Know your harmonies
Find your hook
Be familiar but also bring something fresh and new
Don’t be predictable, the element of surprise is your secret weapon
Small melody repetitions are your friends
As you know by now, we’re all about songs and submitting music to playlists, curators and blogs etc. Every song we submit here has a core, which is the melody. Melodies are a vital element and are fundamental to every newly written song. Great melodies however combined with a great production, will make every song a hit song.
Noteworthy melodies or as some say, a catchy tune, will instantly boost your mood and will most likely be stuck in your head for a few days as you constantly sing it. This is the best indication that a melody has great potential, simple as that.
So how do we write memorable songs? Obviously it takes a lot of practice and self improvement from song to song, but there’s a few basic rules that will help you write better songs, from song structure to song lyrics and chorus melody. These rules will help you improve your songwriting skill set and will guide you in becoming a future professional songwriter.
Here are 6 songwriting tips for writing a great melody.
1. Know your harmonies
First things first, in order to write great songs, you need to know about harmonies and what they are.
Sure, you might get lucky with writing a song or two without understanding harmonies, but you won’t get very far without knowing and understanding them.
You don’t need to be an expert and learn how to play sophisticated and complex chords, but you do need to know the basics. For most songs major and minor chords are essential. From my experience, learning them on a keyboard or a piano is much easier than learning them on a guitar, but I'm sure there are some guitar players out there that will disagree with me. If you know your chords already, chord progressions is the next step. Moving from chord to chord, and you will get a feel for what sounds cool and what does not.
If you are new to harmonies, you really need to spend time learning what they are for writing melodies.
There are unfortunately no shortcuts for this. Make it a priority to educate yourself on harmonies, not only will it be worth your while, but it will also help you grow and become a better musician.
2. Find your hook
The songwriting process can be a little scary, musical ideas are hard to find, but you must remember the hook is the heart of the song. The most memorable line of the melody and the most important part of the song is called the hook. If it’s stuck in your head for a few days, then that's a great sign, this means you’re really onto something. In most cases, it is usually part of the chorus, sometimes it could be the pre chorus, but there are always exceptions. Sometimes it will be the first melody you write and with this basis, you wrap the rest of your song around it. In other cases the hook will come to you later in the writing process.
Lyric writing - In other cases, when you write lyrics prior to composing the melody, you will need to find the hook and explore a few versions of the melody, in order to determine the line of lyrics you want to compose for your own songs.
A tip for writing lyrics for music that become favorite songs is to write at least 5 or 6 hooks and then end up choosing the best one. It is not very often that you will come across your best hook line on your first attempt. Remember that great songwriters and even the most successful songwriters go through writer's block. so don't stress or beat yourself up about having writer's block, it is its own process and part of writing songs.
3. Be familiar but also bring something fresh and new
One interesting book that solves the enigma of “what makes a hit song” is the book
“The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory” by John Seabrook. The song covers many examples of different successful classical hits along the years in the pursuit of the formula for creating a hit song, how to write one and what are the right ingredients to do so.
One important conclusion that rises from the book, is to be familiar but at the same time to also bring something new and original. The music industry produces many songs with similar melodies. Write a song that can remind listeners of something they’ve already listened to in the past, but also add something new, a twist or an unexpected turn within the music. I always keep that in mind when I am writing songs.
Oh! and by the way, go and buy the book, it’s remarkable.
4. Don’t be predictable, the element of surprise is your secret weapon
During the creative process of writing a song I always like to bring up the TV series “Game of Thrones” as a reference for how to keep your audience captivated by your content. It actually doesn’t matter if it’s content you’re watching or content you’re listening to, it’s all very similar in terms of human behavior. “Game of Thrones” was a hit TV series mainly because there was always an element of surprise in the plot. The unexpected constantly occurred and characters that were heroes suddenly passed on. Villains managed to overcome and prevail, and there was always something unforeseen going on.
In my opinion, if you want to be a unique songwriter, always try to be unexpected and original, don’t be predictable, surprise is your secret weapon. Look for the special hooks that no one has written before, use brave chord progression and find your unique unexpected sound. Just remember not to overdo it, don’t be too experimental or write songs that are eerie and uncanny in order to be original, unless you are really into producing experimental music.
5. Small melody repetitions are your friends
Songs from Abba’s “the winner takes it all” to Red Hot Chilli Peppers “Give it away”. From Rihanna’s “Diamonds” to Foo Fighters “Best Of You”, most of the successful and catchy songs consist of the same melody, lyric repetitions and or some sort of hook that repeats itself within the song. Don’t hesitate to use repetition to create a catchy melody, but once again don’t over do it, you don’t want your listeners to turn off their Spotify player, saying to themselves: “damn, this song is annoying”.
6. Be Simple
Be simple, don’t use all the chords you know in one entire song, less is better and less chords in a song could be the key to a successful song. Some of the best hit songs in the world have only a few chords. “Sweet Home Alabama”, “House of the Rising Sun” “Wild Things” (by The Troggs) “What’s up” by 4 Non Blondes, “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen and the list goes on and on… All of these songs and much more, only use 3 or 4 chords, nothing more.
So, after all these steps, you have a song with a fun song title, great song form and awesome catchy melodies. Remember to keep it simple and keep up the good work.
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