I’m here at the City Winery in New York City with your songwriting tip for the day! Today I’m going to talk about melody while I’m here at the piano on stage for our sound check. One of the things I’ve noticed a lot of young songwriters do is stick to a particular melodic idea and not really expand it as the song goes on. For example, a songwriter might start his or her verse on “a” and then build the verse melody around that. Then, when the writer starts writing his or her prechorus, the person will be sort of mesmerized by what she has so far, so she’ll (had to pick a pronoun) continue with what she has started and start her prechorus on “a.” Then she’ll start their chorus on “a” as well. So, it can start to sound repetitive. So, the simple tip for the day is just to think about starting different sections of your song on a new note. Let me give you a quick example from my song “Honeycomb.”
So, the verse starts on c# (plays verse):
Fleece, the color of your eyes / I couldn’t wait to see you / Wrapped in teal
Then when I go to the prechorus, I start a few notes up from c# on e (plays prechorus):
I was so in love with you / While you were working on the honeycomb
Then when I go to the chorus, I go even higher with the melody (plays chorus):
Oh oh the honeycomb / I couldn’t wait to see what the future would hold
I’d run down the driveway every day / Don’t leave the moment stay
So essentially with each new section of the song, I lifted the starting point of the melody a little bit so it feels like the song is going somewhere and that you are on a journey.
Now for another example from my friend, singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick. We are here in the green room at City Winery and she is going to give an example of what I was just talking about where your verse and chorus start on different notes.
Anne: Will you play for us?
Melissa: Yes. So we are going to use the old song of mine called “Everything I Need” – I’m going to use this song because it has the same chords in the verse and chorus (starts playing verse):
I’ve got money in the bank / I’ve got a car to drive
I’ve got a working set of hands my guitar seems to like
I’ve got a love that won’t quit
(The placement of the word “love” is on the downbeat to emphasize it. Sometimes it’s important to think of what words you are placing on what beats)
I’ve got time to rest
I’ve got a clear able mind that sees my life
And now I go to that same chord (back to the G), but now my melody is going to go up instead of down starting on that same note. This is also called oblique motion.
Everything I need is right here in my hands
Right here in my hands
Right here in my hands
Anne: Cool so what you are saying is that your melody goes in a different direction on the chorus and then I think it also starts on a different note from the verse
Melissa: Yeah, maybe it does
Anne: I think it starts lower
(They sing it)
Melissa: Yeah, so it starts on a different note, goes up and then the top note of the chorus ends up being the first note of the verse
Anne: So these are different little tools you can use if you get stuck. Bye!
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