So, you are starting into music, and more specifically, creating music.
You want to become a music producer, right?
Yeah, we have all been there.
And the very first thing you did was to call your music professor, who released an album last year and asked him where to start…
Pretty standard, yes?
The answer as always was "find a catchy melody and make it sound like a hit!".
A couple seconds passed and you are now more confused than you were before because you were just thinking about elements of music such as simple chords, and the word "melody" just seems to be so broad and subjective.
Where do you actually start?
What is a melody?
Was he referring to vocal melodies?
Or just in general musical ideas that create a beautiful melody from basic elements of music?
Read this and I promise, you will understand!
A melody is simply a group of sounds, or notes, that are typically part of the same key and when played consecutively, they create a certain "mood" that the listeners can relate to.
There are "happy" melodies that you simply hear and feel like you want to sing while dancing.
But there are also "sad" melodies that you hear and kinda makes you wanna cry or go to bed.
In the vast majority of cases, melodies are done with single notes. So a group of single notes are played and repeated many times so that it gets pretty much "tattooed" to your brain.
Once you press stop in your music player, these notes keep playing back in your brain because they were catchy.
In the case of a song, a melody is typically a vocal line that repeats and has very obvious pitches for each syllable.
So think about the last song you listened to on Spotify, there was a vocal line that you kept singing days after, right?
That is a melody!
The line that stays in your brain and you keep singing it out loud, had a catchy melody.
Another melody could be a guitar solo!
Yes, a solo in the middle of the song. The guitar player starts playing those fantastic notes one by one, and they are so precisely selected that it sounds very mellow and you keep "singing" the guitar for weeks after listening to the tune.
We use melody in music in order to make listeners remember the core of a song.
Melody is what you end up remembering and therefore singing for decades!
This element is also used to "drive the song". Faster melodies tend to push a song into the "happy" and "upbeat" mood, while slower melodies can turn a song into a more "intimate" or emotional feel.
Melody can also be used to set a genre!
Some genres tend to have very dense melodies that are even hard to discover, these genres are typically more towards the independent, avant-garde realm.
On the other hand, more commercial genres have very obvious "in-your-face" melodies that are included in the song as quickly as possible, some even during the intro of the song. That way the listener is engaged from the second it starts playing back!
Melodies can also be used in a "question/answer" approach.
The singer might be singing a line, and in between lines, a guitar lick might play a couple notes to fill those gaps. In this case we are working the question/answer approach because the vocal line is following the melody while the guitar is complementing it.
So yes, you can actually have complex melodies created from more than 1 source, like a singer and an electric guitar, or perhaps a guitar and a synthesizer.
Typically, melodies are simple.
Simple means, small amounts of notes that repeat themselves. Not necessarily chords, but individual notes.
Part of this simplicity also involves the fact that melodies are always in the key of the song, and they tend to use progressions that will be easily remembered by listeners.
Melodies are also typically notes that were selected from the background chords.
This means that if you are playing a C minor chord, the note of the melody tends to be contained in C minor. This way, melodies will always feel like "at home" for the regular listeners, because they are all in conjunct motion with the chords.
This is a tricky question, because people might think that some songs already have no melody since they do not have a distinctive lead instrument or a vocal line.
This is wrong.
There is always a melody, even a chord progression by itself creates a melody from the root notes of the progression because that is what you end up remembering at the end of the song.
Our minds do not remember "chords" but sounds, and realistically, the root notes of the chords are those "sounds" that we remember.
So, honestly, there is always a melody, it is just that some songs have it way more obvious than others.
Knowing how to recognize a melody within a song is not hard, especially during these days of modern music and top 40 hits.
As a rule of thumb, if you listened to the song and there was some musical part that you remembered and kept singing, chances are that was the main melody and the artist convey their message through that!
Also, keep in mind, if you are getting into music, or more specifically, commercial music, you might want to stress the concept of melody and make sure it is extremely noticeable.
Your melodies will be turned into "hooks" or emblematic parts that people can easily remember and sing later on.
And most importantly, try not to confuse melody with chords.
Several instruments will play different chords, even at the same time, so this might get cumbersome pretty quickly.
However, the melody will always be the root of these chords, or simply the overall note feel that you get when you listen to the contribution of these instruments or vocal lines at the same time.
Whatever stays in your brain sonically, that you can easily digest and repeat after listening, that is the melody, that is the hook!