Do you wonder how to make breathtaking melodies? You might not know a lot of music theory, but even though that helps tremendously in creating melodies, there is another easy way you can do it.
In the four-step approach that we will unveil in this article, you will learn how to build the skeleton to your melody, relying on your ears and what sounds good to you.
If you follow this outline, you will have a much easier time making melodies than before.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
1. Figure Out Your Bass Notes
A great way to make melodies is to draw your bassline notes. It doesn’t have to be with your actual bass synth or instrument, though.
By drawing your bassline notes out in your synth of choice, you have a foundation to work from and can hear if the rest of your melody fits.
If you already have a bassline in place and want to build a melody on top of it, draw the same notes in your melody synth.
You use the bass notes because they are the foundation of your track. They tell you which root key your need to write your melody in.
If it fits your bassline – it fits your track. Therefore, start by writing your bassline notes to set your key.
2. Choose Your Repeating Notes
Our ears (and brain) love recognizability. In melodies, this means returning to familiar notes or patterns along your track when your melody plays.
By setting up your repeating notes from the start, you both create the recognizability factor and get one step closer to a finished melody.
When you use repeat notes is completely up to you. You can set one up every 1/16, 1/8, or 1/4 – even 1/2. It’s completely up to you and what sounds good in your music.
And with your bassline notes in place, you can also check to see if they match.
When you have set up your repeating notes, it’s time to fill in the gaps.
3. Fill In The Gaps
With your bassline and repeating notes in place, now is the time to fill in the gaps. This is the tricky part since it's the real beef of your melody, but it's also one of the most fun.
When you fill in the gaps, you start crafting your entire melody, for real. And like the previous steps, you’re now only building the foundation, not the finished melody.
The goal of filling in the gaps is setting out which notes you want to put where. This process is trial and error and a lot of experimenting.
It also gets easier with experience and practice to start hearing what sounds good and fits together.
However, an excellent tip for beginning to put notes together is humming. If you have other parts of your track already in place, start humming a melody to it. See what comes up and sounds natural. Most of us have this ability – even non-musical people.
When you have filled in the gaps, it’s time to move to the last step.
4. Play Around
Now it’s time for the truly fun part – playing around with your melody to make it that much better!
After doing the previous stages, you might want to change things up. You can reduce note length, add or remove notes, or add octaves.
Because this is an experimental stage, without any “one-fits-all” solution, it’s up to you what you do.
But we have a few tips still that might help you out…
Three points to consider when making your melody:
- Note length
- Chords or octaves
Note length can have a great impact on how your melody is perceived and played. Decide if you want short, plucky notes or more sustained notes for your melody. You can also combine the two, using both ultra-short notes and longer notes to change things up.
Groove is also important. It's not exclusive for drums – every element in your track adds to your track's groove and especially your lead melody. The type of groove you decide on tells you how to write your notes.
Chords are several notes together, forming a harmonic key. When crafting your melody, you don’t have to rely on single notes. Make your melody more powerful by turning your notes into chords. Add notes that sound great together with your melody and your bassline. Or add the same pattern, an octave up or down, in the same key.
Producer Tip For Melodies
Turn off your piano roll grid and offset your notes a couple of milliseconds offbeat. If you use chords or notes in different octaves, offset them from each other as well. We’re talking tiny changes, barely noticeable.
But rest assured, this technique makes a huge difference in your track and how it’s perceived. It humanizes your synths, making them sound like a real person is playing them, rather than a computer.
Note: turning off the grid in Live 10 is not necessary, because you can still drag your notes offbeat.
Learn Music Theory To Make Your Melodies Even Better
Music is chords, notes, progressions and arrangements. To become a better producer, it's critical you have a solid understanding in all of these areas related to music theory.
Luckily, we have a bundle of our three Music Theory Courses, which are both fast and easily applicable in your own productions, whether you make Deep House, Future Bass or Techno.
Learn all the:
- Basics in chord progression and harmonies
- Secrets to crafting melodies that hooks your listeners
- Essentials in arranging a track from just an 8-bar loop
Sound cool? Check it out!
Click here to learn everything you need in Music Theory.
Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.