For most listeners, the melody is the defining element of a piece of music. Melodies stick in our heads and connect a composition into a whole. Because of this, it is imperative that the melody is well-written and thought out in a composition! In this article, we will go over each element of a melody and provide some tips on how to improve your own!

Melodic Structure

A melody is not simply a grouping of notes in random order, but rather a pattern that has a structure and memorable quality. A great melody needs to balance the predictability of a set pattern with moments that break that pattern in order to stand out and maintain interest.

This can be achieved through a variety of methods, the first being the consideration of steps, skips, and leaps in your melodies. A step is simply walking from one note to the next, up or down the scale (e.g., do to re). A skip is skipping a note in the scale (e.g., do to mi), and a leap is any larger jump between notes (e.g., do to so). In general, it is best if melodies are primarily constructed with steps, with occasional skips, and a few leaps.

This not only creates a more pleasing melodic shape but also makes it easier for most singers and instrumentalists to perform. Composers need to always remember that music happens because of musicians, and not just on paper!

Hooks And Motifs

Melodies are patterns, and repetition is your friend! A motif is a recurring phrase of music that ties a piece together. A hook is similar but also refers to the part of a melody that sticks in your ear.

A great melody should have motifs and hooks! You want your notes to sink into your listeners’ ears and stay there! Repetition is one of the best tools for this.

As an exercise, listen to a few of your favorite pieces of music. As you listen, try to take note of the melodic aspects that immediately grab you. Then, after you have finished listening, think about what part of the song you want to sing! What has stuck with you? That is the hook!

Rhythmic Elements

Pitches are just one half of a melody; the other is rhythm! Variation in short to long notes, as well as rests, can take a melody to the next level. For beginner composers, it is common to consider rhythm to be less important than pitch, but this is simply untrue. Take time and effort to fashion your rhythmic choices, and your melodies will shine!

Expressive Techniques

How a melody is performed can be just as important as the notes written on the page. Things like dynamics, slides, vibrato, and tone can all color a change the feeling of a piece. As a composer, it is important to write in as many of these expressions as you deem important!

Closing Notes

We hope this helps you out with your melodic creations! If you’d like to work with one of Toronto’s best music teachers on polishing up your composing, reach out to us today!

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