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iandawg

How the hell do you write a good vocal melody?

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I've been writing all sorts of cool chord progressions and riffs but I cannot write a good vocal melody for the life of me! Any tips on writing vocal parts?

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let someone else write the vocal melody if its so hard to you. not everybody is able to come up with something decent, so better let try someone who can. if you'r good at writing the music, than fine, do that and find a writing partner.

there are no secrets for good vocal melodies.

 

Someone in your head sings a divine melody for you ;)

 

if you know what i mean.

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this isn't my strong point either but i find that it helps if you have an idea of the lyrics you'd like to have in the song, then you have something that you can work with... you can get an idea of what you can fit into each verse/chorus... i usually hum or sometimes i think about how it should sound - i make it up in my head then try to sing it... or sometimes it just kinda happens...

 

or you coud get a writing partner who can come up with melodies, like zinzin said

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I'm in the same boat. Have a songwriting partner who just spits 'em out, but I'd like to be more independent - do them on my own. It can be learned, definitely. Just gotta get a feel for it , I suppose. But working with him has helped. I'm sure I'll absorb a bit.

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Has anybody tried a piano or music software like Cakewalk or Sibelius? I guess those are totally different approaches than trying to hear it in your head, but has anyone had success with them?

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Originally posted by iandawg

I've been writing all sorts of cool chord progressions and riffs but I cannot write a good vocal melody for the life of me! Any tips on writing vocal parts?

 

I can't help you here bud. Melodies just come to me naturally. I don't know how many others would agree but I'm pretty happy with the melodies I have created. My songwriting partner is a lyricist. He also happens to be my best friend who I've known for 25 years. He gives me all kinds of lyrics and when something hits me, we have a song within an hour afterwards.

 

But I create the melodies on my own and he's hardly ever been around when I've done it. I think the fact that I know him so well allows me to take his lyrics and create a melody that conveys the feeling of the lyrics. It's worked pretty well for us over the years (at least as far as we're concerned).

 

I don't know if I have useful advice for you because I haven't had to work hard to come up with melodies once the inpiration hits. The only thing I could suggest is that you might try humming while playing your chord progressions and try to get a feel for what goes well with each progression. Record your humming on a boom box or something just in case you think you come up with something useful. Other than that, I don't know what to tell you.

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It is tough because I write a lot of music, and a lot of lyrics, and I would like to put the two together, but my melodies suck, or all sound completely the same! Maybe it is the chords I use. Do any of you guys find it harder to do with dissonant/jazzy/suspended type chords (Dave Matthews chords)?

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you could try and play a simple lead-guitar-melody over your chords and try to sing the guitar-line, sometimes it works for me

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Ok, i think I've got it! I started to substitute my weird chords for basic major and minor chords and it became a lot easier. I think this is because I could hear the tonic notes and the fundamental better. Then I switched back to the original chords w/new melody and it sounded pretty good!

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Really pay attention to the melodies that other people have done in their music. Sometimes people who mainly play guitar get caught up in listing to the riffs, solos, and rythems, and they just take the melody for granted. Really active listening helps immensely. I've learned a lot from the melodies of Radiohead, Rusted Root, Peter Mulvey, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Jurrasic 5, ...

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I'm not very good at coming up with great melodies, but maybe I can help. Often when I'm working on a song I struggle to think of how lyrics could fit it in more than one way - like I have a set song idea in my head which isn't particularly good, and I just can't force a melody around the chords using the lyrics I've got. Often I have to re-write the chords a little, rejig the lyrics' phrasing maybe. To think in a different mindset usually means I need to take a break - listen to an album or go and do something else, then come back to the same song and often you approach in a different, 'better' way.

 

I wouldn't agree with 'if you need to ask, then get someone else to do it' because it seems to me that it is a skill that you develop that gets better and more easy with time.

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Originally posted by Platypus

I wouldn't agree with 'if you need to ask, then get someone else to do it' because it seems to me that it is a skill that you develop that gets better and more easy with time.

 

 

I'll second that!

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i think it works best if you write from the melody... a good melody is the main part of a song.... then write the chords... of course, you come up with progressions to use, or grooves... then, i think it's best to try improvising over the chords until something grabs you... then use that... sometimes a lyrical phrase, or a simple melody... work with that.. the problem with writing is often commiting yourself to one melody... which is why i like to start there, but at some point, you have to commit and just get it done (my ultimate weak point)

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I have much the same problem but while reading the thread I remembered a technique I used to use. Sort of a "Rhymin Simon" type thing. WhenI was writing poetry, I'd just go around the doing typical stuff making silly rhymes in my head about typical thoughts I was having...

Gotta get some butta

do I need any other

salad will be nice

I can keep it in the ice

box bay-bee...!

