I'm trying to write a song, and I keep thinking of a melody, but they have all been taken. How do I find a melody that hasn't been taken?

  • 3
    Possible duplicate of How to make melodies effectively?
    – Neil Meyer
    Nov 29, 2015 at 8:19
  • 1
    @NeilMeyer I don't think they are duplicate Nov 29, 2015 at 8:31
  • Ok will leave it to the community. If enough people are satisfied this is not a dupe I will retract my vote.
    – Neil Meyer
    Nov 29, 2015 at 8:35
  • What do you mean by "taken"? Is it business or legal? Nov 29, 2015 at 19:16
  • 1
    @NeilMeyer I agree they are similar topics, but this one is stated in a way that I believe is a common sentiment (good for SEO). The current close reason of "too broad" doesn't apply IMO.
    – NReilingh
    Nov 30, 2015 at 3:58

4 Answers 4


As a songwriter myself, I can relate to your dilemma. The problem is that in any given key, there are only 7 notes we can use in the melody (not counting octaves) and there are millions of songs. Therefore it's almost impossible to write a melody that does not use some of the same sequence of notes and intervals as something that has already been written.

Furthermore, we are all influenced on a subconscious level by all the melodies we have heard in our lifetime. So when we try to create something new, our subconscious wants to default to something familiar.

I generally start with a chord progression and then try to fit the melody into the chord progression. If I find that my melody sounds too much like another song, I will try to change at least some of the measures to make it unique. So if I realize that my first measure sounds just like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" I try to make my second measure sound different.

For a more detailed analysis of how to write melodies by starting with a chord progression, read this How to write a melody by starting with a chord progression

Good luck with your song!

  • Agreed; there will always be some song that will have some parts sounding the same as ours ( or pretty close) Nov 29, 2015 at 9:07
  • 4
    Seven DIATONIC notes, but the other five shouldn't be ignored! They're often the ones that stand an interesting melody apart from the ordinary.
    – Tim
    Nov 29, 2015 at 9:45
  • "If I find that my melody sounds too much like another song" - maybe this should go into a separate question, but isn't a partial match with one of the millions of songs that I do not know at least an evenly important concern as a partial match with one of the few hundred songs that I do know? How do you protect yourself against that? Nov 29, 2015 at 18:04
  • Rhythm has a big effect on how those seven notes sound as a melody, notes can be repeated, and the same notes take on different sounds based on the chords played at the same time. So the idea that there are only seven notes to choose from really doesn't seem to an accurate assessment of the possibilities. Nov 30, 2015 at 2:14
  • @ToddWilcox - agreed a sequence of notes can be made to sound like a different song by using different rhythm. But the relatively small palate of notes available in Western music does explain in part why many songs sound similar to others in some ways. Opening paragraph was more of a statement of understanding - to let the OP know that it is a common issue in songwriting. The answer to the question is in paragraph three. Nov 30, 2015 at 4:00
  1. Keep listening to as much music as you can.
  2. Continue to practice writing music.

What you're experiencing is very common for new songwriters and composers. Everything you come up with sounds like something you've heard before. On some level, this will always be a little bit true, but by listening to as much music as you can get your hands on you'll broaden your horizons of what's possible and hone your taste. What you end up writing will still be influenced by music that you've heard before, but these influences can be wide ranging and diverse to the point where it passes for originality. You can also think of the difference in musical experience between the songwriter and the listener--as long as the composer's influences extend beyond what the listeners have heard before, it will sound new to them! So this shows how important it is for composers and songwriters to listen to as much music as possible.

Secondly, as you practice and study music, continuing your music education, you will learn about and become familiar with all the dozens or even hundreds of variables that can be combined into a piece of music. Maybe you're just thinking about melody and lyrics now, but don't forget about chords, rhythm, harmony, and articulation (how you sing/play each note). And that's just the tip of the iceberg: instrumentation and textures have multitudes of possibilities (see minimalism); and composers throughout history have taken inspiration from visual art, spirituality, even mathematics.

As Igor Stravinsky is quoted as saying:

I know that the twelve notes in each octave and the variety of rhythm offer me opportunities that all of human genius will never exhaust.

