Need help with melodies
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Old 21-04-2014, 03:45 AM   #1
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Need help with melodies

im pretty comfortable with drums. melodies are my weak point.

i know nothing substitutes for practice, and lots of it, but im wondering if anyone has any interesting pointers. came across a video about using people's inflections to write music, and that was a cool idea. a band named Blotted Science also does this, as does the band that came before it, Spastic Ink

Youtube search: Spastic Ink A Wild Hare

so again, i know practice is key. but i took a long time to get as good as i am with drums, so im definitely open for suggestions if anyone has any creative solutions.

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Old 21-04-2014, 01:03 PM   #2
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Re: Need help with melodies

I have always done the same as you, more emphasis on drums and easily got writers block when it came to melodies.

I bought a book called 'The AB guide to music theory' and it's excellent. I'm by no means a 'reader' or patient enough for it but i read the chapters on key, scales, and relative keys, taking a few notes. All of a sudden i could make way more sense of what i was making and it opened up loads of possibilities for my melodies.

It only cost me about 3$ from amazon. Worth having on the shelf for when you get stuck IMO.

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Old 21-04-2014, 01:25 PM   #3
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Re: Need help with melodies

It's tough to give advice since this falls into such a broad topic. I would advise you to make sure to give your melodies a strong drive. Keep it from sounding like you're just hitting random notes. Usually simpler is better, generally stick to around the same octave, and return to the root note a few times.

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Old 21-04-2014, 01:44 PM   #4
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Re: Need help with melodies

Learn some theory. The Ravenspiral Guide is a good, basic theory guide. It is free and written kinda specifically for computer musicians.

I would also recommend a set of MIDI keys. Its much easier to noodle around on a keyboard, for me, then clicking in notes. It is also helpful to have while reading theory so you can actually play the things your book or video is talking about and hear them. I am big on muscle memory learning : )

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Old 21-04-2014, 05:27 PM   #5
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Re: Need help with melodies

General tips:

Use steps in the scale and some jumps. Often a good melody goes up and down the scale and forms a sort of sine wave pattern.

Use motifs. Come up with a rhythmic motif and record the midi data. It doesn't matter what notes you play, the important part is the motif. Then, go in and edit the motif notes to your desired notes. Then you will have a rhythmic melody.

Learn your scales. Make sure to play around in the desired scale and see if you can find something interesting by just playing different notes in a rhythmic way.

Start simple. Come up with a few 3 or 4 note licks and repeat them. Then slowly build on the lick and add new licks as you go. Then alternate the licks and you will have a melody that isn't overly repetitive.

The most important part is learning scales. If you know what notes are in each scale, you will be able to translate that to melodies in no time.

Also, a good melody is built around the interplay between the first note of the scale (the root), and the fifth note (the dominant). These are the 2 most important notes and your melody should dance around these notes.

Most of all just spend time experimenting after you've learned the basics and practice a lot. Eventually you will be able to come up with melodies like it was second nature. Have fun and good luck!
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Old 24-04-2014, 04:15 PM   #6
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Re: Need help with melodies

Thanks for the advice!

Yes, it is a broad topic. I bought a keyboard, that helped me out more than anything. And to be honest, I'm starting to see what I'm REALLY looking for: direction. After getting my keyboard, making melodies was as easy as finding the notes the sound good together, mapping ALL of em, and throwing them in different combos.

Now I see that what I'm really after is more emotional direction/transition in my music. And I'm sure this is something only time and maybe some brainstorming can grant me. Thanks guys
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Old 29-04-2014, 08:10 AM   #7
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Re: Need help with melodies

start off with some chords and then write a melody over the chords, a melody usually sounds better on top of chords
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Old 30-04-2014, 03:27 AM   #8
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Re: Need help with melodies

Quote:
Originally Posted by radish View Post
came across a video about using people's inflections to write music, and that was a cool idea.
Spastic Ink is pretty hilarious/awesome.

W/out any musical context... same concept:



I learned how to develop melodies "out of the blue" by transcribing (i.e. learning how to play) other songs' melodies for ~4 years. Harmony first, then melody. It really really helped out.

Last edited by frajen; 30-04-2014 at 01:06 PM..

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Old 30-04-2014, 07:00 AM   #9
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Re: Need help with melodies

Quote:
Originally Posted by waseemdia View Post
start off with some chords and then write a melody over the chords, a melody usually sounds better on top of chords
This.

