Classical Melody Writing Tricks – Music Composition

– Hi.

In this video, I'm goingto talk about four tricks that you can use or thinkabout when writing a melody.

So what are the four thingsthat are really going to make a melody work for you? Because I know lots of peopleget frustrated with this.

They say, “I've got some chords, “I'm trying to write a melodybut it doesn't seem to fit.

” Or, “I've got this melody, the chords “don't sit very comfortably with it.

” So let's see what we can do to make sure that things really work.

Well, the first thing is tomake sure that all the notes in a melody actuallydo fit a chord scheme.

Now either you're writinga melody to a chord scheme, or you might just bewriting a melody on its own.

Lots of people have todo this kind of stuff for theory exams for example.

But either way, a melodyneeds to imply a chord scheme.

So we've got to be sure that, if we write something in a melody, it's going to fit withchords that make sense.

And then we've got to be surethat every note that we write in a melody is there eitherbecause it's a harmony note, i.


a note that belongs tothe chord that's either given or implied, or we've got tomake sure that every note that doesn't belong tothe chord can be justified because it's one of these things that we call inessential notes.

Passing notes, auxiliarynotes, anticipatory notes, those kind of things.

So the first tip is tomake sure that melody notes belong to the harmony, either as essential notes, harmony notes, or inessential notes.

So let's have a look at this melody and see if that actually happens.

First of all, I might justplay it, so you can see what it's sort of allabout when you hear it with the chords that I've put underneath.

Okay, let's have a look through, see what's happening here.

Now either you've chosenthis chord or it's implied.

We're in the key of G major, but all of these notes in the first bar, the first measure, belong to chord I in G major.

We might just give this a time signature in passing as well, it's in 4/4 time.

So the chord of G is G, B, D.

So all these notes, G, B, D, G, all belong to the chord of G.

Okay, let's have a lookat what's happening now, because the chord ischanging to the chord of D, so that's D, F-sharp and A.

Okay, now you mightlook at this and think, “Well, hang on a minute, this G going over there “while we change to the chord of D “is a bit of a clash, isn't it?” Well, that's what we call a suspension.

In other words, it's prepared here, because when you have a suspension, you've got to have three stages.

It's got to prepare, it's gotto sound, it's got to resolve.

We prepare it by making itpart of this chord here.

When it resolves, it's gotto be part of the next chord.

When it sounds, it's alittle bit of a dissonance.

But the point is that suspensions really spruce up melody writing.

They add a bit of tension, a bit of sparkle to it.

You get this moment ofdissonance that then resolves.

So hear what's happening.

First four notes belongingto the chord of G.

Preparation for suspension.


Resolution as it resolves into that chord.

So that's how that works.

So there's a suspension.

Now, once I move on to F-sharp, well F-sharp belongs to the D chord, the D, F-sharp, A.

E doesn't, so E is a passing note, it's just passing by step between F-sharp and D, andboth F-sharp and D do belong to the chord of D, so that's okay.

It's just a passing note.

Then when I move on here, well, I've got a coupleof passing notes here because D and A bothbelong to this D chord.

You could say that the C turns the D chord into a C seven momentarily.

The B is certainly a passingnote, and it's possible to have two passing notesnext door to each other as long as they're passing by step.

Usually one feels accentedand one feels unaccented.

One feels a bit stronger onthe beat or even a half beat, like this case, and oneis just tucked in between.

So this is a strongerone, the B, than the C, because the C is comingbetween two quavers there.

The B is coming on thelast quaver of the bar.

But all the notes in thatbar then can be justified, they either belong to the chordor we've got a suspension, or we've got passing notes.

When we go into the secondbar, the second measure, we've got a chord of E minor.

All these notes belong to E minor.

So that's all part of the harmony.

Then we've got this suspension thing going on again.

You'll notice what I'm doing here.

Actually, this is a sequence.

The first bit's slightlyaltered but all these notes are kind of running athird below these notes, so it's using a little bit of sequence.

And that's not one of oursort of four tricks today, but it's a one thing that'sgood in design of a melody, to have a sequence like that, a pattern that is repeated and moved around, transposed, so that it becomes familiar but at the same time, it'svaried because it's coming at a different pitch.

But the same things are going on here.

So I've got a suspensionhere in just the same way that we talked about before.

And then I'm moving to a B minor chord.

So B minor is B, D, F-sharp.

So you can see again thatI've got passing notes, like there's a passingnote there because D and B both belong to the chord, and then I've got this note that's either a unaccented passing note or it's making a seventh of the harmony.

The G is definitely a passing note, and the F-sharp belongs tothe B minor chord again.

Going into the next bar, all these notes belong to a chord of C.

