Melody in Songwriting: Tools and Techniques for Writing Hit Songs

PDF Melody in Songwriting: Tools and Techniques for Writing Hit Songs Broché – 1 avril 2000

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(Berklee Guide). Melody is a subject too often neglected in the teaching of music. This unique resource gives melody that attention it deserves, and proves that melody writing is a skill that can be learned. Through proven tool and techniques, you will learn to write interesting melodies, how melodic rhythm influences rhyme, what makes harmony progress, and the many dynamic relationships between melody and harmony. This clear and comprehensive approach to songwriting unlocks the secrets of popular songs, revealing what really makes them work. Examples of great songs by such notable songwriters as Lennon and McCartney, Diane Warren, Robert Palmer, and more, provide a close-up illustration of the songwriting techniques employed by these masters of the industry. This is the book used in Songwriting classes at Berklee College of Music. The exercises provided make it a wonderful self-teaching manual and a great addition to any general theory course of any level. Use the tools presented in this book to help fine-tune your craft and start writing hits!


The one question my students most often ask me is, “When you compose a song, do you really think of [the technique under discussion]?” I say, “Yes, I do, especially when I get stuck.” But then I explain that another more important phenomenon usually occurs while in the throes of writing: because I have absorbed this knowledge, it is available to me at a pace that is faster than thought. I liken the way this happens to learning how to drive a car. In learning to drive, there are so many things to think about at once, it seems nearly impossible to put them all together. Yet driving, after a short time, becomes second nature. We absorb the bit-by-bit information and somehow do what was once thought impossible. You can’t drive by using your rational mind alone; if you tried, you would almost certainly have an accident. Ask yourself, how did you do it? You had to align your mind with your body; after all, your body had practiced moves from accelerator pedal to brakes to signal lights, to looking ahead and behind (through mirrors), to turning the steering wheel in the right direction, and so on. You hadn’t stopped using your mind; your mind had simply found its rightful place in the act of driving. When you compose a song, something similar occurs. Just as in driving, if you only use your rational mind in composing a song, you will most likely have an undesirable result—a dry, unmoving group of notes, logically organized, but emotionally barren. A song that moves others must be written by someone who has been moved, who has felt moments of inspiration, who has had an intuitive experience in the actual process of writing. The contents of this book may seem far removed from the intuitive process. It is full of information that will take time and practice to be absorbed. Once you understand what it offers, allow your mind its rightful place in the art of composing a song. Intuition in songwriting involves more than your body and mind. It involves your emotions as well. In fact, your emotions and spirit usually are the driving forces in writing a song. If, however, your body and mind are not aligned with your emotional/spiritual self, the intuitive moment may never appear—or if it does, and your body and mind are not prepared to carry out its wishes, that precious moment will be lost (and so will that potentially great song). This book is meant to help you prepare for that moment.


Many of the concepts in this book are borrowed from Pat Pattison’s work on lyric structure. His enthusiasm for teaching songwriting, along with his personal encouragement of my efforts, eased my task of translating these concepts into musical equivalents. I want to thank Bob Weingart for editing parts of this workbook, for providing me with thought-provoking challenges, suggestions, and many ideas, as well as inventing some of the terms I have adopted. Jimmy Kachulis also made some valuable contributions, especially in the chapter on blues/rock.

Scott McCormick and Sammy Epstein, who are not members of the Songwriting Department but who have a special interest in scholarly endeavors, deserve special praise for editing and contributing many helpful suggestions. I thank my entire faculty for participating in the sometimes arduous task of reading, discussing, and clarifying the language and techniques found within this book. I especially want to thank Ted Pease, distinguished professor, for his support ever since my arrival at Berklee College of Music, and for giving me the chance to write a serious book on a subject not heretofore taken seriously enough by the academic music community.​
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