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How to write catchy melodies

Writing melodies is the part every music producer tries to improve on each song. The thing about creating melodies is that you can't give straight-up tips since most of the time it's a lot about jamming over your song. Since a lot of you probably produce different genres, I want to give you tips that you can apply to all genres. Let's get started!




Table of Contents:

1 - Scale & key

2 - Piano

3 - ABBC

4 - Hum the melody

5 - Sound selection

6 - Effects


 

1 - Scale & key


Before creating a melody, you usually want to choose a scale and key you want to work in. Sometimes the scale is already defined by the vocalist or by a loop you're starting with. Most DAWs come with an integrated tool that shows you the scale highlighted in the piano roll. If you're not that familiar with music theory, I highly recommend using it. As soon as you've selected the scale and key you want to work in, you can start.




2 - Piano


The next step is to load up your favorite piano VST and laying down some chords. When I start with a vocal demo, I usually try to fit the progression to the rhythm of the vocals. This will give you a first feeling for the direction of the song and is important for the next step, the melody!



Now it's time to create a melody. For me, it's usually just playing random notes until I find something I like. Again, if you work with a vocal, you can try following the vocal melody at first and using it as the foundation. If you're not working with vocals there are different methods you can use for writing melodies, like the ABBC method.


3 - ABBC


The ABBC method is super simple, let me explain. In the picture below you can see the melody of Martin Garrix's - High On Life.



The first thing you may notice is that the melody looks super simple and is kind of repetitive. Yes, it is, but the ABBC structure makes it more interesting and catchy. You start with the A-part and duplicate it four times. On the second and third (B-part) you create a small change. On the fourth bar (C-part), you go for some bigger changes but try to stay with the same rhythm. This is not just awesome for creating super catchy melodies but it makes it super easy too. In other cases ABAC could work as well.


4 - Hum the melody


Another method that works well is just humming over the chord progression. Humming is great because you're not limited by music theory or the skills of playing a specific instrument. It's just jamming until you find something catchy. The hardest part is to translate the melody from your humming into the piano roll.




5 - Sound selection


Don't think about melodies just in notes. Music nowadays has gotten super varied because of the huge sound selection you get just with a small computer. You have unlimited combinations of sounds and that's another area where you can make melodies catchy. A piano melody can sound nice but it probably gets boring soon.


That's why you need to use layering and sound design to make things catchy. So here is what to do: Put your melody in the piano roll and select your favorite VST. Go through different presets until you find something you like. Duplicate it and look for another sound. This will make the melody more present and unique! Sometimes you can highlight some of the defining notes in your melody and add an extra sound to emphasize those notes.




6 - Effects


Effects can take your melodies to the next level. Sometimes a well timed delay can suddenly bring a melody alive, and a reverb could add to the emotion. Play around with all sorts of effects and have fun with it. You might discover something magical.



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