Jan
20

The Staying Power of Great Melody

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on January 20, 2010

A melody that moves rapidly needs to have its wings tucked in. Picture a sea bird with wings outstretched, soaring in lazy circles over the water. Suddenly it tucks its wings into its sides and drops like a dart, with a splash, straight into the water, then comes up, wings flapping, with a fish in its beak. 

Extend your arms straight out and wave your hands up and down slowly and gracefully. It’s easy, isn’t it, even if you wave them high and low? Now wave them very widely and very quickly. Awkward, isn’t it? It jerks you all over the place. That’s what a fast, busy melody with lots of wide leap intervals feels like. 

On the other hand, a slower melody could benefit from wider intervals. Not all the time of course. Most of the intervals will probably be step intervals, (up or down a scale step) but a slow song that doesn’t have its share of wider leap intervals may seem earthbound. Stretch your wings a bit at slower tempos, and see if it doesn’t give your melodies more interest. 

Don’t let that song out of your hands until you’re convinced it has the best melody you can give it. Rewrite some and of your lyrics, if necessary.  You can say the same thing in other words if a great is melodic idea takes you in a new emotional direction. We’re not suggesting a lower standard for lyrics. But while some good melodies have caught on, in spite of lesser lyrics, we know of relatively few lyrics, no matter how great, (except for the psalms) that have lasted without good tunes. Likewise, a great chord progression without a good melody will soon be forgotten. But a good chord progression with a great melody is a winning combination. 

So write a melody people can ride on, something they can hum or that sounds great as an instrumental only, and as they listen, that great lyric hook you’ve written will automatically come to mind. 

••••• 

Put an 

everlasting 

melody of worship 

in my heart, Lord. In the

 days of rejoicing, let it 

ring out like laughter, 

loud and clear.

 In the nighttime of 

my soul, let it croon 

to me there, like a mother’s 

lullaby, until the light shines again. 

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