After you’ve come up with a rough melody, record yourself singing and listen back. Try to be as unbiased as possible while you review what you’ve created. It’s difficult to be critical of your own work, but it is an invaluable skill. To help you out, I’ve created this two-part set of questions to help you fairly assess your own melody. This list will focus on two very important elements of melody: notes and rhythms. For this post, let’s focus on Part 1: the notes.
Does your melody use exciting intervals?
In music, the word “interval” refers to the space on the musical scale between two notes. In simpler terms, you want your melody to move up and down in pitch. Sometimes the jump between pitches will be small, and those kind of moves can often create a catchy, memorable melody. Adding larger jumps between notes, however, can add originality and interest to your tune. You don’t want these jumps in pitches to seem random or jarring, though. If you’re going to use a large change from one note to another, you will want to repeat it and make sure that the jump happens at a logical point in the lyric.
Think about the chorus Pharrell Williams’s “Happy”. The first phrase is practically monotone, the second phrase is varied slightly to switch it up, and then the third phrase surprises you with a higher riff on the first word, ‘clap’. That’s effective melodic progression! Check it out below.
Is your chorus higher or lower than the verse?
It’s important to ensure that there is a clear enough distinction between the melodies of the verse and the chorus. Think about the vocal ranges of the chorus and the verse compared to each other. Oftentimes, the chorus sits higher than the verse. This makes the chorus stand out and seem more exciting. The chorus can also be lower, which is the case with “Happy”, but it is most common for the chorus to sit in a higher range. One of my favorite examples of a higher chorus is Faith Hill’s “Cry”. The shift is dramatic. The verse is subdued and melancholy, and then the chorus soars up so that she can really sing it out. Not only does the change in range make the chorus interesting to the listener, but it also adds to the emotional meaning of the song.
Does your melody show off your vocal abilities?
This may seem like a basic idea, but you don’t want to forget to use all of the tools in your toolbox. If you’ve got a high range, you want to show that off. If your voice sits comfortably in a lower range, utilize that to enhance the emotional quality. Identify whatever it is that you love about your voice and harness it! Don’t try to push your limits. You want your melody to fit your vocals like a glove. You’re in control, so take this opportunity to create a song that is tailor made for you!
I hope this gives you a good start towards becoming excellent at reviewing your own songs. Remember to stay tuned for Creating the Melody- Part 2: The Rhythms.