How Songwriters Can Write Hit Melodies, Part 1


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 Please note: Molly does not accept unsolicited material. © 2009 Songwriting Consultants, Ltd. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: 

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