Spice Up Your Melodies with Melodic Movement
Melodies are one of the core building blocks in music and are the element that gets stuck in your head the most. A catchy melody can be instantly recognizable. Just think of twinkle twinkle little star, or the happy birthday melody. Once you memorize these you might remember them for years and years without listening to them, maybe even for the rest of your life.
So melodies are incredibly important, and in this article we’re going to talk about how you can spice up your melodies with different types of melodic movement. Knowing these can help you keep in mind what your options are when you are writing your own, so they can sound unique and interesting.
If you’re stuck with your melody writing, try throwing in some of the ideas below.
Melodic Movements (and ideas for using them in songs)
Melodic movement is the movement from one note in a melody to another. This can be both higher or/and lower in pitch, or the notes may even stay on the same pitch (no movement).
When one note moves to the next, and that second note is higher in pitch it is said to be moving in an ascending motion. That’s it. Simple right?
If you were going to use this in a song, it would be useful to create a melodic line that ascends to something important like a chorus or an important motif in the song.
Ascending lines also build tension and give a rising feeling in the song, so they can be useful for transitioning into other song sections.
In contrast, when a note moves to the next, and that second note is lower in pitch it is said to be moving in a descending motion.
If you were to use this in a song you could have a descending line from a high intensity song section and transition to a lower intensity one.
Just as with ascending, descending melodies can be useful for transitioning out of one song section into another by setting the listener down gradually.
Repeated – The One Note Melody
This is an interesting one. It gets used a lot in modern music including pop and rock. Essentially the note of the melody is always the same, but it’s the rhythm of the notes, mixed with changes in the chords underneath that keep it from sounding monotonous and boring.
So for you to use it in a song, just repeat the lyrics but always sing the same note, and have the chords change underneath.
This melody is useful because it’s really easy for people to memorize and can also have the effect of emphasizing what you are singing.
Undulating – No Leaps
An undulating melody is a combination of ascending and descending melodic lines, but which don’t have any leaps between notes. They basically look like waves on sheet music.
This can give the melody a very flowy feel. You can mix long undulations and short undulations to keep it spicy and unpredictable.
These are melodies that have a large jump in pitch from one note to another. If you think of the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow you will notice a big leap from the first to the second note. That’s the type of motion we are referring to with this type of melody.
This type of melody is very useful to have and especially on your vocals because the leap tends to come as a surprise and people’s ears will perk up.
You’ll hear it all the time in songs where the singer will be singing his line and then leap to his falsetto.
I encourage any singer to throw in some leaps when they are trying to write vocal melodies because it’s just so damn tasty.
These are the type of melodies that repeat short sequences of notes but get moved around to higher or lower pitches.
If you practice an instrument for example, you will likely get given a series of exercises to help your coordination.
You might be asked to play a scale but only play the first three notes and then go to the second note and repeat the next three notes starting on that second note, and so on.
This would be a sequence, and they are used often in songs for improvisation to make fast sequenced licks. You see these a lot in jazz but also in rock and metal. You could make some great riffs with this.
Wrapping it up
As you can see, there are many options to choose from when creating melodies. As beginners transition to becoming more advanced melody makers they will begin to experiment with different types of movement.
Of course at the end of the day, a good melody isn’t determined by how many techniques it uses. So think of melodic movement more as a tool to experiment with when you’re making melodies and things are sounding a little too basic or stale. These can serve to switch things up and be more unpredictable so you can add that element of surprise.
When making melodies, the important thing to remember is to make it catchy, emotive, and it helps if it’s singable (although some great melodies are not that easy to sing, just think of Flight of the Bumblebee. Great melody, very catchy, and REALLY hard to sing lol).
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