Melodies & Chords

For writing melodies and chords, music theory is the closest thing to a rulebook (more on this in the Music Theory section). But regardless of music theory, there is still a near-infinite amount of possibilities for writing melodies and chords. This can be overwhelming, so here are some broad guidelines. First, it’s good to look at the structure of your melodies and chords. This is where the ABCD principle comes in handy.

To reiterate and explain what is showed in the video:

  • It’s good to have some kind of structure in your melodies and chords. You want to get a balance between variation and repetition. Every song falls somewhere on this spectrum. For example jazz is more on the variation side, and techno more on the repetition side. Study your genre and see how much repetition is used, and where. You will likely need to be somewhere in that area.
  • One way to map this repetition is by using an ABCD notation. You can write the structure of your melody this way as a helper. For example, you can have a 4-bar melody. The first bar plays one part: A, the second bar plays a slightly different part: B, the third bar plays the first part again: A, the fourth bar plays another new part: C. So your melody structure is ABAC. You can do this for all your instruments. Common structures of melodies are ABAB, AAAB, ABAC, ABACABAD, AAABAAAC. You can also map the melody of a reference song this way, to get an idea of how it’s written.
  • The various instruments of your song can also have different structures. For example, you may want to set a solid foundation with your bassline, so it plays ABABABAB. Then your background chords may play ABACABAC. On top of that, your lead melody has more variation, so it plays ABACABAD. It’s also good to find a balance within this. Usually a lead vocal will have the most variation.
  • Finding a balance between variation and repetition is important across instruments. You don’t want to distract the listener too much from the important elements (lead vocal, synth, guitar, etc). So it’s usually good to have the important elements have more variation, and the less important elements less variation.
  • When you make more songs, you will likely find a good balance between variation and repetition. Also, each song can be different in this aspect. Keep experimenting with this.