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FDP Forum / Tin Pan Alley - Songwriting / How do you come up with a melody?

Contributing Member


"A man's got to know his limitations"
Jan 24th, 2011 07:22 PM   Edit   Profile  

I have written some songs. Not very good songs, but I've done it, just as an exercise. I can come up with chord progressions pretty easily, and I can write lyrics (not good ones) that even fit the chords, timing-wise (syllables match rhythm of the song), but for the life of me I cannot even begin to come up with a melody. I know nothing about music (notes, measures, etc. is a foreign language to me).

So, what's the secret to getting a melody that matches the chords I'm playing? Is there a structure that will provide choices of notes, or is it just a "creative thing" that I don't have?


clark bjorke
Contributing Member

Eastern Shore

treading on the preposterous
Jan 24th, 2011 08:17 PM   Edit   Profile  

One way is to take your strongest verse and speak it aloud in a slightly exaggerated singsongey way. Take the inflection of that speech and start working with it. Where your voice goes up find notes that go up. Find notes that go down where your voice goes down. Use longer notes where it makes sense to extend a syllable and short ones where you forge ahead more rapidly. Put rests where you pause. You can work this with the chord progression that you have already made but don't be surprised if your melody wants to change the chords on you.

Contributing Member

Huntington Beach

Merry New Year!
Feb 11th, 2011 12:16 PM   Edit   Profile  

"So, what's the secret to getting a melody that matches the chords I'm playing?"

Probably the best way to do this is to know what scale choices are available to you over whatever chord you are playing at the time. You might want to explore some scale books.

"Don't be surprised if your melody wants to change the chords on you."

Ain't that the truth! The melody should probably dictate where your chords go anyway, rather than the other way around. Melodies are the most important thing, without it, all you have is a "jam" track. You may surprise yourself with what type of chord progression you end up producing. That's part of the excitement to me.



Altoona Pennsylvania
Feb 11th, 2011 01:20 PM   Edit   Profile  

Since I have been using the piano lately I have been writing better songs and faster.

I start with the chorus as I feel it’s the most important melody in a tune. I do it in one of two ways. 1) If I have a melody in my head I transpose it on the piano with notes in my vocal range. I pick out all of the melody notes and figure out what key it’s in. I figure out which chords will work and then toy around with them under the melody until it sounds best to my ear. 2) If I come up with a riff or chord progression before the melody I just do the opposite. I play the progression or ditty and improvise a melody in the same key. With this second method the melody sometimes changes the underlying progression as the others said.

The cool thing about the piano is that it is a much more versatile instrument than a guitar when it comes to song writing. You can play melody and the chord progression / riff at the same time. I find it also useful when adding a harmony to the melody. I used to use a guitar with a loop station to write but the piano seems faster and more intuitive. I’m no musical genius but it usually yields decent results.

(This message was last edited by Brokenstrings at 01:21 PM, Feb 11th, 2011)

FDP Forum / Tin Pan Alley - Songwriting / How do you come up with a melody?

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