music composer
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writing melodies tips 1 to 3 counter-melodies & chorus/verse melodies tips 4 to 6
melodic intervals & leaps tips 7 to 9

Song Structures
basic song structure examples repeated verse and AABA
pop song structures verse/chorus & bridge
pre chorus song structures verse/prechorus/chorus bridge & coda structures

Music Arranging
orchestration & midi arranging tips 1 - 3
recording & arranging tips tips 4 - 6
more music arranging tips tips 7 - 10

Becoming a composer how to become a composer tips one to five
how to become a composer tips six through to ten
how to make a demo CD tips on making and marketing your showreel

Tuitionin composing music production schools reviews of some top music production colleges in the USA how to choose a music school factors to consider when choosing where to study music composition lessons a check-list for subjects to study within music composition


counter-melody & chorus/verse melodies

part two - tips 4 - 6


4. Write counter-melodies

This is a technique very common in musical theatre, when we may have a duet, or song for a number of singers to perform. We can also employ this technique when writing orchestral scores or instrumental works. A counter-melody (or countermelody) occurs when a secondary melody happens at the same time as a main melodic theme. In musical theatre, this technique can help facilitate conversation between characters, and enable the narrative to move forwards. More sophisticated counter-melodic writing may involve recalling themes from previous songs and combining these together into one song. For example, consider  “One Day More” from the musical “Les Miserable”.

This combines a number of themes that have been heard earlier in the Act, such as the comical theme sung by the inn keeper and his wife  (“Master of the House”)
and “I Dreamed a Dream” (this theme is repeated on the words “I did not live until today”).

Two tips for how to write effective counter-melodies:-

  • If the original melody is quite busy, write something which is slower with more sustained notes. The theme in “One Day More” is very simple, and allows space for the other more complex themes to work against it.

  • Consider composing the counter melody in a different register to the original melody. If the original is high in pitch, then write something that is lower. For example, if in an orchestral work, you have written a theme on the flute, try writing a counter-melody on the cello. The two parts will be much easier to distinguish than say, writing two different melodies for the flute and the violin.

    5. Verse And Chorus Melodies in Song


Verse Melodies

Here’s a couple of tips for composing melodies in the verse section of a song:-

Generally, this is the part of the song that delivers the lyrical content. I try to write something more melodically unusual, and less predictable in this section. (unless the chorus is an unusual and complicated melody, in which case I might mirror this with a very simple verse melody).

Verse melodies are usually lower in pitch than their chorus melody counter-parts.

Chorus Melodies

Here’s a few tips for writing melodies in the chorus section:-

  • Look to go high. Normally the highest notes in the song are found in the chorus. These high notes often occur right at the start of the chorus, and can sometimes be followed by even higher notes later in this section.

  • Melodies can resolve at the end of this section, often falling onto the tonic chord on the last note of the chorus.

  • Melodies can also be less resolved. This is a more contemporary songwriting technique, as evidenced by the chorus’s of songs such as “Run” by Snow Patrol. Notice that at the end of the chorus the melody finishes on a G chord (the dominant). There is no last line that “rounds off” the section onto the tonic.

  • Consider writing the chorus higher than you would normally be able to sing it yourself. (unless you are a singer/songwriter!) Or write in a key that you can sing it in, and then transpose it upwards for a trained singer to record. Why? Songs which are sung high have a quality that “escapes” us (because we are unconsciously unable to reach these heights).

  • For example, the song “Angels” (by Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers) hits an F# at the start of the chorus, followed by a top G# on the word “protection”. The soaring quality of the melody (from the verse into the chorus) is amplified by the fact that most of us would not be able to reach this note.



 6. Recording and Cataloging

I find that some of my best musical ideas happen when I least expect them. I might be mowing the lawn, or driving the car, and suddenly start singing something. So for me, capturing these moments of inspiration are very important. I have two ways of doing this:-
I use my mobile phone, which has a mp3 recorder built it, to quickly record material that might come to me “on-the-fly”.
I use my laptop, and a USB microphone (which I have perminantly sitting on the piano), for when the idea is a bit more definite. At that point a make a recording and write down any notes or lyrics (if it is a song). When I save it, I try to add a descriptive element to the title, such as “up tempo off-beat melodic idea”. Doing this has enabled me to create a catalogue of ideas, so when a large commission comes in, I already have a number of themes I can draw on.




Further Reading:-

writing melodies

In case you missed it, this is the first page in a series of three on how to develop melodies. This page begins by defining what melody is, and then goes on to look at two simple writing techniques - the "power of three" and the use of the pentatonic scale in musical composition.

intervals in melody and the golden ratio

The third page in the series on melody tips. Here we look at writing for community groups, the golden ratio in musical composition, and the use of more unusual intervals in songwriting.

music composing tips

A synopsis of the contents of this section. Covering a wide range of techniques for arranging and composing music. Also has a section on how to become a successful composer.

88 key keyboards

A short guide to buying electronic pianos and keyboards, which explains some of the terminology you're likely to run into, such as "touch sensitive keyboards" and "weighted action keys". Also contains links to reviews of the Yamaha p95, Casio px-330 and at the budget end the popular M-Audio Keystation Pro-88.



writing melodies p.1 - p.2 - p.3


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