Tip: Modeling a Melody – Part 1

Here is a draft of a method I wrote to understand a nifty melody and produce your own nifty melodies. I hope you find it useful.

What does “modeling a melody” mean? It means “doing what a particular melody does without duplicating the melody.” So we explore a melody, find out why it goes where it goes, and say “how can I do that?” Or, “how can I make more of that stuff? It sounds good.”

Let’s have some steps here, a process.

  • Listen to the melody, first of all. Kind of obvious.

What are we listening for? Key idea coming up:

  • List the SAMES you hear
  • List the DIFFERENTS you hear

Great melodies often use a lot of repetition. For example, what happens in one measure might have been almost exactly what happened in the previous measure, with a few different notes at the end.

  • Next step: List Cool Sounds. Especially Cool Sounds that are cool for reasons we don’t yet understand
  • Next: Notate (transcribe) the melody. We could write volumes on this. But…not now. Get the melody on paper or your computer. Get a visual representation – in standard notation, not tablature. What’s wrong with tab? Tab does not show (consistently) difference in pitch as immediately as standard notation.
  • Print out the melody and repeat above: List the SAMES and DIFFERENTS.

Try the steps just mentioned with a favorite melody, and see if you don’t come up with some insights into how that melody works to sound good. We’ll do more steps to modeling a melody next time.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2008 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – April 15, 2007 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.