more important than the note naming.
1st note = G
3rd note = B
1st note = Bb
3rd note = D
1st note = C
3rd note = E
Boom. Lets play the 1st and 3rd notes over each chord in a backing track. For instance, over the GMaj7, we’ll play the G and B notes.
The backing track used should be in a key that the chord progression fits in. In this case, there is a chord that doesn’t fit in the key – the BbMaj7. Thats ok, because the backing track works with the chord progression.
When you are doing this for yourself, I recommend you search for an existing backing track and use the chord progression within it, if you are a beginner. Alternatively, you can make your own chord progression and try out different backing tracks until you find one that fits. Usually, the backing track will be in the same key as the first chord of the progression. For example, in a C – Am – Dm – G7 progression, the key of the backing track that would fit would be C Major.
Now, playing straight quarter notes is very boring. And makes this method very boring. The trick is to play different rhythms.
For practise, try playing a mix of quarter and eighth notes at first, then adding sixteenth notes in when you feel more comfortable.
2. Singing What you hear in your head
If you hear melodies in your head, learn to sing them out loud. Doing this means you can record them, using a simple voice recorder app on your phone, and develop them later on.
Here is an example of me recording a melody I’ve heard in my head:
The singing isn’t the best. Those chairs of ‘The Voice’ ain’t turning round. And thats ok. You’ll make these melodies sing through your guitar. If you DO also like singing, then you can develop it later on. For now, we’re just helping ourselves remember the core melody.
You can use any sort of sound, like ‘da’, duh’, ‘ba’, etc. One syllable sounds that are easy to speak.
You probably won’t be able to sing all the melodies in your head at the start. It’s a skill you need to practise. Begin with recording what you can, and keep on recording your ideas whenever you get them.
3. Remix existing melodies
Another way is to learn a couple of melodies in the same key, then improvise using these melodies. To do this, first choose a key/ scale. Then learn 3 riffs in that key (you can learn more if you want). Stick on a backing track in that key, and improvise. You can start off by playing the riffs back to back. However, try adding in or taking away a few notes of your own. Variate the riffs, slightly at first, and more dramatically as you get more comfortable variating them.
You’ll be surprised at what melodies you write in the moment.
For practise, you can learn the 3 riffs below, and play them to the backing track in the link provided.
4. Using rhythms as a guide
For this, you can use any kind of rhythm. Take a strumming pattern. It can be something simple like:
Lets choose a scale, and add some notes on top of that pattern.
Look at that! We have a melody, simply by picking and choosing some notes within a scale over an existing rhythm. You can choose an existing rhythm, or make up your own.
For these ways of writing a melody, you can combine different approaches. For instance, combine the Chord Tone Way with Using rhythm as a Guide Way.
These are guidelines to helping you write melodies. Change them if you will. The main point is that you end up with a melody you can use for your songs.