Beginning theory ~ Practical Melody writing tutorials
Rhythm and Pitch combine to make melody:
Melody Writing ~ a Short, practical tutorial
Most melody writing for pop and folk like tunes is limited in range and rhythmic choices. The usual range is about an octave with the home note (the tonic of the scale) being in the center rather than at the top and bottom of the range. This may sound strange but makes perfect sense once you begin to write your own melodies as well as analyse the melodic writing of others.
The following ideas summarise the melodic movement of more than 1000 pop and folk melodies. They are a good place to start in creating your own melodic designs.
Same note (unison)
C-C, D-D, etc
Move up or down by 1 step (2nd)
C-D, C-B, etc
Move up or down by 1 leap (3rd)
C-E, C-A, etc
Move up or down by a larger leap (4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8ve, etc)
underlines are used to show notes below the starting note, notes without an underline are assumed to be the same as or above the starting note
In the pursuit of pure melodic writing, to begin with we will not worry about what chords might be active in a particular bar. We may need to consider harmony later on.
The tutorials proceed from the simple, small range ideas of folk melodies to larger constructions of an octave or more. No solutions are given though guiding examples are provided so that the importance of certain guidelines (the use of leaps, for example) are understood easily and quickly. As with any musical creation , the real test is in the sound. Because of this, you are encouraged to use your sequencer/daw to render all of your efforts and to listen to them critically.
Movement limit is to move up or down by no more than a 3rd; A-C, B-D, C-E:
C-A, D-B, E-C:
Rhythmic units are set as:
You do not need to use all of these rhythmic groupings. In fact picking a few may be more useful than trying to use all of them. As you progress consider using different rhythmic groupings to broaden your range of melodic ideas.
Most melodic ideas are also based on the idea of repetition. This time create melody that uses exact repetition (same notes, same rhythms) and similar repetition (same shape but different notes, same rhythm): e.g.
Your available notes are:
G-A-B-C-D-E-F, with C as your tonic note
Movement limit is as before, you can move up or down by no more than a 3rd; G-B, A-C, B-D, C-E, D-F:
Using chromatic alterations (non-scale tones) to create push tones to a melodic tone.
Available scale is G-G
There are two methods for introducing these altered tones. The first is to use the upper or lower neighbour tone approach:
Upper Neighbour tone: this is where you play a note play the note above and then play the original note again. e.g. C-D-C is an upper neighbour tone grouping. We might alter the upper tone so that it is a semitone flat, e.g. C-Db-C
Lower Neighbour tone: this is where you play a note, play the note below and then play the original note again. e.g. D-C-D is a lower neighbour tone grouping. We might alter the lower tone so that it is a semitone sharp, e.g D-C#-D
The second is to use the leap forms we have used in exercises five and six, particularly where the leap is downward and we move out by step.
The descending leap can be used to imply that the phrase is spelling a secondary dominant chord by raising the second note by a semitone (sharpen #) so that the interval to the next scale tone is a minor 2nd
If the interval is already a minor 2nd no change is required or permitted.
The use of (m) and (m/d) in the above progressions is to indicate that the target chord could be the major or minor or even diminished triad. Although secondary dominant chords are normally used to tonicise the following chord (set it up as a temporary chord I|i), the resolution to a diminished triad is based in the work of JS Bach amongst many others.
Most instruments are capable of playing a melodic line that spans at least two octaves. In this exercise all of what has gone before should now be explored in the context of large leap followed by a large leap in the same direction as well as small leaps in one direction and large leap in the opposite direction.
Your scale is now two octaves in range covering G-G in the major and and E-E in the minor
Intervals larger than the octave are permitted. this means intervals fo the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th 13th and 14th and even the 15ma are permitted.
As with the advice given earlier, you should consider moving back inside such a large interval so as not to seem to be merely wandering.
Consecutive intervals (horizontal or melodic intervals) of a 3rd or larger need to be considered as vertical(chordal) clusters
This is important so that you avoid implying a different triad/chord/tonality to the underlying chord: such tension may be useful in melodic terms but should be used with care.
Extended runs of 3rds may compromise your melodic ideas as they will intentionally or unintentionally reinforce a particular chord/triad, which may not be your desired result.
Any linking of 3rds and 4ths in the same direction will also reinforce the idea of a particular chord/triad
Any linking of 3rds and 5ths in the same direction will also reinforce the idea of a 7th chord