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How Songwriters Can Write Hit Song Melodies, Part 2

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Apr 01, 2009 @02:42 PM

HOW TO WRITE HIT MELODIES, Part 2, by Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriter

In writing a melody, it's critical to keep your audience surprised.  Since we speak English in iambic pentameter, it's natural to assume we can write in the same meter.  Unfortunately, it's deadly boring.  So I suggest you deliberately vary the lengths of your lines, and the number of notes in each, along with the number of lines or bars per section, to avoid your song sounding predictable.  After all, it's your job as an artist to tell your audience something they aren't expecting.    

The range of most contemporary singers is an octave and three - the interval from middle C, for example, to the E an octave above it.  If you write a tune with a range greater than that, you'll be hard-pressed to find a singer with the chops to handle it.  My song, "An American Hymn", which I wrote with Lee Holdridge, was only recorded once in twenty years until Lee figured out how to revise the bridge melody, reducing our octave and five to an octave and three.  Now the song is recorded at least once a month.    

Most hit "power" ballads, such as Daughtry's "Home," end their verses on notes lower than the ones on which the choruses start.  To create tension and drama in their melodies, I urge my clients, and you, to go up into the chorus, not sideways or down.  Doing the latter is like letting air out of a tire.  So go up and stay up.  And although some contemporary songs break the rising-into-the chorus rule, you can bet their rhythmic hooks at the beginning of and throughout the choruses are strong enough to overcome the melody's drop, and keep us listening.  

~Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a song marketing consultant in California, who, for a modest professional fee, works one-on-one to help you find the right writing partner and then helps you market your finished work to all the right people.  A Eurovision finalist (American Idol in Europe), Molly is the author of "How to Write A Hit Song, Fifth edition", (June, 2008) from which this article is excerpted, and "How to Be a Hit Songwriter", both published by Hal Leonard.  She has a house full of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination, has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Eight is Enough" and "Violet" that won an Oscar. From the USA and Canada, you can reach Molly, toll-free, at 800-851-6588, or from anywhere in the world, at www.songmd.com.  Please note:  Molly does not accept unsolicited material. © 2009 Songwriting Consultants, Ltd. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 


Tags: Songwriting, how to write a song, hit song, hit songwriter, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, writing partner, collaborator, American Idol, Melody, Melodies, Molly-Ann Leikin, Announcements, Product Information

How Songwriters Can Write Hit Melodies, Part 1

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 @10:57 AM

HOW SONGWRITERS CAN WRITE HIT MELODIES, Part 1, by Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin

After the title, the tune is the most important part of the song. The way our brains are wired, the melody is the first thing we hear. If we like it, we'll stay tuned and listen for the words. If the tune doesn't get to us, it's over.

Melodies need hooks. Without them, nobody will ever hear your work, no matter how brilliant the lyric. I know lyricists won't be happy to hear this, but it's true and knowledge is power.

In constructing a melody, there are several guidelines to follow. I recommend to all my clients, no matter where in the world they are writing, to get to the hook/chorus, within twenty-five or thirty seconds. I advise them, and you, to keep their introductions short. The intro is usually instrumental, and the song doesn't officially start until the verse begins. So keep the intro to eight bars or less. Often writers who are in love with their software wail on and on for sixteen or thirty-two bars before beginning the actual song. Don't. Eight bars are plenty. The audience will only give you a few seconds of ear time and then move on to something more accessible. You worked hard to get ‘em. Don't let ‘em get away.

If we like a melody, it usually isn't until we've heard it several times that we finally hear the words. You can write a brilliant lyric, but if it has a weak melody, nobody will ever hear any of it because the tune hasn't done its job. The function of the melody is to grab us in an unguarded, primitive, totally emotional state and hold our attention long enough for the more civilized and intellectual lyric to take hold and give us some words to sing. Leikin's Law is give them what they want. Express yourself as only you can, absolutely. You have a fingerprint as a writer that nobody else has. But don't expect a lyric to do the melody's job.

~Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a song marketing consultant in California, who, for a modest professional fee, works one-on-one to help you find the right writing partner and then helps you market your finished work to all the right people. A Eurovision finalist (American Idol in Europe), Molly is the author of "How to Write A Hit Song, Fifth edition", (June, 2008) from which this article is excerpted, and "How to Be a Hit Songwriter", both published by Hal Leonard. She has a house full of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination, has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Eight is Enough" and "Violet" that won an Oscar. From the USA and Canada, you can reach Molly, toll-free, at 800-851-6588, or from anywhere in the world, at www.songmd.com. Please note: Molly does not accept unsolicited material. © 2009 Songwriting Consultants, Ltd. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 


Tags: Songwriting, how to write a song, hit song, hit songwriter, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, writing partner, collaborator, American Idol, Molly-Ann Leikin, Announcements, Product Information