I divide the methods into two categories. All the methods below are tested and proven that they can help you to write a song. Some of them work extremely well. Some of the methods are effective even for those who don’t really learn the music theory and notation.
No musical skill required:
If you never took music lesson or don’t know how to read notes, don’t worry. Practice these 3 methods and you might get your original songs just like other educated song writer.
1. Hum the melody – It will be extra helpful to always have your mp3 recorder with you. Most handheld electronic devices now come with the “record” function. Whenever you are inspired, sing or hum the melody line and record it. Most of the time, I find it easier to write the chorus melody part before the verses. If you reverse it, usually you will find it hard to write a more intense chorus than the verse.
2. Phrase the lyrics with melody line – always ready with some meaningful and inspiring lyrics. Some lyricist write lyrics only and they need melody writer to complete the songs. Great lyrics inspire great melody. Beautiful lyrical rhymes are very helpful in phrasing the melody line. Try singing the lyrics with melody line. Some languages like Chinese and Vietnamese are trickier, than Japanese and English. The latter is more flexible when sing with melody line. In Chinese language, there are simple intonation differences even in their normal speech. There are words with the same pronunciation. Slight difference in pronunciation relative pitch might give the other meaning.
3. Sing your own melody on karaoke track – this is probably the easiest way. The karaoke track will guide you on the song structure, rhythms, chord progression and other musical sense. You might find it hard to create an all new songs on the karaoke track of your favorite song, because you are so familiar with it! The original song melody just keeps ringing in your head. Therefore, don’t use the karaoke track of the songs you know. I tried it with Japanese and Korean karaoke song and it works great!
Musical skill required:
In song writing, musical skills are not required. But if you have great musical skills, it is a big plus with many advantages. Now, it instantly opened up extra seven methods on how to write a melody!
4. Create a rhythm loop before writing the melody – this method is mostly used in up tempo songs, such as in hip hop, dance, trance and funk. The song-writer programs a rhythm loop with basic drum track, percussion, bass and some other essential loop elements. Then he can loop the music and write the melody from there.
5. Play a chord progression on the piano as accompaniment – I like to use this method because I play the piano the best. Start with any comfortable keys and use the chord progression you like. Some widely used chord progressions are:
I vi IV V
I V vi IV
I V vi iii IV I IV V (chord progression used in the famous classical piece – Canon)
6. Strum a rhythm pattern on the guitar and sing along – Rockers use this method most often. This method sound like method no. 5 but it gives you different inspiration when you use different instruments to play the accompaniment. Piano and guitar are the most frequently used music instruments in the pop music scene. Guitar is more efficient in rhythm creation compared to the piano. Press a chord with your left hand finger and strum with your right hand on the guitar, you instantly get a rhythm. But for the piano, there are much more works to do. When you are occupied with the piano rhythm pattern, most probably your focus is already distracted from melody creation.
7. Push the “record” button, start improvising – This is the most productive method. You just spend 30 minutes improvising on your instrument, experimenting with difference kind of sounds, rhythm, chord progression. But make sure you hit the “record” button so that you can refer to what you have done! After the recording session, I will play it back and chop out the parts that I like and elaborate from there to a full complete song. Refer my previous post about how I do this: Original song: Speak ??
8. Create a short motif or catchy melody line, elaborate from there – this method is hard to master but most songs that top the pop chart are written with certain strong and catchy pattern or motif. It definitely pays off to get a great line first before you venture further to complete a renounced piece of music.
9. Co-write for more inspiration – There are unlimited knowledge to learn from others. This applies in song writing too. Playing and jamming with other musician will get you inspired further. Sometimes it is hard when it comes to decide which line or whose line to be used in the song. Mutual respect is highly required to co-writing a song.
10. Write down a melody line using notation method according to theory – It might create some surprise for you if you don’t have sight singing ability. However, it makes no difference for classically trained and highly skilled musician with sight singing skills. For the master like Beethoven and Mozart, they wrote down what they hear in their mind. Writing down the music in notation is the only way for them to record their music at that time. Try it if you just went through a few music theory lessons. You will be amazed by what you might get!
My favorite methods are no.2, 5, 7. What’s the method you use in song writing? Please tell me in the comment.