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tups's avatar

How do you find a melody for a song?

Asked by tups (6689 points ) July 19th, 2012

I often find myself sitting with my lyrics unable to find a fitting melody. Then I listen to all kinds of amazing songs and wonder how it can be so hard. Some of the songs only has two or three chords, so they are very simple.
I have written a few, totally finished songs, but I often find it hard to find a fitting melody that captures the mood I want.

Any one you guys have any experience with songwriting? Do you “find” the melody on the piano or another instrument and then write it down in notes or do you just chose some chords and sing a melody?

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10 Answers

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Not all people who are in the music industry can be all things. Some are brilliant at lyrics and others can write the melody. Then there are those that can sing the final product beautifully. It would be interested to know how many cannot do all three.

A good example might be the partnership of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. You may just need to find your own Taupin in order to turn your lyrics into a song.

gondwanalon's avatar

I don’t know how people come up with melodies. But I like to play the trumpet and sometimes when I’m just jamming I can come up with a few good “licks” that I suppose could be part of a melody. So maybe if you tried just kind of monkeying on a keyboard you might stumble onto something. It is worth a try.

gailcalled's avatar

One wrote the music and the other the lyrics, to great acclaim

Rogers and Hammerstein
Lerner and Loewe
Rogers and Larry Hart
Gilbert and Sullivan
Ira and George Gershwin
Irving Berlin and Moss Hart
Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim

zenvelo's avatar

A lot of musicians write the melody first. After getting that done, it evokes a mood and they write lyrics that fit the tune.

Sometimes the words are written and then read out loud a few times, and the musician comes up with a general melody.

I watched a Tom Petty video, and he described writing “American Girl” – he walked around the house with the guitar in his hands for a few days, just coming back to this one lick over and over and playing with it. It was the basis of the song.

wundayatta's avatar

There are many techniques for this as there are people. Some people take a tune from one place and lyrics from another and almost force them together, like a shotgun marriage. Others have one person who is the tunesmith and the other who is the lyricist, and they collaborate.

Others go through a number of different creative games. They’ll impose a structure and force people to work within that structure in order to create. Others will just jam and jam and record it all and look through it later to see what can be used. I’m barely touching the tip of the iceberg here.

I suggest you start working with other people. It means imposing structure on yourself that you would otherwise hate to do. Most people might think it would cramp their style, but if you are open to it, it has quite the opposite effect. Establishing structure or rules can actually open up creativity in a way that having total freedom cannot

So you might try this. Write out the meter of your words. Put it into a rhythmic beat. Play that beat over and over until a melody starts to suggest itself to you. Rhythm is usually the easiest place to start, but it doesn’t have to be done that way. You really do have complete freedom. Too much freedom.

So pick a rule, any rule and then work with it. Stick to that rule until you come up with something. Do not let yourself break out of it. You’ll be very surprised what you can come up with if you do this.

Of course, you could also take one of my creativity workshops, but that would be expensive, and besides, I’m not giving up my anonymity. That’s my structure, here.

Sunny2's avatar

As @wundayatta suggests, find the rhythms of your lyrics. Then play with sound patterns. Sing the rhythms and see what you come up with. You may have to alter your words to better fit rhythmic patterns before you can hear tunes.

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Aster's avatar

I think almost any groupings of notes when subjected to instrumentation have the potential to sound good.

OneBadApple's avatar

To me, it is easier to first come up with a good melody, using nonsense lyrics at first to complete the musical part of the song. No real words are even necessary at this point, and ‘duddah duddah nah-nah-nah’ can be replaced with your good lyrics later.

Many people already know this, but Paul McCartney says that he dreamed a melody from start-to-finish, and woke up singing

“Scrambled eggs
Oh my baby how I love your legs”

This evolved into “Yesterday”, which became one of the most recorded songs ever….
.

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