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


melodic intervals and leaps


part three - tips 7 - 9


7. Writing melodies for community singing

Here’s some guidelines to consider if you are writing vocal lines for people who may not be trained in singing (for example, writing songs for school children to sing, writing congregational worship songs or hymns, or composing for other community groups):-

  • Consider the pitch range. I try to write within the range of one and a half octaves. Most people are able to sing from B (below middle C) to the D just over one octave higher. I never exceed the range of A (below middle C) to top E. If I need to use these notes, they will only feature briefly and will not be held for too long. (It is interesting to note that many nineteenth century hymns hit top F’s, some even reach F#’s. However, modern hymn writing rarely goes above E, leading some commentators to suggest that the average vocal range has dropped in pitch in the last century).

  • Avoid difficult melodic leaps. Intervals such as the flattened seventh (C to Bb) and diminished fifth (C to F#) should be avoided as they are difficult to pitch.

  • Write clear cues. Write a short introduction which sets the pace, and makes it clear what the opening note is to sing.

  • Make it memorable. It should be possible for someone to sing the majority of the song after just a couple of times of hearing it through.


8. Get your melody in shape!

Direction is extremely important in melody. Many common melodies in hymns reach the highest note at about two thirds the way in to the verse.

This mirrors the visual arts and the golden ratio – an imaginary line which is about two-thirds the way up or down the composition in a painting or sculpture. Melodies may go directly to the highest point, or ramp their way their, ascending and then droping back, only to ascend further on the next line.

This principle can also be inverted, so that the melody descends to it’s lowest note at about two thirds the way through the phrase, or two-thirds the way through the work.


9. Melodic leaps and drops

A leap in the melody can be really effective. Leaps create character and can mark out  truly great songs from the mundane ones. Consider “Somewhere” from the musical “West Side Story”.

The first line, on the words "There's a place.." leaps by a minor seventh (from Bb up to Ab), an unusual and uncommon interval to sing. However, notice that on the following note (an A) it has dropped by just one step. If we had tried to do another leaping interval after Bb (say down to F) it would have made the song much more difficult to sing, and would have lessened the memorable impact.

So the principle of “big leap, then small step” is worth remembering.

Another great example (and another of my favourite songs) is “Over The Rainbow” (from the film "The Wizard of Oz") – a truly magical number. The opening word “Somewhere”  leaps by an octave (from A to A, in the original Judy Garland version), and then drops by a semitone step (to G#). Notice also that this is followed by another (slightly smaller) leap of a major sixth on the next line “There’s a” (from A to F#), dropping by a tone to E on the word “place”. We can of course also invert this idea – leaping down and then resolving upwards by step. “All things bright and beautiful” takes advantage of this idea!



Further Reading:-

composing melody - part 1

The first page in this section about how to write melody. Here there are three tips on composing tunes, including a highly creative one inspired by Stephen Sondheim - writing without an instrument.

composing melody - part 2

The second page in this section, with three more tips. Here we consider the characteristics of melody in the verse section of a song and how these might differ from the chorus.

form and structure in song

The introductory page about how songs are constructed. This page looks at basic structures such as repeated verse songs and the addition of the middle eight in song, with reference to the work of Sting and the Beatles.

cubase tutorials

A series of tips and guides on working with Steinberg's "Cubase" music production software, covering elements such as dealing with unwanted noises (pops and clicks), and how to automate the mixing of the tracks.



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


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