Do you ever struggle with writing melodies that stand out?
Then this might be for you. In the following I´ll lay out 5 instant tips to make your melodies more vivid. Please note, that this does not mean you can´t write great songs that go against the rule! These tips apply mainly to pop songs and commercial music. If you are into more artsy styles, you may well ignore those!
I generally suggest that you listen to your favorite songs and really dissect the melody section per section. Take notes on how the grooves may change, conisider pitches in certain sections and pay attention to how the melody supports the lyrics in their statements.
But yes, there are some general rules, that apply to most songs in popular music. And it is not rocket science! These rules are:
1) Keep the verses short and easy, maybe with a cool rythmn
Verses in popular songs are most often 8 bars long. A lot of times 2 verses make the beginning of a song, which means that you will have 16 bars before the Prechorus or Chorus sets in. Depending on the tempo of your song, this is usually a good lenght for the listener to get a feel for the song and anticipate the Chorus (which is usually a climax).
By keeping the verses short, you also make them easy to remember, so by verse 2 people might already be able to sing along!
The verse needn´t be super fancy, it can be a simple melody, but play with spicing it up by laying down a cool groove. Never underestimate the groove! It can make all the difference!
2) If you add a prechorus, make sure it builds up a bit of suspense
A prechorus has a special function in a song. It is a way to break off the verse and prepare listeners for a energetic/dramatic chorus. It´s a transitional element really.
In that way, make sure the prechorus differes from the verse in ways such as, changing the chord progression, or changing from major chords to minor chords, to add an element of uncertainty, which you will resolve in the chorus.
I generally suggest, that the melody go up to a rather high note at the end of the prechorus, as this always grasps the listeners attention and marks a point of high energy. It´s all about creating suspense and release in songs. Like breathing in and breathing out!
3) The chorus is the most important part of the song. Make sure it is catchy and energetic
Your chorus is your songs selling point really! It is usually what people buy the song for, so to say! That being said, you should put special attention to this very important song section.
Usually the chorus tends to be in a higher pitch than the verses and resolves towards the base note at the end. I suggest playing with dynamics, grooves and some long notes in the chorus, in order to stress the importance. A chorus should hold the energy up for a long as possible and just release the theme at the end.
4) Play with repetition
This is a general tip that goes for all sections of a song. Be repetitive with elements you want to stress! Repetition makes things stick to mind, which can be a great tool! Be carful though! Make sure to not always start every line with the same note or melodic theme. Too much repetition wears out! Change things up here and there to keep the listener engaged and use repetition only in those parts that are supposed to be remembered or easy to sing along to!
5) Blank spaces
A great song is built up like a great painting. To create depth, you need to play with light and shadow. In music that translates to dynamics. Dynamics are important to make a song stand out! There´s room for loud, belting sounds, and room for soft, vulnerable sounds in any song. So, play with little breaks here and there (e.g. let notes ring out, mute all instruments except for one, bring the volume and pitch down before the loudest parts of the song. There´s many ways to play with dynamics. So, go play!
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