C chord, C, E, G.

So all of those belong to that chord.

Then if I use a D or a D seven, in fact, what I was going to do there was to have a D chordand then add the seventh in the bass to pull meonto this G/B chord.

So D.

Well D's part of the harmony.

E isn't, but it's a passing note.

F-sharp is part of the harmony.

And when I go on to a G major chord, well obviously both of thoseG's belong to the harmony.

So in this bar, I've gotlots of harmony notes and just one passing note there.

When I come into the lastbar, well I've got a G/D, It's a Ic chord if you like, and B therefore belongs to it.

C is an upper auxiliary note.

So that's when we have a notethat belongs to the harmony, like this B.

We go up one, and we comeback again to a harmony note.

Then I've got a D seven chord.

Well you can see that A, F-sharp, A all belong to that chord.

G is a passing note.

And then I'm finishing on a chord of G, and that G belongs to it as well.

So you can see what I'm talking about, this is the first trick to make sure that everything in your melodyis either a harmony note or one of these inessentialnotes that we're talking about.

So it doesn't really matterwhich style you're writing in, it particularly works well inBaroque and Classical style, this is a kind of Baroquestyle melody isn't it.

But you can see how everynote can be justified.

One thing that messes upa melody is when you start hearing notes that don'tbelong to the chord or the implied chord, andthen you sort of think, “Well, what's that doing there really?” If it's not a harmony noteand then it can't be justified as one of these inessentialnotes, it tends to stick out and rather muck up the melody.

So there's the first trick, make sure every single note is either a harmony noteor an inessential note.

Okay, another thing, secondtrick, is you might think when you write a melodyabout the balance of conjunct and disjunct movement.

So what do I mean by that? Conjunct movement iskind of moving to notes that are next door to each other.

So if I'm doing that, just going up and down, then that's conjunct movement.

When I'm leaping, thisis disjunct movement.

Now if you have a melodythat's all disjunct movement, it's going to feel a bit dislocated, notes flying all over the landscape.

If you have a melody that'sfull of conjunct movement, it's going to feel a bittedious after a while.

So some kind of balance between the two.

Have a look at what I've done here.

Can you see in the first bar, well this is obviously disjunct.

It's followed by a run of conjunct.

So there's a nice balancebetween the initial disjunct and then the following conjunct.

You'll also notice that in thiscase, the disjunct movement is taking us up, the conjunct movement is bringing us down again.

So sometimes that's quitea nice balance to achieve between the conjunct and the disjunct, but also kind of what's climbing, what's falling to balance it.

Because of the kind of use of sequence, well we've got somethingvery similar here.

Disjunct movement, thenconjunct coming down this scale.

Then disjunct, now conjunct but this time, it's not coming down.

This time it's going up.

So we're doing something different.

Then we've got disjunct, andthis is much more conjunct.

Okay, there's a little leap there, but it's a much more conjunct finish, and that's kind of helpingto settle it at the end.

So that's the second trick thatI'm just presenting for you.

The idea of thinkingabout the balance between the conjunct movementand the disjunct movement in your melody.

Now, another thing is, you can't write a melody without really thinking about the harmony.

So even if your task is to write a melody, but nobody's asking you tothink about the harmony, if you don't think about the harmony, you can be sure thatyou're going to have notes that are all over the placethat don't really work for you.

But part of thinking aboutthe harmony is to think about harmonic rhythm, and that'smy third little trick that I'm talking about today.

Harmonic rhythm, what do I mean by that? Well, harmonic rhythm isthe rate of chord change, how often do the chords change? If, for example, you'vegot one chord that goes on for the first two bars ormeasures, and then suddenly the chords change reallyquickly, then the harmonic rhythm is going to feel a bit jarredbecause it's going to feel static and stuck, and thensuddenly it takes off.

That's going to be a little bit crazy.

If, on the other hand, theharmonic rhythm is moving too quickly all the way through the piece, that's going to kind of feela bit exhausting after a while and it's not going to help the melody to kind of find its place and settle, because the harmonic rhythm can do much to help a melody feel settled.

If the harmonic rhythm is predictable, well that becomes a bittedious after a while, because we always hearthat the chord changes at the beginning of everybar or that you've always got two chords per bar, or whatever.

So again, it's a balance.

We've got to have a sortof consistency about it, but we've also got to vary it a bit.

So by presenting it thisway, I'm trying to show you how the harmonic rhythmworks in this piece.

So what have we got here? In the first bar, we've gota chord on the first beat, a new chord on the third beat.

The same pattern runs in the second bar, so a chord on the first beat, a chord on the second beat.

