Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Melody Mining - Songwriter Tips (Archived Content)

A few weeks back I came across a blog post on Melody Mining.  I've been meaning to create my own entry on this topic, where I highlight some of the main points and then link to the actual article.  However, I just checked and it appears that the original post has been taken down.  I was able to find the cached content, so instead of writing a summary and to help preserve the actual info, which i found to be very interesting and helpful, I'll just re-blog it in-full here in the words of the original author, along with his video at the bottom.  See below. 

Melody Mining

I have this technique called Melody Mining, that’s just great for pulling melodies out of the air we breathe.  Basically what we’re going to do is look at the words we use for melodic inspiration. If you listen to the way you speak, there are notes and rhythms hiding inside of them. All you have to do is…Start listening and you’ll be Digging for gold!
If you know what you’re listening for, you’ll always have endless, endless sources for melodies.
So what’s so good about Melody Mining?

It's Natural

First of all, its extremely natural sounding. If you write your melodies based on the way that human beings speak, it's going to sound real; it's going to sound like someone talking.

It's Easier to Sing

It's a lot easier to sing melodies written from Melody Mining because generally you’re not going to be saying sentences in any way that your vocal chords aren’t used to. You’re not going to be throwing crazy Celine Dion notes into the way you speak. If you’re going to write melodies based on the way you talk, it's going to be very simple to sing.

It Resonates

Melody Mined Melodies resonate with people. The idea is that you’re speaking from your heart – you’re saying words that you actually use in your real life. When the listener hears a melody that sounds like something that someone actually says in real life it has a better chance to touch them deeper.

It Communicates

If you’re taking melodies from actual human speech, you’re going to be singing the listeners' language, and they’re going to be able to hear what you’re trying to say.

Melody is 90% Rhythm and 10% Notes

I have a theory (that maybe not everybody subscribes to) that really helps me as I write my melodies. I believe that what comprises a melody is 90% the rhythm and just 10% the notes.  The thought behind that is there are only 12 notes (and if you’re sticking to a chord, its going to be even fewer) so there are only a limited number of original combinations to choose from. You only have a defined number of patterns notes that you can create out of notes.

Rhythm is Infinite

But there are infinite combinations of rests and beats that you can use. Its easier to be original in a place where patterns are infinite. So, if you’re thinking about creating original melodies – the bulk of your effort is going to be spent focussed on creating original rhythms.  And that’s what’s so great about Melody Mining!  You’re pulling melodies from natural rhythms. If you listen to people speaking around you, there are tons and tons of natural rhythms to base your melodies on.

When to use Melody Mining?

Melody Mining is great for when you’re stuck. When you have no idea where to go with your rhythm – go have a conversation with someone, go hit up Youtube (see video for examples) – and just listen to the natural melodies.

This is also very useful if you write your lyrics before your melodies. If you have a giant page of lyrics, this is a great way to write your melodies. If you can say the words out loud and listen to the way you’re saying them – the melodies will just write themselves.

It's also really good for beginners starting to learn to write melodies. When you’re first starting out with songwriting, it's all about just getting something on the paper – throwing something out there. This is a really great way to just get started.

How To Do It

Lets say you don’t have any lyrics written.  You’ve got your chord progression, but you are totally at a loss for melodies….
1. Hit up YouTube for some natural inspiration.
Search for professional speakers, rappers, baby videos, or bird calls. You can hear melodies anywhere if you’re looking for them.  (I particularly love getting inspired by hip hop. All a rapper has to work with is rhythms – they’re not really hitting any notes. All the creativity in rap is in the rhythm.)
2. Pick a small phrase to focus on.
It doesn’t matter what you pick. Just pick the first thing that sticks out.
3. Repeat it over and over.
Try to crank up the emotion in your voice, over enunciate the words.
4. Try to mimic the phrase musically.
Play along with your words with your piano or guitar. Try follow the phrase – if it goes up, pick a higher note. Just do you best color the phrase with notes.

Check out the video to see me doing it live and try it right now for yourself!

I particularly like his suggestion of listening to bird calls for inspiration!

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