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Tips for writing interesting melodies

Major? Minor? whats the best for writing a really good melody? here at SKapade, we give you some of our top tips for getting people’s hands in the air. Putting together a main melody for your track can be one of the hardest parts of songwriting. While sometimes it comes naturally, other times, you’ll end up spending hours agonising over it.

The most important thing to bear in mind is how the melody works other key parts of the track that it’ll play along with, particularly the kick and bass. If you’re struggling, it can sometimes be useful to listen out for sections of your track that you particularly like and work a melody around them. For example, if there’s a few notes in your bass line that stand out to you, pick out them out with your lead and try to work out how you can expand on them.

One of the first steps when writing a melody is to work out what notes sound best in harmony with other components in the track. Playing in key is important, but if all your instruments are playing the exact same, or very similar notes, your music won’t have as many layers to it and will sound thinner and more repetitive. You can usually do more with fewer channels by playing interesting notes in the key of the track, achieving a more unique and interesting variation on the groove.

Listen to some of your favourite tracks. What is it about the melody that you like? What techniques and effects do they use to achieve this? How can you apply this to your own music?

Pay attention to space and level. Your main melody will usually be designed to cut through all of the other elements in your mix. For this reason, it’s a good idea to consider how it fits in with key elements. You should also pay attention to how it affects the pace of your track. When you’re listening to it, are there any points that feel empty, or that you stop nodding your head along to? If so, make a change. Even taking a melody you’ve written and shifting some notes to alternate the timing can make a huge difference. The same goes for pitch, if your melody sounds too simplistic, try it in different keys and octaves to see what works best. For example; alternating the octaves of some notes on a rolling trance bassline will give you a more arpeggiated sound that is often used in well-known productions. Another thing you can try if it sounds too simplistic, is adding some notes for flair. These won’t have a huge impact on the overall key of the melody and wouldn’t normally be considered main components of it, but can help to catch the listener’s ear and add new textures and grooves to your lead. That said, don’t be fooled into thinking that your melody has to overly complex musically. Some of your favourite tunes are guaranteed to have simple main melodies that just work with the track. The best thing to do is play along with the track and vibe out what sounds best. At the end of the day that’s what you’re always going to be going for.

Experiment with what you have before writing it off. Although, that said, don’t be scared to bin things that you don’t like, or that aren’t working. If you’ve listened to it for a while and the same part is still annoying you, it should go.

If you feel like you’ve written a strong part, but you still have far too much empty space in the mix, try writing a countermelody to fill it out. This can be as simple as a few notes but if you find or create a sound which has a nice relationship with your main melody, subtle melody lines which reinforce your main lead can really bring the track to life.

If you’re still having difficulty coming up with something, another option is to create a track with the elements you have. If you already have a solid kick and bass you can build a breakdown around these by pulling out elements, using filters/fx and adding atmospheric parts such as pads, risers/downshifters and delayed percussion to help build up the track. Plenty of well-known tracks have done this and you’d be amazed at the difference that a few subtle chord changes can make to a filtered bassline.

If you’ve still got writer’s block, take a break and work on something else. You can always come back to it and sometimes a pair of fresh ears on it can be just what the track needs. Along the same lines, why not let someone else hear it? A second opinion on what you’ve created can give you the confidence you need to go ahead with or in other cases, let you know that your track still needs work. Don’t be apprehensive about playing your track to other producers you know before it’s finished. Even artists at the top of the game bounce ideas off of each other to see what works. At SKapade, we’re always playing each other tunes and getting opinions on them. Trust us, it helps.

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