Tip: Modeling a Melody – Part 2

We’re going to continue doing what we call “modeling a melody” in this issue. And that just means figuring out some interesting things our favorite melodies do so *we* can do them, to craft our own melodies. We can use this information in improvisation and in composition.

We explored the idea of SAMES and DIFFERENTS last time. Why are those in capital letters? Isn’t there enough shouting in the world without me shouting at you? The reason for the capitals is to stress the idea. SAMES are things that get repeated in a melody, and you can figure out what DIFFERENTS are based on that.

But melodies in solos, in songs old and new and from every country, use lots of SAMES. They repeat notes. And it’s not because the composer is lazy. It’s because we listeners like lots of SAMEs. Just like we usually don’t prefer waking up in a different house every morning, but want to keep to the SAME home day after day. Same goes for jobs and so many other areas of life.

And the same is true of great art. And movies. Why are there so many super hero movies made? Because we want to see the SAME basic ideas of miraculous powers and happy endings over and over, despite there being different characters involved.

Back to melodies. Just where do we search for SAMES in melodies? Here’s a key observation that will hold true for much of the music you here: many parts of music are organized in units of four and two. Four quarter notes to a measure, for example. If you can get some standard notation of one of your favorite melodies, mark off every four bars to start with. If the notation is busted up with one staff having three bars and the next having five, rewrite or cut and paste so you’re looking at rows of four bars each. Then, even if you can’t read the notation, you can still effectively compare the notes, because standard notation is actually pretty intuitive and visual.

As you look from bar 1 to bar 4, then bar 2 and bar 5, ask yourself “what notes are the same here?” Or, what entire groups of notes are the same? Maybe notes are not duplicated exactly, but the overall *shape* of the line is copied.

We’ll explore melodies more next time. Have fun seeing the SAMES in your favorite melodies. And thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2008 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – May 2, 2007 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.