I have posted before about improvisation but may be jumping ahead of myself, I am familiar with basic music theory and have knowledge of major/minor scales and chords. I am interested in composition and before learning to compose a full song (which is what I previously asked for) I'm interested in creating melodies and techniques which would help me figure this out instead of spending so many years with trial and error. I have got a fair few tips out of the book by Michael Miller - Music Theory & Music Composition including: -Stay within the scale -Mix steps and skips -Variety -Degree of repetition

When I sit at the keyboard I cannot come up with anything remotely creative or good and want to get better/develop this skill and focus on it so I can apply it to my own compositions. Any books, tips etc. that will help.

Also, having studied basic theory and being familiar, what's the next step or would help with composing or is down to tonnes of practice, it's difficult for me because I really cannot get anything good yet.

Additionally, I recreated some MIDI files of piano which I found really inspiring (got me into all of this) and was wondering how to apply tips and tricks I can use towards my own creations. For example, I know I need to learn chord inversions and extending chords as that's been used but as far as the melodies go, each piece is unique and I'm not sure how to dissect it to help me write my own and figure out why it works..

  • This may very well be too broad of a question. I can very easily see myself reading a whole book on melody writing.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 14:19
  • I had to go through several pages worth of my answers but I did finally get the question that this is a dup of.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 14:27
  • Thanks Neil. On the other thread I'm glad you said this: "Starting to write melodies is a painful process. It needs a lot of practice to do effectively. It also is one of the reasons why Music Theory is such a crucial part of music education" - because I don't feel that unnatural at writing now :)
    – MJohnson52
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 17:48

2 Answers 2


There are so many tips... It will depend a lot on what sort of music you're hoping to compose, but let's take some simple poppy type song. An idea is that you write the chords that fit to a key. Say C major. The chords will be C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am and Bo. Write them on bits of paper, one on each. Turn them face down. Since the piece will be in C, that's the first chord. Chances are it'll also be the last! Let's make it a 16 bar song. So for bar two we need chord two. Turn over a paper, write that down. If it's C again, so what? Put the paper back, shuffle, pick. Continue till you get to bar 15, as 16 is C. Play it through. You may find it works, you may want to change some round, for example, bar 8 could be back at C, or G could sound better.

When you're happy, play again, this time with a basic melody - which will have to fit the chords, as in where there's an F that bar will contain an F, A and/or C, along with a passing note or two. A tune will probably make itself apparent over the changes, so don't force it, let it happen. I've kept it straightforward, and later you could add in major/minor/dominant 7ths, 6ths etc.

So many tips, but this is just one. Give it a go!

  • 1
    Back to this thread, I have recently started learning songs on the keyboard after learning some basic theory in order to apply it. What is a good idea to help with writing melodies? I was hoping to become more comfortable with the keys in general and develop skills playing but want my focus to be more on improvising strong melodic lines. I'm not sure if it's a good idea to either practice songs, analyse songs or improvise my own melodies or all three?
    – MJohnson52
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 21:18

The way I would teach melody writing would be as follows.

  • Choose an instrument. This includes being familiar with its range and knowing what clef it operates in. A good knowledge about how its phrasing marks work is also advantageous.
  • Pick a key. This includes instrument appropriate keys. We are not going to write melodies for guitar in Cb Major.
  • Pick a Time signature. This has some considerations. Compound Time Signatures will definitely swing effect to decide if you want this. If you want a Waltz you are going to have to operate in three time.
  • Decide on Form. This is probably the most important characteristic of a good melody. How does the line look? Don't jump too large intervals. Avoid jumps of sevenths. When you jump only jump to chordal notes. Don't jump twice in a row. When you jump up go down afterward. When jumping down go up afterwards. Have a pleasant line.
  • Choose Chords People don't believe me when I say this but melodies are build on chords. If you want an 8 bar melody choose 8 chords one for each bar. The notes from these chords form the nucleus of the melody. You try to end and start the bar with chord notes. You jump to and from only from them. You use the chord notes most often.
  • Cadences: Your phrases need to end with a pause (longer note) and you have to use cadences to end your phrases. Know the four of them and how they resolve. Don't use an cadence that ends on the tonic in the middle of the passage and conversely don't end the passage on the Imperfect or Interrupted Cadence.
  • Sevenths and leading tones have to resolve.
  • Rhythmic Sequence When you have ended a phrase with a cadence it is good form to have a rhythmical sequence. That is a rhythm from the previous passage that is repeated for two bars. You do not need to imitate those bars. The rhytm has to be same not neccessarily the notes.


  • I'll read try these techniques out thanks a lot! I'll also look at the thread you posted Neil - cheers for that! Are there any specific websites or rules per se to follow when starting out other than those mentioned? Im going to analyse music pieces I've got to the tips discussed and see how it fits in. A lot of the music mixes notes with chords but sounds so pleasant, not necessarily using chord tones with each chord
    – MJohnson52
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 17:45

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