3 Tips to Shake Up Your Melodies

Posted in The Weekly on July 14, 2017 by

Are your melodies in a rut? Do you find yourself returning to the same chord patterns, intervals, and grooves? Try one—or all—of the tools that follow.

Try Writing a Capella

Chords, rhythms, bass lines, and drum beats all play critical roles in the success of a recording. But no one walks down the street humming a chord progression, a beat, or a bass line. The vocal melody needs to burn into listeners’ brains and by writing a capella you focus solely on that aspect.

Instead of starting with chord changes and imposing a melody upon them see what happens if you begin by writing a vocal melody (the melody the singer will sing). Sing it unaccompanied into your phone or another recorder. The strongest chords to support your melody can be chosen later.

Write on a Different Instrument—or in an Alternate Tuning

If you’re a multi-instrumentalist try writing on an instrument you don’t typically use for songwriting. For example, if you usually write while accompanying yourself on keyboard try a guitar—or vice versa. Or if you typically write while playing guitar try an alternate tuning.

At the Hawaii Songwriting Festival ( Colbie Caillat shared that a cowriter had tuned her guitar in an alternate tuning and left it that way. Later, strumming that guitar, Caillat composed a melody she would have never otherwise written, and the result was her breakthrough hit “Bubbly.”

Write to a Beat

Composing while listening to a drum pattern is likely to lead you to craft melodies you would not typically write. By listening to various loops, varying their tempos, and exploring different grooves you will likely find yourself singing and/or playing rhythms that are sparked by the beats. You can create your own drum pattern or find royalty free drum loops online.

Regardless of the musical genre, a fresh, memorable melody is crucial to any song’s success. By switching up your approach to composing you can stir up your creativity and come up with melodies that just might surprise you.

Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (Billboard Books). His songs are on three Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. For information about his BMI Workshops, additional articles, and more visit