 

Just typical day to day stuff and do it to whatever comes into your head. The idea is not to control it or come up with some great lyric, it's to get the mind thinking in those terms. Then when I sat down to actually create something the process wasn't alien to me. See?

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I think Patshep is onto something. Consider this...

Classical musicians, in my experience, tend to be able to spit out melodies faster than they can be written down. Rock musicians, on the other hand, tend to have a much richer sense of harmonic and rhythmic structure.

Try thinking like a cellist or a clarinet...ist.

One method that's worked for me is to sing in the car without the radio on. Just scat out random notes at first: nobody can hear you anyway. Eventually the random notes you hit should begin to make some sense. Then, as Patshep (I think) was saying, build the chords and whatever around that. Let that be the easy part.

A nice benefit of this method is that your songs will be custom fit to your own vocal range and style.

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its kind of hard to make a vocal melody up on the spot while your playing, even if it is just a simple chord progression. I can hum something on top of my friends music thats great, and vice versa, but never alone. I was considering recording guitar work as soon as I possibly could so I can hum something and make a vocal melody (maybe even words) before its all too familiar (or it starts mutating), if that makes sense.

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For me, two things:

 

1. "na-na-na's" (or humming/jibberish)

 

2. Key words

 

I find it easier to come up with subject matter and lyrics if I free my mind up by singing "na-na's" (rather than trying to come up with words on the fly). Then the occasional key word pops in my head...which usually relates to the mood of the music. Then I work backward and forward from there.

 

Usually, the right word or sentence comes along and I end up singing that one part over and over until the other parts evolve.

 

I rarely force lyrics into a part unless thery're just temporary. I like to keep it open until the right words completely fill the song. Ain't nothing worse than finding that perfect word or phrase AFTER the song's been recorded...but it happens.

 

Some are advising to just let someone else do it for you. Well, that's fine unless you want (or need) to sing your own heart-felt lyrics...which is where I'm coming from. Maybe I'm being selfish, but it's like having some other guy tell your girl how much you love her...wierd!

 

Good luck!!

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Well, don't get too frustrated. That's all I can say. I haven't written many songs, lyrically, that I like, but the ones I have written, came when ready I guess. I stressed over this one song for the longest time and never came up with anything. Then, one day in the shower, the chorus hit me. The verses just lined up after that. It was weird, but once I stopped worrying about it, it happened. Also, I know this guy that "lyrics come easily" to, but all of his lyrics are very corny. I'm sorry to be critical of him, but it's not just me. Many people think so. So, maybe having trouble with lyrics is a good thing. It gives you the time and ability to second guess your work and shows that you have a taste for what you are doing. This is more of an encouragement post than anything else, sorry....

 

Lauren ;)

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First of all I agree with all the posts here so far!

 

Try learning the melodies of the songs that you love. Don't just learn to sing them, but pluck them out on your instrument, learn to play them in all 12 keys, and learn the melodies in solfege (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, si do). This will give you a greater understanding of what makes a great melody. I do all three of these when I am learning cover songs. This has really helped me with my writing and improvisation too. There is something about approaching a subject from several different angles that gives you a greater understanding of what you are trying to do. This will help you develop your melodic sense. The more you do it the more natural it we be for you.

 

Boozy

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Good melodies come by persistance. Try different approaches like using a different instrument for accompanyment or no instrument. Sometimes they just come when you least expect it. Again, be persistant...and patient!

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Persistence is the only constant in songcraft. With respect to how you go about writing, there are as many different ways to do it as there are writers. Regular practice at writing, just like with playing you rinstrument, can only help. Keep working on it, and you will figure out your way of getting things done.

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Sounds like you really enjoy your guitar parts. it also sounds like you have knowledge or at least a grasp on theory. So what i would do is sing scales. major and minor. Then take the first chord out of one of your songs (the first chord thats not an intro or instrumental.... a part dedicated for singing.) and sing the scale that its based off to the chord. Don't change to the next chord. Just stay on the first one and sing a major or minor scale( major 7th or minor 7th if need be.) Scales are the base for all western music so this will help you understand and hear harmonys. Then do the same thing for the next chord. The scale will contain every note that can be sung to that chord. After your mind is trained to hear the scale in your head you won't need to do the scales out loud. Just pick the notes that sound best. This helps me be more creative and it will increase your vocal range garanteed if you keep it up.

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Don' forget about the rhythm! Remember there are only 12 notes...that is it...just 12! Melody is really about rhythm sometimes refered to as phrasing. I'm sure that you can think of some great 3 or 4 note hooks that rely on careful placement of the notes. Study how the greats have done it... You will get the knack (no pun intended) with practice.

 

Here is a fun excersise:

 

Take one of your favorite songs. Keep the same motif (phrasing), but change the notes.

 

BC

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