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Melody Problems

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by relman, Jun 14, 2002.

  1. Hey steve...mind if i ask a few questions?

    I am having various problems with songwriting. Short grooves seem to come in by the thousands, and i can come up with decent progressions, but i don't seem to be able to come up with melodies that make me happy. I can hum out melodies and progress from there, but they never seem to fit the piece and never seem to flow. I'm not looking for anything too complicated, but not as simple as say, Miles' "Freddie the Freeloader".

    My work is mostly Jazz/Funk/Psychedelic Rock oriented. my knowledge of theory is a bit limited, but i believe that for a melody one shouldn't think directly of notes but should base them on the feel of the piece. I listen to a lot of music, from Hard Rock to Jazz, to funk, reggae, blues, Blues Rock, 60's Psych+Pop etc...but i do seem to get into cycles where i will only listen to certain things...

    Is there anything you suggest that could help me come up with ideas? Should i look into more theory? Should I try to write on another instrument? Am I truly insane?:D


  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    hi Relman,

    there are various ways to expand your palette and to get some ideas...

    theory - learning music theory is a great way of getting sounds into your head - as you learn how chords relate to keys, and how all the notes in the key relate to each chord, you'll be playing those shapes and patterns and training your muscle memory - start with arpeggio patterns, all the 7th chords in the key of C, and once you've got the shapes down play them against a musical reference (either looping your bass, or using band in a box) to hear how they sound... just give yourself a Cmaj7 and play all the arpeggios against that, listening to the tensions and resolutions.

    transcribing - working out other people's melodies is a great way to get ideas for the mechanics of melody writing - take some simple melodies that work for you, and look at what's happening in relation to each chord - are they starting on a chord note? are there any 'outside' notes? how are tensions and release employed.

    recording yourself - when you're working on tunes, record what you do - coming back to it, you may find that things work really well that at the time didn't sound so great.

    playing with other musicians - this just focuses your thinking in relation to music, and stops you from just noodling (ideally...)

    I hope that lot helps...


  3. steve_man

    steve_man Supporting Member

    May 15, 2002
    I have one more suggestion for to help you with you bass melodies.

    Put on some CD's of music that you like and sing!

    that's right I said sing. I don't care if you can sing or not I'm not going to around you.


    just kidding

    but go somewhere where you are alone and start singing.

    Also try singing all different parts to the song. Once you have done that why not try to throw in a melody yourself and sing it.

    I used to sing in choir a lot. I then picked up bass and here I am nearly 7 years later and I'm still using the things that I learned from singing.

    I actually found an article by Marcus Miller in Bass Player Magazine and he said that if you can sing it you can play it on bass guitar

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