So it sets up a harmonicrhythm, doesn't it? A kind of expectation ofwhat it's going to do.

So when we get to the third bar, we think, “I know what's going to happen here.

“We're going to have one chord here, “we're going to have one chord there.

” So I've slightly changedit, we've got one chord taking up the first half of the bar, just like we have before.

But in the second half of the bar, instead of one chord, there are two chords there.

And that just gives youa little bit of energy in the harmonic rhythm.

And then in the next bar, the final bar, one chord on the first beat, anew chord on the second beat.

Well we haven't had that before, have we? And then one chord that takes up the second half of that bar.

So you see what's happeningwith the harmonic rhythm.

We've got one, two, three, four.

One, two, three, four.

One, two, three, four.

One, two, three, four.

So you can hear the harmonic rhythm has a kind of rhythmic life of its own.

It sets up this pattern I talked about, and then it starts to evolve the pattern.

Also you'll notice thatthe harmonic rhythm gets a little bit busier on the approach to the cadence at the end of the phrase.

That adds energy as weapproach the cadence.

So you might not wantto do that every time, but you might want to dothat some of the time.

So harmonic rhythm, consistency but variation, that's my third trick.

And the fourth one that I wantto talk about in this video is about rhythmic character, because one thing I find that people often do whenthey're writing melodies is they think about notesand they might think about some of this harmonic stuff as well, but they don't really think about rhythm.

So you look at the melody and it's just crotchet after crotchet or quaver after quaver, quarter notes, eighth notes, whatever.

And you need to get somevariety into the rhythm in order to make it have character.

If I use the same chordscheme but I had a melody that wasn't kind of fullof rhythmic character, it might sound like this.

And so on.

That was all right, nothing wrong with it, but it hasn't got the samekind of sparkle, has it? So what do I mean by rhythmic character? Well you don't want to havehundreds of different rhythms going on, because again, then the whole thing sounds a bit disjointed.

But neither do you wantto be just repeating the same old rhythms over and over again.

And the danger of that isthat people start to think, “I need to get the notes right, “maybe I'm thinkingabout the chords a bit”.

But then they don't kind ofrevisit it and then think, “How can I add a bit ofrhythmic sparkle to it?” Well, you see what's happening here, we've got this four-quaver idea, so that's kind of kicking us off.

This tied note is giving usa little bit of syncopation.

So syncopation comes there, and it comes again there.

You don't really wantto have a rhythmic thing that only happens once inthe course of a melody, otherwise it sounds as if itdoesn't quite belong to it.

So the idea of using ithere, then using it again is to make that belong tosomething that we've heard before.

We hear it again, we think, “Yeah this is part ofthe character of this.

” The idea that having had these quavers, we might have somesemiquavers that generate forward movement in therhythm, give us a bit of energy taking us into the next bar.

But if we had a whole piecethat ran around in semiquavers, or sixteenth notes, we'd findit all too much after a while.

So, little bit of a balance going on.

The same rhythm beingused in the first bar or the first measure, and the second bar or the second measure.

So I've used the same rhythm twice.

If I'd used the same rhythm a third time, it would have been too predictable.

So the third time, I'mchoosing to change that.

So what have I changed? Well, I've got rid of thetied note, the syncopation in the middle of the bar, but I've used this rhythm that we've had before.

It's just that when we've had it before, it's been part of the tied note.

This time, it isn't part of the tied note, so it's a kind of evolution.

At the end of this bar, two quavers there, but that's relating toquavers we've heard earlier, but previously the quavershave come as groups of four.

This time, only two of them.

This figure here, slightlydifferent in its melodic design from what we've had before, but again, we've had this quaver, two semiquavers.

We've certainly used it here.

This time it's repositioned.

It was on the third beat of the bar there, now it's on the first beat of the bar.

The idea of the four semiquavers, well we had them here, we had them there.

Slightly differentmelodic pattern this time, and it's a different place in the bar.

It was on the fourth beat there, now it's on the second beat.

And then right at theend is the longest note, and that's often what we need, something that's goingto settle at the cadence, particularly when we're coming to the end of a piece or the endof a section of a piece.

So there we have it, fourtricks that will enable you to write a decent melody.

So notes in the melodythat fit the harmony or the implied harmony, or that are legitimate inessential notes.

Thinking about the balance between conjunct and disjunct movement in the design of your melody.

Thinking about harmonic rhythm and then doing somethingto inject kind of character into the rhythm in a way that gives you consistency and variety.

And then of course, thereare lots of other things you want to think about.

What's the tempo? What's going on with the dynamics? What's the articulation going to be? These things are all issuesthat add to character, but those are my four tricksthat I offer you in this video.


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