To me, the melody is a very important aspect of any track I listen to. Writing them, however, can be tricky. To make sure your tracks always include catchy melodic lines, I’ve prepared a list of 5 approaches of coming up with them.
#1: Improvising over other music
As I make mostly melodic genres, I like to start my tracks from a strong melody & chord progression. Before making any drums, I like to „brainstorm” a lot of melodies and to pick the strongest ones. I can improvise on the guitar, so I often come up with melodies by soloing to music I like. It’s almost like jamming with your favorite band! Then I match a chord progression to it. I often even change the chord progression from the track I was jamming to (what makes my idea even more unique). That way I’ve got a great starting point to a track and I can proceed onto production.
#2: Flume's approach
„If I'm making a melodic track I like to start with a chord progression and I just kind of sing… I can’t sing, but I’ll sing over this chord progression, like, over and over, for however long it takes — sometimes it’s like two minutes, sometimes it’s 20 minutes —until I’ve found like a hook or something that I’m really happy with. And then basically it just like that’s my melody and that’s where I start from.”
Tip: Try also whistling or singing random lyrics over your progression.
#3: Adding Rhythm
Sometimes when you add rhythm to your progression, your mind will give you a hint of a melody. Try making some drums for your chord progression with melodies turned off. Another way of adding rhythm can be to make your progression more rhythmic. If you can make a great groove, chances are that a melody will pop into your head subconsciously. If you still can’t find a melody, try improvising to your own chord progression with an instrument you’re fluent with, using your voice, or by drawing in notes in Clip View.
Tip: To make improvising easier, try transposing your chord progression to a key you’re familiar with (for example C major - that way on the piano you’ll be improvising only with white keys).
Another tip: To make sure you’re always in your key when you’re drawing in notes in the Clip View:
1. Insert notes for all keys of your scale and move them outside the loop
2. Click the Fold button to hide all other notes. Now you’re left only with notes from your scale and you can safely draw in melodies.
By the way, we are offering a great MIDI Pack with predesigned melodies and chord progressions to chose from as inspiration. Also, if you want to dive deeper into writing chords, feel free to take a look at our course: Harmony & Chord Progressions.
#4: Using Acapellas
If there are already thousands of existing melodies, why not remix them a little? Try taking an acapella and chopping it up to create a melody. Two ways you can do this in Ableton:
- Drum Rack technique - here’s an article on how to do that
- You can also throw an acapella on an audio track, manually pick out parts you like, and try to form a pattern out of them.
Try remixing an old Soul acapella like Flume:
On writing „Holdin On”: I wrote this one after a trip to my friend Mike’s. When I go over to all the producers places i’m always like „give me some samples.. what do you got, we can exchange some”(…) and he gave me this soul acapella CD - all these acapellas from soul singers. I had that one (Anthony White - "I Can't Turn You Loose”) and I just had these chords that I was walking around with. I just kind of put it over that and it just turned out awesome. I took a part of the verse and twisted it and kind of made it into what it is today. I just went from there and that one came together pretty quickly.”
[Source: Flume's "Producer Disc"]
#5: Using Velocity
Another tactic can be making chord progressions in clip view and sneaking in melodies with velocity. If you make a note louder, it will catch the listener’s attention.
If you’re going for a more condensed sound try inserting some notes around your chords. To separate your melody from the progression you can elevate it by an octave.
You can also try messing around with extended chords (7th, 9th, 11th, 13th). That will make your progression sound more jazzy + those additional notes can add more melodic value.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your melody writing. See you in the next articles!
I’m k-pizza, a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I’m regularly going to show up with music and content at PML.
Here’s a video with Francois writing a melody around a chord progression:
We are offering a great MIDI Pack with predesigned melodies and chord progressions to chose from as inspiration. Also, if you want to dive deeper into writing chords, feel free to take a look at our course: Harmony & Chord Progressions.