Songwriting 101 – #3: The Melody

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This is a series of posts about song formatting and structure. All this week I’ll be writing about the different individual elements that make up a song.


Go to #1 – The Chorus

Go to #2 – The Verse


Please bear in mind that these are my definitions and interpretations of the different parts of a song structure. There are no hard and fast rules determining which part of a song goes where.

However, there are generally accepted guidelines. Think of this Songwriting 101 series as the “nuts and bolts” of putting your songs together.

You’ve been refining your songwriting process and you’ve come up with some great ideas and now you are ready to put them all together.

Your journey starts now…


Today we’re going to talk about MELODY.

In a song it’s the melody that binds everything together. It’s almost like a song is created to enable the melody to stand out for everyone to hear.

In my experience, a really good musical arrangement has been ruined by a poor melody whereas a great melody has saved many a poor arrangement. That’s how important a great melody is for your songwriting.

It took me a long time to realize that melody is supreme.

The melody is what the listener remembers. It’s what they hum or whistle to while listening in the car for example.

A great melody is something that gets stuck in a listener’s head and gets them frustrated beyond belief. It’s what defines your song as being yours alone (regardless of what instrumentation and arrangement idea you choose to use) and makes your song stand out from the rest of the music that’s being played today.

A lot of songwriters I know get themselves all tied up in knots when trying to come up with an original chord structure or some sort of amazingly inspired riff to get them started on a potential song.

For these songwriters their process becomes a never-ending battle to try and come up with something totally original as they feel that going down the same old paths will bore their listening audience..

I say that if you have a great melody it almost doesn’t matter what chords fit with it, even if it is only three chords. A good melody has the power to bring out the emotions that you want the listener to experience.

As with anything in songwriting there are no hard and fast formulaic rules for coming up with great melodies however the lyrics of a song can give you clues as to where your melody could be going.

In my own songwriting process, melodies come to me in two distinct ways:

1. Little snippets based on a phrase that pops into my head.
The rhythm of that phrase pretty much determines the melody that comes out. I constantly write lists of possible song titles so coming up with a phrase to work on can be as easy as looking at one of my lists.

2. Noodling whatever comes into my head on my guitar.
After the initial spark then the building process begins. Is the song going to be a sad, thoughtful, contemplating or happy one? Is the melody consisting of short notes, long languishing notes or a mixture of both? Is it a soaring anthemic piece or an intimate piece?

One of the best things you can do to tune your ears to good melodies is to start listening to a lot of music. A good exercise is to write down a list of your ten favourite songs and really listen to the melody.

As you’re listening write down what it is about the melody that touches, moves and inspires you. Does the melody send a shiver up your spine? Write it down. What you’re doing is pinpointing what moves you.

This will make it easier to write melodies that make you say “WOW!”

Writing songs can be a juggling act sometimes. You have a lyric here, a melody there, a half finished chorus, a riff that needs a home. However, if you concentrate on the melody of the song you will find that the juggling act becomes a lot easier to manage.

That’s why I say that melody is very thing that binds all of your song elements together.

What do you think about what I’ve mentioned here about melody? Does it resonate with you or, do you have a different opinion? Feel free to let me know.

Until next time, happy writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

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