March 17th, 2012, 11:03 AM
I've been digging into music theory in the last few weeks; I finished reading Walter Piston's Harmony a couple of days ago and it gave me a great insight on a lots of things. I already know the scales and modes on the guitar for quite a while, but that book gave me a huge boost on the understanding of music, modulations and secondary dominants, all that.
To complete my "preparation" to start composing some "serious" rock-pop songs, I'd like to understand the other side of music better: the melody. From what I've understood, the melody dwells around the notes of the harmony, but that's about all I know. I've got common sense and taste, of course, but I'd like to get some formal understanding on the subject: how to build melodies, are there rules, etc. It would be great if I could find a book that enlightened me about melody as much as Piston's Harmony did about harmony.
Counterpoint seems a bit overkill. I don't want to know how to build choirs, for God's sake :lol:. Rockpop is a bit less demanding, I suppose.
Where should I be looking?
March 17th, 2012, 12:12 PM
I finished reading Walter Piston's Harmony a couple of days ago and it gave me a great insight on a lots of things. I already know the scales and modes on the guitar for quite a while, but that book gave me a huge boost on the understanding of music, modulations and secondary dominants, all that.
Did you also work through the exercise book? http://www.amazon.com/Workbook-Harmony-Edition-Arthur-Jannery/dp/0393954846/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1331999918&sr=8-4 Reading about Harmony is a little like reading about billiards.
As for melody. If your using more traditional texts, then 'counterpoint' is essentially melody writing with other stuff going on too that is directly related to the harmony. It doesn't necessarily only apply to choral or orchestral music. You might like this ... http://www.amazon.com/Exercises-Melody-Writing-Systematic-Composition/dp/1104125587/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332000288&sr=1-5
Personally I would recommend that you analyze the 'pop' songs you really like and figure out what about them makes them attractive to you. Make and keep notes about each song in a dedicated notebook. It's really as simple as finding a cool melody that say John Lennon did over a C Am F G prog and learning that - internalizing it and then letting it come out of you. that's pretty much what all good writers do regardless of genre.
March 17th, 2012, 12:15 PM
This is a huge kettle of fish. In classical music theory, melodies are not generally regarded as important as harmony and bass. Once these are understood, then such concepts as melodic elaboration, voice-leading, and dissonance treatment can be understood. In rock music, melodies are often one-note repeated affairs. In pop and jazz, the melodies have more contour. In classical music, melodies are often presented as a short motive that is elaborated and varied in close consideration with the harmony and bass.
Here are two ideas that have been around for a while:
1. The melodic notes on strong beats are chord tones (or resolve to chord tones).
2. Melodic skips tend to be followed by a step in the opposite direction.
That's about all I can say. Someone should write a historical treatment on melody in music.
March 18th, 2012, 02:39 AM
I hope this doesn't read as snotty, it's not my intent to be rude here. Rock and Roll, Pop, Funk,, Blues and the like are story-telling or mood conveying styles of music. So many great songs in these genres are created off of solid rhythmic grooves first, then the singer finds a melody while riffing along with the groove. I absolutely adore classical music but I don't see it as informing most of the great classic rock or R and B/Soul melodies.
Sing or play the melodies on you instrument along with the pop or rock greats like Aretha Franklin, Paul Rodgers, Freddie Mercury, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Robert Plant, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Wesla Whitfield, Steven Tyler, Rod Stewart, Roberta Flack, John Lennon, Annie Lennox, Chrissie Hynde, Bono, etc. Don't use sheet music if you can figure them out by ear. You will start getting a second nature feel for the way good melodies lie on your instrument or voice. Each vocalist has favorite directions to take their voice and inflections like vibrato which makes them memorable and different from each other, just like an instrumentalist.
I don't knock anyone for improving their knowledge with textbooks, Walter Piston's is a great book. I just don't think many people have written great rock melodies from a pencil and paper basis, they get out and jam with a groove and try to be spontaneous based on patterns they've learned from singing along with their influences on the radio and recordings. A much more used tool by singers than manuscript paper is a portable recorder to capture ideas as they come. These singers are by a large margin ear only singers, most of them aren't sight readers, they don't have to be to create their songs.
March 19th, 2012, 06:44 PM
Gtroates, you do have a point there... I guess I could just look for some inspiration (or some method) when it comes to composing melodies... If a book could help me out, it would be nice.
Anyway, the two books I found that caught my eye were:
In the latter, part 3 (Melodic Composition) has 7 chapters that seem to cover melody creation pretty well. But the Berklee book still seems better, because it's dedicated to melody from beginning to end.
What do you think?
March 19th, 2012, 07:57 PM
I have the William Leavitt books from Berklee and think those are quite good, I don't know the melody book. My post was about getting experience with how melodies sound and feel to your instrument, learn hundreds of song melodies by ear and it should become natural to create melodies in the genre you've been listening and playing along with. Books have their place, but melody is a feel thing when it comes to rock and pop styles, the good singers play around with the melodies as they sing them. You will eventually have to invent your own method of writing melodies if you want your own creative voice to stand out. Books can't take you through the process of gaining experience through trial and error like writing your own song within a group of musicians, so I would suggest you find a songwriting workshop or group of people to bounce ideas off of and get immediate feedback. Methods don't correct you when you write a weak melody because they aren't able to hear you. I know some singer/songwriters who tried to write their first songs without trying them out in front of people, they often found the reaction of the audience was not as good as they expected, what they thought were catchy hooks fell flat in public.