What role does melody play in 2020?

(Instrumental melodies, not vocal melodies)

A lot of people say that melody is dead, but I disagree…. I think what we emphasize in melody has just evolved… I feel like the timbre/design of the sound playing the melody makes a bigger impact on how a melody is perceived than the actual sequence of pitch and rhythm that makes up the melody. What do you guys think??? How important is the sequence of notes in a melody compared to the quality of sound used?

It also seems like melodies are used less as the focal point of songs, but used as less emphasized elements that add character to a song, especially in hip hop. Once the drums and bass come in, it’s sometimes hard to even hear the melodic elements of the instrumental.

I guess what I’m asking is what power does melody, regardless of timbre, play in music today (In your opinion)??

I’m asking, because I’m trying to gauge how much time I should put into understanding how to create melodies based on scales, chords etc… If it only has minimal importance I’d obviously rather spend my time on more important things.

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IMO that depends on the genre and context. If you’re making pop EDM, you can likely get away with using a big fat box of presets in order to let your knowledge of theory shine and nobody would think anything of it. Conversely, you don’t need theory (or melody at all) if you’re making some gritty, noisy sound design.

If I were to flip on any local radio station though, it’s all pop melodies made with overcompressed sounds. I’m pretty sure the only thing alive to the casual listener is melody, since you can listen to it on your $4 earbuds and it sounds the same as it does on your laptop / phone speaker.


Ok interesting… so are you saying a lot of the sounds in modern songs can’t be heard?

Dursty nailed it, totally depends on the genre.

Disregarding vocal melody, I don’t think it ever really played a role in popular music after the 19th century (for various definitions of ‘popular’). Almost all of the post-War popular music has centered around vocal lines, and the musical melody is accompaniment/accent to that. Vocals are the melody, the instruments provide the harmony. Nobody remembers or cares about the backing track because it’s just there to highlight the vocals. Best you might get is a catchy intro or bridge. Mostly the vocals are mixed so loud and in front that the stuff in the background just becomes a smear of sound.

In a lot of instrumental genres melody can’t be dead because it’s the ‘catchy’ part, taking the place of the vocals. It’s the part you hum in the car. People may recognize or remember a timbre or sound, but they don’t bop to it in the shower. Unless you’re listening to a lot of drone or noise or ambient, melody is still king in most instrumental music.

I do think you’re right that with the advent of computers and easier sound design, an interesting sound does a lot for defining a melody. People aren’t stuck listening to the same old boring keyboard presets or a mildly distorted guitar, and musicians can spend a lot of time developing new and cool sounds to make their compositions pop. 200 years ago you had to find new compositional tricks to make the violins stand out from the cellos, now you can twist some knobs and find a sound that no one’s ever heard before and make it the star of your track.


Examples, Dr. Dre easily, for lyricists.

He’s so good at writing a catch bit for someone to flow over. Others as well. it can be simple, it can catch you.

For catchy, cool as fuck instrumentals, any horror movie killer theme you’ve probably heard to death, in nostalgia. Still simple but strike emotion and memory. While you hear the bass, that melody/top end is what hooks you.

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i love melody, always have, any track i produce will always have melody.

im not sure who’s saying its dead but their obviously deluded.

its like your going around a restaurant asking people what they want to eat,

to me it doesn’t work like that for an artist, personally you should make music that pleases you and you only, if others like it then thats a bonus, but this ala carte approach “would you like melody, what do you think” no thank you.
and the time you should put into it? sorry if i sound rude but honestly I’m lost

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It depends on what style you create, but if you look at trap, vaporwave, and synthwave melody is very popular still. I believe melody is not dead, but there is so much music that it is easy to over look certain parts of it. In pop I think minor tonality and melody is way mroe popular today than say it was when I was a kid in like 2005 or 2006.

I would encourage you to continue to pursue music theory. Generally speaking as a musician and DJ I can’t ever know enough about anything. I avoided learning theory and arrangement for a long time and no matter how much sound design, mixing, etc I learned nothing I did really felt like a song. The best I could manage was a 64 bar loop that sounded OK once through.

Nobody really wants to listen to a sequence of cool sounds if there isn’t something melodic underlying that. I’m sure there are some neckbeards out there that will tell you they enjoy it but I’m doubtful of their honesty. Sometimes that melodic element can be incredibly simple. There is plenty of techno in which the only tonal element is the bass line, but you still have to put together something pleasing and probably something that evolves a bit (though frankly there are some classic house and techno songs with 3 note, 8 bar bass lines that don’t change for a 7 minute song). Despite all that apparent minimalism bailing on theory isn’t the answer : )

By focusing on sound design you are only delaying the time when you’ll have to learn a little theory. Do it in any order you please.


Thanks man… Yeah it’s definitely not easy to learn, but hopefully I’l get some value out of it