Melody Writing Step by Step Part 1

Teaching young musicians how to write a melody is not easy!

In this post, I will share with you my method of teaching students to write a melody.

I've used this method for many years with my classes, and it works without fail! It shows students how to make a melody from a chord progression.

My students call it Mrs Maloney's melody writing recipe.

If this is your very first melody writing lesson, base your teaching demonstration on a four-bar melody. Keep it short and easy for the students to understand.

Writing a Four Measure/Bar Melody

Session 1: The Preparation Phase.

The steps in this session are:

1. Choose the key.

For my first demonstration lessons, I stick with C major. Don't over complicating things at this point.

2. Chords.

Use only the diatonic chords of the key chosen for the melody. Have students complete a table of the diatonic chords with the chord's name and the notes that spell the chord.

In their melody writing workbook, I've created a table ready for them to fill in. 

3. Prepare the Score.

Students insert the following onto the staff:

  • clef,
  • key signature (none for C major)
  • time signature
  • bar lines 

4. Chord Progression.

At this point, students need to know that their melody must begin and end with chord I, and we won't be using the diminished chord. Play the B dim chord for them, so they hear its dissonance.

I tell them that there are more rules to learn to use a diminished chord. For now, they are happy with this explanation.

Next, write the chord symbol, C, above and at the beginning of the first and last bar.

Now for the magic!

We can now choose any chord (except vii) from the diatonic chord chart completed in Step 2, and the progression will sound great. This point is essential for the student to understand, and this is why they should never skip Step 2.

Choose a student to suggest a chord for bar/measure 2 and 3. I play the four-bar/measure chord progression using the students'’ suggestions.

Ask another 2-3 students for suggestions and play them.

As a class, decide on a four-bar/measure progression,
e.g.  C   Am   G   C.

The student will write out the chord symbols with the three letters of the notes that spell the chord written above each.

                           ceg       ace        gbd        ceg

    Example:      C       |  Am    |   G      |   C     ||

                            I               vi            V            I  

To end the first session, the students complete an activity to create an eight-bar/measure chord progression.

Students need to play their progression or play it for them to hear how it sounds. Allow them to make changes to the progression if they wish.

I use the following worksheets - see the first of the two pages below.

CLICK HERE if you'd like a copy of the Chord Progression Practical Activity.

Read on for Sessions/Lessons 2 and 3 HERE!

HELPFUL RESOURCES: Click the images below to be directed to the resource.

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