How to create endless melodic content for songwriting
In this lesson we’re going to look at how to take a very simple idea, and shape it into something we can use for songwriting. This exercise can be done with any idea you have, and is a great way to brainstorm little snippets into bigger ideas.
This is the evolution of the idea. What started as 3 notes now has some rhythm as well. The 8th note pickup leading into C, followed up by the quarter note pickup going to C is what we will use.
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Now we create a 4 bar idea we use as the basis for our tune. This idea is easily repeated, catchy enough to work with. What we need now is harmony!
Shown here are (some) of the possible chords we use to work out the harmony of the tune we’ve created. The chords listed are only some that are possible. If you need a refresher on effective ways to practice chords, take a look at our lesson here.
Now the fun begins! Start experimenting with how your melody sounds over these chords. The first progression has a very D minor feel, finally ending on A minor.
This time we’ll stick with D minor as our starting chord, but use Bb Major 7th, also adding F, before going to D minor and ending on A minor as before.
This example starts off on F major, moving to A minor, and using G minor as well. Starting with F gives the melody a much different, uplifting feel.
Now we’ll begin using some of the more colorful chords, and see if they lend themselves to where we see this tune heading. Measure 4 has an E minor 7 flat 5, a much more unstable, wavering type of sound, that pulls the melody more than diatonic chords. Measure 5 uses E flat 9, even more unstable! So unstable, that we have to change the melody notes to better reflect the chord! You’ll notice the notes F and C# in the final bar!
Another idea with more complex chords injected into the melody! In measure 4, we use B minor 7 flat 5 this time, and since the Eb9 sounds good in the last example, we’ll use it here as well!
When experimenting with this approach, there are some things to be aware of:
- These examples were designed with minimal amount of technique. Any beginner up to advanced level guitar player can create simple melodies that can later become strong tunes.
- Your experience in chords and harmony are yours and your alone! Just because you don’t know 1000 chords does not mean you can’t come up with great ideas! After all, this melody was created with only 3 simple notes!
- Try not to “throw away” licks if they don’t turn out the way you want them to. The only way to improve is to make many mistakes. Learn to love whatever you create and keep going! Do not worry if it’s not the greatest song on planet earth! It’s yours!
What types of ideas have you come up with for your own songwriting? Let us know!