  • Point 1 doesn't work for me - I find listening to other music holds me back. Quiet time is important, I'd say. But I guess it may be person dependent.
    – Doddy
    Nov 29, 2015 at 11:20

I my self am a music composer and producer and I at the beginning as well as now face this funny problem every time I compose a song. Go through these steps.

  1. Find a melody

Well I am sure you're having a melody with you. Don't get stuck if that melody has been heard earlier or not, because everybody has only those 7 notes and some possible octaves to compose song from.

  1. Write lyrics Now write lyrics to the song that's in your heart. You can use a rhyme dictionary, but don't turn the song into a poem. Songs tend to be less rhyming than poem. Here what matters are feelings rather than concentrating more on rhyme.

  2. Rhythm of the song according to the Genre of Song

After writing the lyrics you have to add rhythm according to the genre of the music. Life if it's RnB , or Hip hop or whatever. See here you can be creative and experiment with new rhythms. This is the place where your music turns to be different.

  1. Arrangements Now you add different instruments to your song composition. This is called instrumentation. The types of notes each instrument plays(some instruments can play many, such as a guitar or piano, while others, such as the clarinet, can only play one at a time, all polytones aside) determines the voicing.

Then you decides the types of breaks or micro pauses for your song. This is called rhythm, dynamics, articulation, and expression.

This is the way I compose a song. Hope this helps Regards and best of luck Sachin ( aka Beat San) www.beatsan.weebly.com Facebook.com/beatsanofficial

  • I think every composer has to find their own process. I can say your process doesn't work for me. It may work for others, but I don't feel like one process is inherently better than another. Nov 30, 2015 at 2:16
  • Yeah...one size fits all can't work here...but to give an idea is what we can do Nov 30, 2015 at 4:45
  1. Chord Progressions.

Melodies are build on chord progressions. These are the notes the melody are build on. Don't go to wild with your progressions. Just a basic I-IV-ii-V-vi-ii-V-I will suffice for a 8 bar melody.

  1. Cadences.

Phrases have to end with a cadence. End your melody on either of the cadences that end on the tonic chord. Don't have a cadence in the middle that ends on the tonic.

  1. Rhythmical Sequence.

After a cadence you have sequence. This is usually two bars that have a repeat of the rhythm from earlier in the melody. This is just imitation. The notes should not be exactly the same. It is just a repeat of an earlier rhytm.

  1. Form

Your melody has to have good form. That is to say no excessively large jumps. When you jump up you go a step down. When you jump down go a step up. Jump only to chordal notes. Don't jump twice in a row.

Does your melody have a wave form or a pyramid / run type of form? Choose a form and stick with it when you make your melody.

  1. Instrumental considerations.

You have to take the instrument you are writing your melody for into consideration when making your melody. You would not pick a key with flats when composing a melody for guitar.

For voice you would keep your jumps to a real minimum seeing as singers really find it difficult to jump large intervals when they sing.

You would also have to keep the range of the instrument into consideration and also with of the clefs are typically used for it.

  1. Patterns

A good melody would have a little motif that is introduced a little expounding on the idea and then a return to the first pattern.

Music is not random and melody making definitely not. You choose a little motif and stick with it. Don't just write 8 bars of notes that have no connection to each other

  • 1. Melodies are not necessarily built on chord sequences: the chords usually reflect the notes in the melody. Many melodies are written before an appropriate chord sequence is found. 2. Phrases will end on a cadence - it's the name for the last two chords. 4. how big is excessive? Somewhere Over the Rainbow has an octave, it's not alone. The generalisations here are not too helpful. Sorry.
    – Tim
    Nov 29, 2015 at 9:51
  • This answer was probably written before the question was edited, but might the suggestions here not be as likely to lead to a conventional and somewhat familiar melody than a melody that "hasn't been taken"? Nov 29, 2015 at 9:57
  • 5. There are many melodies written for guitar with flats in the key sig., although a lot of guitarists prefer #s. The range is a good consideration, particularly for vox. (which is in the tag).
    – Tim
    Nov 29, 2015 at 9:59

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