Writing Melody From Lyrics

Writing melody that fits your lyric like a glove can be challenging, but there are techniques you can use to help you get a better fit. Here are a few that you will find very easy to incorporate into your songwriting.

  • Read it out loud. If you have a finished (or half-finished) lyric, I would recommend reading it out loud. Pay close attention to the natural rhythm and the rise and fall of your voice. Now do it again and over-emphasize the emotion. Notice how certain words are spoken more strongly, and how your pitch tends to go up on those words.

    Speak the words "I need you back". Now stronger and with more emotion. Most likely the word back was the strongest, and I bet it went up in pitch too, right?

    This is a good starting point for a melody because it's true to how we normally speak. It sounds natural.

    Now back to your lyrics. Make the words that go up in pitch go higher, and make the ones that fall go lower. You now have the beginnings of a melody that will work for your lyric. Play around with it and see what you can come up with.

  • How does the lyric make you feel? When writing melody it's important that the music reflect the tone of the words. If it's sad, what kind of sad? There's a world of difference between heartbroken and plain old down in the dumps. If the tone of your lyric changes to hope, reflect that in the melody. You can do that by using a different scale or moving up to a higher pitch.
  • Build upwards. This relates more to song structure as it looks at the big picture. As a general rule of thumb, start your melody lower in your verses and higher in your choruses. The chorus is the most important part of the song. It usually contains the hook, the big emotional pay-off. So make sure to leave room for the melody to build in pitch.
  • Writing melody from the hook. Take a look at your chorus and identify the hook. It's the strongest line, probably the first maybe the last. Write that melody first. Make it big and important sounding! Remember that everything else must lead up to this.
  • Make the bridge melody different. Lyrically the bridge should add a twist or different point of view, so show that in the music. You can get creative with the bridge. It only comes around once. Just be sure the chorus after the bridge is bigger.
  • Long and short notes. Some words will sound good if held out longer, say a full bar. Others won't. The word "you" works well as a long note. The word "couch" does not. If it sounds awkward it's best not to use it. Don't be afraid to change some of the words if they refuse to work.

Writing melody is part inspiration and part learned skill. Spend the time to create the best melody you can.

Strive to make every melodic line fit your lyric. When people listen to a song they want to be taken somewhere.

Don't disappoint them! Give them what they want. Do it right and they will walk away humming your song.

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