I usually go to the piano and I just start playing with different chords and sounds. Eventually I settle into about 3 chords that I can start hearing the tone from.

With my left hand I play the chords or an a rolling chord, octave with the 5th (ex C, G, C) and with the right hand I start improvising a melody that works.

This is all based on my ear, it's not a mechanical this melody goes with this chord. Sometimes my melody is a little dissonant with the chords, but it fits.

I agree with Relic, muscle memory means your fingers just naturally flow on the keyboard with some practice you will start getting more fluid.
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Old 05-05-2014, 04:23 AM   #10
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Re: Need help with melodies

I get the chords down first, maybe even the drums/bass, record it, loop it, and hit play. Then I record myself singing/humming over the beat, into my phone. I'll just keep trying different things, going in different directions until something catches my ear and then i'll run with that idea and really flesh it out (still singing). Once i've got it worked out, I go back and listen to figure out what notes I'm singing and lay it down with whatever sound I'm using.

I find the best melodies I've written came out this way. I know my theory pretty well, but when I write melodies on the keyboard or midi roll, I find that knowledge sometimes locks me into typical patterns and note groupings, while the singing prevents me from thinking about it all, and start doing unexpected things that really feel good. Whether they follow any kind of sensible theory is after the fact, and if it sounds great, doesn't really matter in the end anyway.
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Old 05-05-2014, 07:05 AM   #11
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Re: Need help with melodies

If you understand what key signatures you're working in and know your scales, you should be okay. The long of the short of it is that you need to learn your theory.
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Old 05-05-2014, 07:18 AM   #12
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Re: Need help with melodies

Hey there! There are a few things you could try to improve your melody writing.

1. Work with a consistent rhythm. If you have to much variation your melody is going to be reallllly hard to digest/inaccessible. You want something (at least to start) with the same rhythmic backbone. Pretty well the same phrase over and over. Maybe a slight variation every 4th time. Change the notes but not the rhythm.

2. Work with chords (arpeggios). Usually a melody is going to be played against some chords. Nothing sounds better with a chord than the notes of that chord. (okay extensions sound cool too..... but not always....)

Let's saying you're playing over an Em chord:

ex. E minor chord = E G B

you want to focus on using those on particularly strong hits. Using these exclusively can get boring. Throw in some of the other notes of a scale for spice on weaker hits.

E G A B
G E F#G
E G A B ----- repeat a phrase for familiarity. use your discretion but you want to avoid randomness usually
B AG F#E

Keep with your rhythmic backbone.


3. To follow what you mentioned about inflection, model your melody rhythm after speech. You can just make up a sentence, "I went to the store to get eggs" and put notes to it. Either repeat your phrase or make a little story to see where it goes.

Try this with rap lyrics too!

You can allllllllllllways get more complicated later. Start dead simple. Some of the coolest stuff is really simple. David Gilmour solos come to mind.

Hopefully this helps!

Cheers
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Old 07-05-2014, 01:13 AM   #13
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Re: Need help with melodies

Might sound crazy but expand your mind some.
Take a trip into the woods with some mushrooms and a guitar lol, or a portable keyboard or whatever you play, and just vibe with your instrument.

Also, meditation helps you come up with new melodies, as clearing your mind is great to do before starting a project.

And try using brainwaves, they're tracks like meditation music almost, with strange frequencies playing in the background. They are designed for meditation, for increasing brain function in different parts of the brain, they have some for being creative, which is the ones I'm getting at for creating melodies. Really you gotta hear it in your head for melodies.. they tend to be more random and intricate than the chord progressions or rythm parts of the music.
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Old 07-05-2014, 03:00 AM   #14
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Re: Need help with melodies

Quote:
Originally Posted by cole minor View Post
Might sound crazy but expand your mind some.
Take a trip into the woods with some mushrooms and a guitar lol, or a portable keyboard or whatever you play, and just vibe with your instrument.

Also, meditation helps you come up with new melodies, as clearing your mind is great to do before starting a project.

And try using brainwaves, they're tracks like meditation music almost, with strange frequencies playing in the background. They are designed for meditation, for increasing brain function in different parts of the brain, they have some for being creative, which is the ones I'm getting at for creating melodies. Really you gotta hear it in your head for melodies.. they tend to be more random and intricate than the chord progressions or rythm parts of the music.
Its true if i switch of evertying in my room at night and sit in dark wait for 20-30mins of doing nothing but staring at wall or eyes closed actually lieing on bed but remaning awake all these melodies just pop in my head.

