6 Tips to Write a Good Melody for Your Lyrics

By David Bawiec, Spire Contributor | February 20, 2019

 

Feature Image - Melody

Love your lyrics but stuck writing a melody that fits? It happens to everyone. Here’s a round-up of the best tips to help you break past writer’s block and create beautiful melodies that match your lyrics.

1. Listen to the rhythm

First and foremost, sing it as you’d say it. Meaning, try to match the natural rhythm of the words as you would say them. Record yourself speaking the lyrics and see what types of rhythms are naturally within your groove. Is it mostly 8th notes? Are there any words that seem to want to be longer? Are you speaking things more in a triplet fashion? Make note of this and start speaking your lyrics to a groove to see how they fit.

If you’re feeling adventurous, learn how to incorporate polyrhythms into your next composition. Polyrhythms help to enhance music by expanding its depth and character. Unique time signatures also help to establish personality and emotion.

2. Scale choices

One of the first melodic decisions you’ll have to make will be related to the scale. Although there are over a dozen different scales, the two primary ones are major/minor. Look to your lyrics for clues as to which one you should be going with. You want the scale to match the story intention. When they don’t match is when you create irony. So be conscious of these choices.

Better understand the relationship between melodic notes, scales, and diatonic chords to help your melody become a real ear-worm.

sheet music upright piano scale keyboard

3. Listen for pitch variations

Every sentence you say when speaking it out loud has a natural flow to the pitches within. In the English language, questions tend to rise. Statements move downward at the end of the phrase. Consider giving your melody similar motion that will match natural pitch inflictions of your sentences. If you’re desperate or screaming, you’d probably be doing so in a high pitched voice, so give your melody in that section higher pitched notes to match the intention.

Learn the fundamentals of vocal pitch correction to ensure your vocal productions sound great right out the door.

4. Align the accented syllables

Every word, regardless of language, has an accented syllable. Figure out what those key points are and try to align the different words accordingly in the rhythm of each measure.

Say the word ‘wonderful’. It has three syllables: won-der-ful, with the accented one being the first, so you get won-der-ful. You would never say won-der-ful or won-der-ful.

If you know where the natural accents of words lie, it’s easier to align the different words and syllables within each measure. As a test, try to ‘incorrectly’ place an unaccented syllable on beat 1 and see how it feels. Probably very unnatural.

To make them feel natural, accented syllables should land on downbeats, beats 1 and 3 in 4/4 time. That way you utilize the natural musical rhythmic ‘accents’ of your time signature and place the matching syllables on them. Place unaccented syllables on all other beats and things will naturally start to flow well.

Song blocking is a great method to ensure your lyrics have a natural flow and emphasis.

Combat Correspondent

5. Placement of keywords

Just like each word has a syllable that’s important, each sentence will also have a focal-point word. Take the following phrase as an example: ‘I have nothing to give you now.’

The way I see it, it has 6 words that could play the role of the keyword. Read it in various ways, each time emphasizing the different word:

I have nothing to give you now

I have nothing to give you now

I have nothing to give you now

I have nothing to give you now

I have nothing to give you now

I have nothing to give you now

Depending emphasized word, the phrase’s message alters significantly. Consider this when determining the placement of the whole phrase in the rhythm of your bar. Try to place the most important word in the most powerful position, beat 1, to ensure people focus on your primary word and the overall message of your lyrics.

Another method to emphasize your leading word is to give it a longer note length. Follow a series of short notes with a long note for stronger emphasis. It’s an effective way to forefront a word and punctuate your song in a way that communicates your style and personality.

If you’re having trouble writing lyrics, try using dummy lyrics, different rhyme schemes in your songs,

6. Look for clues in the words

If you’re stuck on how your melody should move, sometimes all you need to do is look at the words themselves. If you’re talking about “falling,” try making your melody “fall” as well. Give the sentence a motion that moves downward in pitches. If your song is about “Rising from the ashes,” try matching that by giving your melody an upward motion. Listen to the first line of the chorus to “You Raise Me Up.” Yep, you guessed it, the melody moves upward.

Conclusion

I hope these six tips help you jumpstart melody writing for your next song! Writing melodies can be a particularly fun if daunting process, so I hope these tools help you out when you make your primary melodic and lyrical decisions.