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Does anyone have tips for good resources regarding writing melody? Most of what I've found is about pop music, which is probably worth a look, but not really what I'm looking for in particular. I would prefer it if the autor of said resources also has composed some good melodies, they don't have to be famous. Far too often in the realm of teaching I feel like people wanna teach things and then they don't have much to show that they internalized that knowlegde.

I found studying orchestration didn't make me use the tools I learned as much getting a clearer understanding of what I wanna achieve with orchestration and I'm hoping for the same thing regarding melody.
Hi Viktor,

this has been a constant inquiry of mine as well, as I have yet to find a source dealing with this. There are many celebrated treatises on harmony or counterpoint and of course arranging and orchestration, however none for composition in its simplest form, the basic melody.
If you're writing over a chord structure, there is a technique you can use- for each chord, select a note, then use 'Non Chord Tones' (passing tone, escape tone, appogitura, suspension, etc.) to fill in the gaps between the chord tones.

It is a good exercise to try with duets and trios, like this duet-
https://s3.amazonaws.com/SamulisRandom/Duet5.pdf
https://instaud.io/1vgY

Overall, the shape of the line should be more gradual, up or down along the phrase, then back to "home".

Arpeggios and jumps are useful for moving between registers-
https://instaud.io/MjC

Most importantly, I must recommend listening to vocalists of all kinds, for the human voice is where all melodic music emerged from. Smile

Transcribe if you can- figure out what the notes are, then analyze where the big leaps are, where the runs are, where they go high vs. where they go low. That is the basics of melody- shape and motion. Unfortunately there is no magic solution, although that rough process described above will almost always deliver when in a pinch (but don't expect super memorable themes from it).
Jumps of a fifth or so are actually quite normal in writing melodies, for example the Danish national anthem starts with a fifth and even has an octave shortly after. Nothing wrong with that. A mixture of continuous scale-like motion, interval jumps and pauses is what you'll usually encounter.

I don't think pop and classical music differ greatly in what kind of melodies they use. Plus there is a whole world in between, such as opera and film music. The principles of melody, I would say, are universal.

Understand the difference in feeling of major and minor, and pick one for your purpose. Understand the difference in meaning usually attributed to intervals, such as thirds, fourths, fifths and sixths. Learn to use pauses, don't doodle. Use call and response patterns - go up the scale a few notes, that's the call, then come back down, that's the response. Have a pause in between. Call and response is by its nature a two part structure; you can insert a variation after the call, and another variation before the response, to get a four part structure. This four part structure goes well with poetry and lyrics, since a stanza may have four lines. You can equally create three-part and five-part structures. I believe understanding this kind of structure behind a melody - it begins, goes somewhere, does something, then returns - is fundamental. This also translates to certain amounts of bars when written.

This is really hard to demonstrate with just words, it would be easier sitting at a piano. I would suggest getting a music teacher. Not an academic course, just a private music teacher. A youtube video is not going to be sufficient, you will benefit more from a realtime explanation at the piano with another human who knows this stuff.

I really don't know how one would go about systematically teaching someone to build melodies, though, if it doesn't come naturally to the person. Except by example. And the examples I would point to would be folk songs. Not "folk music", but 18th and 19th century folk songs. Europe has a lot of those, not sure about the USA. Stuff like "Au clair de la lune".

Online materials aren't going to cut it, not on a fundamental level. Get lessons from someone who is good.
(12-04-2017, 12:48 AM)Samulis Wrote: [ -> ]If you're writing over a chord structure, there is a technique you can use- for each chord, select a note, then use 'Non Chord Tones' (passing tone, escape tone, appogitura, suspension, etc.) to fill in the gaps between the chord tones.

It is a good exercise to try with duets and trios, like this duet-
https://s3.amazonaws.com/SamulisRandom/Duet5.pdf
https://instaud.io/1vgY

Overall, the shape of the line should be more gradual, up or down along the phrase, then back to "home".

Arpeggios and jumps are useful for moving between registers-
https://instaud.io/MjC

Most importantly, I must recommend listening to vocalists of all kinds, for the human voice is where all melodic music emerged from. Smile

Transcribe if you can- figure out what the notes are, then analyze where the big leaps are, where the runs are, where they go high vs. where they go low. That is the basics of melody- shape and motion. Unfortunately there is no magic solution, although that rough process described above will almost always deliver when in a pinch (but don't expect super memorable themes from it).
Thanks for the tips! I'll defintly try the thing with the chord connection. I've become rather better at making melodys and the chords at the same time, but sometimes you just have already set chords and I wanna get a better handeling of that.

The vocalist thing is pretty cool too, yeah, I hear it also from a lot of cool Jazz Instrumentalists, like Pat Metheny, that they always try to imitate the voice or sing their lines. I actually composed some instrumental melodies with some poems. Pretty nifty, when out of ideas, especially Poe poems are pretty good for that, its hard to not hear them as really rhytmic.

Being an earworm machine would be nice, but I think I would just like to know how to approach editing a melody, then I will move on to that obstacle.

(12-04-2017, 09:16 AM)kneedeep Wrote: [ -> ]Jumps of a fifth or so are actually quite normal in writing melodies, for example the Danish national anthem starts with a fifth and even has an octave shortly after. Nothing wrong with that. A mixture of continuous scale-like motion, interval jumps and pauses is what you'll usually encounter.

I don't think pop and classical music differ greatly in what kind of melodies they use. Plus there is a whole world in between, such as opera and film music. The principles of melody, I would say, are universal.

