Composing Career Bootcamp

🎢 Composing Memorable Melodies

🎹 composition Aug 21, 2023

The Building Blocks of Great Melodies

To write a melody that your audience will remember, you need to know the 3 basic ingredients of many great melodies.

The “Whistle Factor”

If you can't sing/whistle it, it probably won't be catchy. Powerful melodies tend to stick within a singable range of an octave and a fifth.

Small, Strong Motifs

Catchy melodies start small, using either melodic or rhythmic motifs. A tiny 4-note idea is all you need to expand into a longer phrase.

The motif can be pitch based or rhythmic based... or both.

(Think of the opening 4 notes of the "Raiders Theme" from Indiana Jones)

Rising Motion

Good melodies are like good stories with an arc. They rise gradually over time until hitting a climax, then lightly settle down.

Composing Melodies When Uninspired

If you’re still feeling stuck, here’s a few methods to generate some new melodic ideas:

Start with a Motif

Improvise on 3-4 note ideas.

Pay attention to the intervals and rhythms, and use them as the building blocks of your melody.

Draw a Line (Literally)

Sketch a gradually-rising line, then embellish it musically.

By starting with a shape, you eliminate extra decisions about the overall direction of your melody.

(Elaborating on a shape is easier than composing with no direction.)

Use a Cool Interval

Some of the best melodies start with memorable intervals.

Pick an interval that inspires you, or choose a random one. Use it to lead an idea for your melody.

If you get stuck, come back to your interval.

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