Even better if u have some weed.

Wait 20-30mins ideas start coming into your head then move over to your keyboad or whatver and start playing up.

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Old 21-05-2014, 02:11 PM   #15
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Re: Need help with melodies

You don't need any formal theory to write a good melody. Really, you don't. All you need is lots and lots of exposure to music with good melodies.

There are countless beautiful melodies throughout history created by people who didn't have music theory (not as we know it anyway).

We inherit our ability to make a good melody. We inherit it from the music we listen to.

How to come up with them though? The best way is to hum, or sing. Sing some tunes you know. Then sing a tune you don't know... there you have it.

What you do need theory for is to know which chords and bass go underneath the melody:

Melodies normally imply chords - most melodic sounds have harmonics within them (part of what makes their timbre), and this is (more or less) where we originally got our ideas about harmony from. So any time you make up a melody, you're quite likely imagining a harmonic structure too (even if you don't know it). What theory helps with is to know how to make that harmony explicit, and make use of it in your music.

You can of course work the other way around - from harmony to melody (like people here suggest). This requires a little theoretical knowledge, because you normally won't want to put any old note above an existing harmonic structure. However, people do get pretty great at doing this intuitively, or working out their own kind of practical, non formal theory.

So, for those reasons, I suggest you don't read about melody writing. Read about harmony. What people write about melodies tends to apply to whatever style of music they are discussing. Very often, academic, contemporary art music. Do you want to write that?!?

Having said that, such books normally give some simple tips which are reasonably universal. Only a couple have ever stuck in my head:

* if you have a passage of stepping up, then skip down. And conversely (And inversely).

* build to about 2/3rds of the way in, then un-build back down. This often translates to structure: do someting, do it again, do something different, go back to the first thing (A,A,B,A).

But these "rules" are not at all rules. Look to music that has very repetitive melodic structure which is nonetheless very effective, for example.

Anyway, that's enough for now Best of luck.

Last edited by Praxisaxis; 21-05-2014 at 02:17 PM..

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Old 24-05-2014, 11:39 PM   #16
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Re: Need help with melodies

Learn the Minor Scales, especially the Aminor scale. Most electronic music are made using the Minor Scales.
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Old 24-05-2014, 11:41 PM   #17
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Re: Need help with melodies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaycar View Post
Learn the Minor Scales, especially the Aminor scale. Most electronic music are made using the Minor Scales.
really?

So when is major used?

I thought major for happy sounds
Minor for more sad sounds

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Old 25-05-2014, 01:38 AM   #18
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Re: Need help with melodies

Quote:
Originally Posted by JayMSay View Post
really?

So when is major used?

I thought major for happy sounds
Minor for more sad sounds
It's a bit of a generalization.

Minor scales aren't used... so much as minor harmony.

So you might hear a C minor chord being played by pads/strings while a melody plays C -> Eb -> F

Technically this tune would be "C minor" but there's not a "C minor scale" being played in its entirety, like
C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

A single major triad on its own has a "happy" quality whereas a minor triad has a "sad" quality

But a chord progression can utilize both major and minor triads.

C major | A minor | G major

This chord progression is arguably in "C major" but it has an A minor chord in it.

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Old 10-07-2014, 09:15 PM   #19
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Re: Need help with melodies

Study of Counterpoint: From Johann Joseph Fux's Gradus Ad Parnassum: Johann Joseph Fux, Alfred Mann: 9780393002775: Amazon.com: Books [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]

Gradus from Johan Fux. Some really good simple exercises that really work in my experience. I love it. I think it is a really good approach to making melodies. I have read the book and made all the exercises but it is not as if I only write that way. It is just a good exercise for writing melodies. Just like if you are going to do permutation exercises with drumming, you don't necessarily use that in your actual drumming but it really helps nonetheless.
You probably can find some translation on a public domain site.
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Old 31-07-2014, 07:33 AM   #20
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Re: Need help with melodies

Ayo thanks for all the replies.

Honestly man, I realized my biggest issues. I have an ARRANGING issue, not a melody issue. Working on it in my own ways, seeing results! Hopefully I'll have time for more electronic music, I'll post something when I can

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