Dismiss Notice

Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Writing melody

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Nick Gann, Jun 7, 2003.


  1. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
    Hey guys, I like this new forum! I think I will be finding lots of good stuff in here :)

    Well, I am writing a song, and I think it is cool so far. I have a groove bass line on the bottom. The chord progression is D E G D, and the key is D minor. My biggest problem with writing music is the melody. I can get good bass lines, good grooves, but the melody always is a pain to me. Any suggestions, things to work on?
     
  2. Play the chord progression over and over again and scat-sing a melody over it. That's how a lot of composers do it.
     
  3. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    Learning melodies from your favorite tunes in any genre is good food for the creative musical mind. It's even better if you can sing them with no instrument in hand, including the tunes where there are no vocals or lyrics.
     
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I think the advice offered by DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY is right on the money - singing will get you the most musical melodic results in most cases, as it's the truest indication of what you're really hearing that I know of. At the same time, there are some other tricks you can try to get you started if you are stuck at some point or another, or if you find yourself temporarily bereft of ideas. But this requires more specific details about your chord progression. Can you fill us in?
     
  5. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    QUICKSAND,

    So far, what you've got is just a groove with no actual harmony yet. The bassline's in D minor, and it sounds like it's played in "E" position with a detuned fretless. At this point, the implied scale is is D natural minor, and the bass line includes a passing tone between the b7 and octave, which is not at all uncommon....so I'd look at that basic note collection for melodic ideas until some actual harmony emerges, at which point you can go into more detail with things.
     
  7. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
    Hmm, ok. I'll try to work on it.

    I really need to read up on my theory.
     
  8. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
    I don't want to make another thread on the same subject, so I will ask here.

    What do you mean by what you said up there? The bass line having a passing tone between b7 and octave? What note collection are you talking about?

    I'm still a baby in theory. I know more than many, but not nearly enough to be proficient in it. Thanks for any help; I'm trying, but I still need someone to hold my hand for a little while ;)
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    No problem. Just try not to let your hand get all sweaty, okay? :) And anybody else who might have anything relevant to say on this subject, please feel free to chime in.
     
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think this question highlights why - say, a Jazz standard is suitable for studying theory, but most pop/rock songs aren't!

    So - a lot of "indie rock" things have no functional harmony and don't follow any rules of traditional music theory - so it isn't much help to you!

    Whereas, a Jazz standard, where the chords are fulfilling specific functions and the key is modulating through the circle of fifths, other keys are implied etc. etc. - demonstrates very well how theory can be applied to composition.
     
  11. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Hmm, I'm not sure if it's fair to say that about "indie rock"? However simple, IME, indie rock does tend to have proper harmony.

    I'd say it's more the metal (do I mean metal? I don't know...) side of things - where songs rely on power chords, that can lack the harmonic content.
     
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - definitions in these sub-genres can be difficult...I've never played in a real heavy metal band, but I've played in loads of bands that people thought of as "Indie rock" and the guitarists/composers invariably would know no theory and very few chords.

    I've played in bands like this where the guitarist only wrote songs using - "power chords" - so just root/fifth - relying on the rest of the band to fill out the harmony - and they definitely weren't 'heavy' in any way. ;)

    I didn't want to get hung up on this - just pointing out that Jazz tunes generally lend themselves more to harmonic analysis.
     
  13. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    What's the melody for? If it's a vehicle for vocals, you'll need to consider the words, which will help give specific shape to the general outline.

    One things for sure - writing a melody is a more 'creative' process than just 'painting the numbers' using a bit of theory. Even when you start pinning a few things down (eg. 'I want to start on F, the minor third of D, to emphasise the harmony'), you've still got a lot of choices.

    Wulf
     
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I certainly agree with that - it's easy enough to analyse a melody or harmony "after the fact" and maybe say why it "works" or is interesting - it is much harder to come up with ideas for melodies.

    So - classical composers will use all sorts of techniques to construct massive structures around fairly simple ideas or melodies - but you have to come up with the simple melody first !! ;)

    I often think that a symphony demonstrates how hard it is for musicians to write a simple melody - as once they get an idea, the great symphonists never let it go - they transform it in any way possible to make more music.

    So - a good example is Rachmaninov's "Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini" - a short melodic fragment is re-harmonised, played around with, turned upside down etc. etc.
     
  15. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Definitely.
     
  16. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Well I ain't Woody Shaw or Jo Brahms, but here's my two cents.

    a) There's a short list of elements in composing: Chords, rhythm, melody, lyrics, harmony lines, counterpoint. Have I missed something? Anyway, you can start with any of them. If I have a "chord" notion, I'll write chords first, then melodies. I often write rhythms which I know will become melodys. I've written music from Khalil Gibran's poetry. Try all the approaches. Bust out of your rut!

    b) Don't get locked into a draft or version. Maybe, Nick, you write a melody that doesn't work with your riff. Be open to changing the riff. Be open to changing the melody. See what happens when you take your riff into a different meter.

    c) Most of my melodies are melodic. (It sounds simple, but it might not be!) Long notes tend to be melodic; short bursts tend to be rhythmic. But check it out, draw and abandon your own conclusions.

    Like it says on the back of eighty million Frisbees, "Flat flip flies straight. Tilted flip curves. Experiment!" Good luck!