How to start a melody? This question is the most common among composition students.
How to write a melody? Do we need inspiration? Does it come naturally, or do we need to be gifted melodic writers to do it? The answer is, no.
The melody is by far the most ubiquitous component of every song and piece we listen and the most challenging to write, as it is the only factor that lures the listener to listen to our music. In this article, Gisela Paterno describes what makes a melody work, from the skeleton to the ornamental components. This article is written not only for people interested in musical composition but for piano students and piano tutors as well, as it is the aim to this article to raise the awareness of the complexity of the inner structure of a melody.
This information can be beneficial for pianists when they analyse their pieces and have to make decisions on which notes they should focus, which ones are the structural notes (or focal points) to emphasize, and which ones are purely ornamental. And for the piano teachers, this article will come handy to help their students to give them the necessary tools to better the pieces they perform.
The article is divided into sections that describe the main components of the melody: from the “active steps” which are the most stable notes within a scale, to the “relative importance of the notes” in which describes through eight bullet points how to differentiate the structural notes from the ornamental ones.
Following this, the “melodic archetypes” which describes the five main melodic contours in music. The next topic “the three contributing factors for a memorable melody” gives an insight into the main components that can help us raise the awareness of the many factors collaborating into a well-balanced melody.
Finally, and this is something that can serve as a quick-start for beginners, an ironclad method to compose a melody from absolute scratch.