Understand the difference in feeling of major and minor, and pick one for your purpose. Understand the difference in meaning usually attributed to intervals, such as thirds, fourths, fifths and sixths. Learn to use pauses, don't doodle. Use call and response patterns - go up the scale a few notes, that's the call, then come back down, that's the response. Have a pause in between. Call and response is by its nature a two part structure; you can insert a variation after the call, and another variation before the response, to get a four part structure. This four part structure goes well with poetry and lyrics, since a stanza may have four lines. You can equally create three-part and five-part structures. I believe understanding this kind of structure behind a melody - it begins, goes somewhere, does something, then returns - is fundamental. This also translates to certain amounts of bars when written.

This is really hard to demonstrate with just words, it would be easier sitting at a piano. I would suggest getting a music teacher. Not an academic course, just a private music teacher. A youtube video is not going to be sufficient, you will benefit more from a realtime explanation at the piano with another human who knows this stuff.

I really don't know how one would go about systematically teaching someone to build melodies, though, if it doesn't come naturally to the person. Except by example. And the examples I would point to would be folk songs. Not "folk music", but 18th and 19th century folk songs. Europe has a lot of those, not sure about the USA. Stuff like "Au clair de la lune".

Online materials aren't going to cut it, not on a fundamental level. Get lessons from someone who is good.

Thanks for the tips. I actually prefer books, since I don't really got that kind of money and can more easily compare three different books then three different teachers and grab from every approach what I think helps me.

I just rediscovered this Bernstein Video on the subject of melody that is pretty cool https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AFovpvDRCI It's an hour long but he makes it fairly entertaining, while understandable, for anyone in need like me and Chris for resources.
Thanks Viktor for the Bernstein!

As I was thinking more about it I remembered that after reading Schoenberg's Theory (which amazed me) I moved on to his Fundamentals of Music Composition. However, it wasn't easy to follow and so remarkably insightful as his Theory and quickly put it down. If you are into the mood of listening and analyzing many examples of compositions (from classics to modern) you could get some insight. Although it mentions form, phrases and motifs (and these are the keywords you should be after) it does so from an analytical point of view rather than a creative.

Last year I purchased some compositional courses from udemy, called Music Composition 1 & 2 from a Jonathan Peters. It has some solid information regarding the building blocks of melody and composition. I enjoyed the fact that it begins with a strictly rhythmical approach so you get to understand how crucial part is the rhythmic device in your melody.

Finally, I've been thinking of acquiring these two books:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3487...omposition
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5350...sing_Music

If I could distill my personal technique (if I may call it that way!) it might as well be a combination of the following:
  • strategic rhythmic placement of emphasized notes
  • use of dissonances to force movement
  • chromatic approach (mostly imitating another mode)
As for the last one, chromatic approach, I am not really quite sure that I know what I am doing but it has helped me develop some ideas from time to time.
(12-05-2017, 09:16 AM)Chris Spyratos Wrote: [ -> ]
  • use of dissonances to force movement
  • chromatic approach (mostly imitating another mode)
As for the last one, chromatic approach, I am not really quite sure that I know what I am doing but it has helped me develop some ideas from time to time.

Can you explain maybe with an example what you mean by this two? I kind of have an vage understanding, especially of the last one, but I'm not enterily sure.
I was also thinking of getting the Russo book. I haven't heard much strong melodies though from him, he seems to be a very good composer, but I don't know yet about melodist.
What is the book by Schönberg called? I'm not a big fan of his music, but he is nontheless a pretty good composer and also tonal melodist, when he wants to.
(12-05-2017, 10:01 AM)Viktor Wrote: [ -> ]
(12-05-2017, 09:16 AM)Chris Spyratos Wrote: [ -> ]
  • use of dissonances to force movement
  • chromatic approach (mostly imitating another mode)
As for the last one, chromatic approach, I am not really quite sure that I know what I am doing but it has helped me develop some ideas from time to time.

Can you explain maybe with an example what you mean by this two? I kind of have an vage understanding, especially of the last one, but I'm not enterily sure.
I was also thinking of getting the Russo book. I haven't heard much strong melodies though from him, he seems to be a very good composer, but I don't know yet about melodist.
What is the book by Schönberg called? I'm not a big fan of his music, but he is nontheless a pretty good composer and also tonal melodist, when he wants to.

The note of the melody is presented by the underlying harmony as a dissonance (7th, 9th -love 9ths!-, 11th, 13th) and then resolved through movement or by a change in the harmony. Sorry, but somehow the first example that came to my mind is George Michael's "Careless Whisper" (where the melody is a series of the same simple step-skip-skip motif). It starts on a 9th over the Im, then on an 11th over the IVm7. (He then goes on to cleverly utilize the same motif only this time as a simple 7th arpeggio starting on the tonic of the VImaj7 before presenting the whole freaking scale in steps over the V!)
You can feel the tension of these dissonances driving the melody to their resolutions and cooling of with their "home" arpeggio.

As for the chromatic approach, its kinda like using a leading tone for your target notes. Look how the accidentals alter the feel on this small melody.

This is the book from Schoenberg:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1154...omposition
Thanks for the extra explanation! When you said dissonance I thought of even more far out sounds. I feel like the term gets used very different from context to context. Yeah both techniques can make some pretty nifty melodies when used at the right place.

I noticed with Samulis somewhat Cantus Firmus inspired method, while it's loads of fun exploring the different ways, that I kind of forget to build in pauses, and always have something playing on the one of the bar because thats where the new chord starts. Syncopation and the melody being a little bit stuffed is kind of what happens, but I think I can work on that being aware of it.