Have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head? It probably had a catchy melody. The melody is the way that the words and lyrical phrases combine musical notes and rhythm.
The melody you come up with is uniquely yours, and it has to come from a place inside of you. The best advice I can give is to listen to as much music as possible. Once you listen, the melodies will be inside of you ready to come out into your own songs. The music I grew up on, the folk rock of the 1960’s and 70’s was filled with wonderful melodies that were meant to be sung with, many of which were rooted in Irish folk melodies and the folk music of Appalachia in early U.S. history.
One thing that most rap music lacks is melody. There is rhythm to the words, sometimes which are poetically brilliant, but not the ascending, descending, and sustaining musical notes. Nevertheless, I’ll take faith-filled rap over vain and self-centered melodies any day!
Most popular music is not very complex. A simple melody to sing along to will catch the ears of more people who are not musically sophisticated, and if you mean to attract a large number of people quickly, then basing your songs off of childhood nursery rhymes is sometimes a good place to start.
Sometimes the job of creating melodies is made easier by the words you happen to write. Don’t try to cram words where they don’t fit. Your primary job as a songwriter is not to teach or to use big words – your first job is to be musical.
To demonstrate how words can shape the melody, first sing (in any way you can or want to) the name “Jen.” Go ahead – have fun with it and sing that name. Next sing the name “Jenny,” and listen to how it comes out of your mouth. Next sing the name “Jennifer,” and listen to how it comes out of your mouth. I am going to bet, that even though you were saying a similar name each time that the music that you began had a different melody.
Next, repeat the exercise above, but this time, add the words “is a girl” to the end of the name. So sing “Jen is a girl,” “Jenny is a girl,” and “Jennifer is a girl.” The way that the words naturally leave your body through your mouth is the best way to start coming up with a melody.
So find the most important words you want to say (or the hook of the song) and determine what music they already have built-in.
All of this being said, once you have already started and there is a natural melody that is working its way like a thread through the song, it does become more difficult to find other words in later verses to match the melody naturally.