How to Write a Catchy MELODY
FREE: Download This Tutorial as PDF
Includes multitrack MIDI example
Step 1. Scale
There are two types of catchy melodies: annoyingly repetitive ones you can’t stop singing but actually hate, and awesome ones that are memorable cos they’re unique.
So, to write a catchy melody that isn’t annoying, you need to make it unique somehow. There are numerous ways to do that, and in this example we’ll be using two. The first way is to use an unusual scale. You see, our ears are so used to hearing melodies in the major and minor scales that they often fade into the background. By using a scale that’s more rare, your melody will instantly stand out.
In this example, we’re using the Blues scale. So, to get the Blues scale, you start with the natural minor scale. From the root of A, that’s simply all the white notes. Next, you delete the 2nd and 6th notes. This gives you a five-note scale called the minor pentatonic. Now, to turn the minor pentatonic into the Blues scale, you add what’s known as the “blue note”, which is the ♭5. So in the A Blues scale, that’s E♭.
And a quick shoutout to Beastie Boys, as this lesson is based on their song “Sure Shot”, which features that much-loved flute melody from Jeremy Steig.
Step 2. Rhythm
Another great way of making your melody unique is to use an unusual rhythm. And one of the easiest ways to do that, is to use triplets. So, change your grid to 1/16 note triplets. Next, write a cool rhythm on your root note. And to create variety, be sure to use three different note values. Also, use a rest somewhere, which allows your melody to breathe. And by the way, our tempo is 98 BPM.
Just before we jump into the next step. If there’s an artist you want us to hack, drop us a comment on YouTube.
Also, are you new to music theory? Or are you experienced, but you want a refresher? Then download our FREE BOOK (link opens in new tab). It only takes 30 minutes to read, then you’ll have a solid theory foundation that you can instantly apply to your songwriting and producing.
Step 3. Contour
Finally, it’s time to create a melodic contour. So, change the pitches now by moving your notes up and down on the grid. And most importantly, remember to play the “blue note” somewhere, which is E♭ in this example. If you don’t play that ♭5, your melody won’t actually be in the Blues scale, it’ll just be in the minor pentatonic. And that’s it!
If you need more help writing melodies, download our Songwriting & Producing PDF (link opens in new tab) and follow the seven guidelines in our Melody Checklist.
Listen below, or on any podcast app.