Here’s a way to take pre-existing songs and borrow melodic ideas (without anyone knowing).
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Here’s an idea that can help. The following ideas come from Chapter 3 of my book, “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music.” It involves borrowing some melodic ideas from existing songs. Don’t worry, this is not a lesson in how to plagiarize. What it does is takes some melodic fragments from a song you know, and then reorganizing the notes to come up with something completely new.
Here’s a step-by-step procedure:
- Choose a song chorus with a relatively small tone set (i.e., using few distinct pitches). Some examples: ‘Hound Dog’ (Leiber & Stoller), ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ (Bruce Springsteen), ‘One More Night’ (Maroon 5), or ‘Alejandro’ (Lady Gaga).
- With your guitar or keyboard instrument, identify the individual pitches that comprise the main part of the melody. For example, ‘Hound Dog’ uses the notes G-A-C-D-D#-E, listed from low to high.
- Play the list of notes in various ways, from low to high, high to low, and in random order.
- Try to put the originating song out of your mind, and begin to construct a new song melody. It is best to choose a performing style and tempo as different as possible from the originating song. It is not necessary to use all the pitches.
- As you work out fragments of melody, develop a chord progression to accompany it.
There are several ways to vary this exercise.
- Try playing the original melody backwards.
- See if you get good results by inverting the original melody (Start on the same note, but move in an opposite direction, keeping the same intervals: i.e., if the original melody moves up one tone from D to E, move down one tone from D to C.)
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)