Create melodic differentiation
Give song sections distinct melodies
- You want a section of your song to sound different melodically
- You need multiple ways to create the distinction
Creating melodies is simultaneously really simple and very complicated. There’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple and trusting your ear/how it feels. That said however there are really useful ideas that can help you up your melody game.
This recipe is focused on the five most important melody decisions of melody with regard to making a section of music distinct from others. Read more about melodies and learn some additional tips and tricks.
Five ways to make change with melody
1. Follow or avoid root notes of chords
Let’s imagine we are using a well known one, five, six, four (I, V, vi, IV) progression in A Major. Our chords are A major (I), E major (V), F minor (vi), D Major (IV). If our melody uses lots of the root notes of those chords (AEFD) we can be said to be following the roots.
Following roots tends to feel heavy, simple and stable. It could feel unsophisticated but resolved.
Choosing other notes from the chord or other notes from the scale can create a wide range of other feelings. One way to think about the notes available to you is the notion of functional pairs. Try this for yourself. How do these different note choices make your melody feel?
Functional Pairs example in A
2. Change the melody shape
If the melody in your verse is going down perhaps the pre-chorus should go up. Lets imagine that there are 6 basic melody shapes:
- Single note (static)
- inverted arch
Try out what happens when you use different shapes in different song sections. Additionally pay attention to what the melody does in relation to the bass movement in the song. Are they moving in the same direction or different direction. Try this out and see how it changes the feel of the song or composition.
3. Chord tones vs non-chord tones
NB: If you don’t have any chords in your song yet don’t worry come back to this one when you have.
Compare your melody to the chords or harmony. Using notes that are in the chords underneath makes for a stable feeling. Using tones that aren’t makes for a significantly different feel. If you use chord tones in the verse try using non chord tones in the pre-chorus or chorus.
4. Steps, skips, leaps and static motion
How your melody moves make a big difference to the feeling it creates. See the table below for a description of your options. Try using steps in one section and leaps in another.
The melody stays on one note. Perhaps with an occasional outing to the note above or below in the scale
The melody moves to notes directly above or below the current note in the scale
The melody moves by jumping over a note or two in the scale
The melody moves further up or down the scale. Typically anything larger than a 3rd might be a leap.
Modern, emphasises the rhythmic content
Connected, stable and controlled even neat
Energetic and dynamic
Powerful and dramatic
Many Tailor Swift songs
Much baroque classical music
The Imperial March Starwars. Super hero themes
5. Lower or raise pitch in comparison to other sections
Lastly a very simple and widely used technique to make change between sections. Take the pitch pitch up or down. This technique is often used in pop and rock.
Now you have explored melodic differentiation take a look at making change using rhythm, harmony and lyrics.