A technique for melody generation

I have a neat technique I use to jump-start melody generation. I want to share it, and I even bet some of you have done this!

I first create a couplet of spoken doggerel, or even a single line of spoken English. (Use any language, though.)

It can be silly. It doesn’t have to be good poetry. It could be, say, off the top of my head,

“Jersey Mike’s makes submarine sandwiches”

Or, for a rhyming couplet,

“I’m sitting here doing nothing
My favorite food is stuffing.”

Now, try to make the rhythm of your spoken line fit into a meter so that it’s musically useful.

Then add pitches to the notes. Sing the melody into your iPhone, and forget the words you started with.

What this does is it makes you use rhythms you’d never come up with if you weren’t starting with spoken language. And in melody writing, MORE THAN HALF of the interesting creative content is rhythm, not pitch.

I generally like to use phrases with at least one word that’s more than 2 syllables and creates sone rhythmic complexity. That is, you want to stay away from overly regular meter, like this:

There was a man who sat
Upon a purring cat

It’s this kind of predictable regularity we using this technique to ESCAPE.

The process is effortless, and gets your melody “seeded” quickly and without racking your brain or pulling hair out.

Later, you come back and edit your melody, having forgotten the doggerel you started with and with no obligation to keep the original rhythm.


Plus, there is something about naturally spoken language that’s inherently musical, but rhythmically complex enough to introduce that little bit of desirable unpredictability into a phrase.

Ah great technique Everett, I found myself singing your silly lines now…damn you (kidding of course)! :wink:

1 Like

To add to this…I love using my voice for coming up with melodic phrases and themes, because as you say…our vocals are truly powerful and creatively way more flexible too! :slight_smile:

However, I mostly sing nonsense latin/slavonic (like the VI sample library choirs use).

1 Like

I was just going to say, for those of you out there who are multilingual, it would be interesting to know whether your melodies sounded a bit different when they are begun in English, as opposed to, say, Swedish, or French.


I might include your tip in a video Everett, on creating melodies. I loved the simplicity of it! :slight_smile:


Of course for modern film scoring you only need one spoken syllable: “Ommmmmm.”

(This is where you can respond with “Ok boomer.”)


Nah, “boomer” always meant “deep sub boom sound FX” to me and always will so not working for me there :wink:


It’s a great technique! And has been used by a lot of composers too.

Particularly in older TV shows which used to have really glaringly obvious themes (seen as cliché nowadays) - listen to a few old theme tunes and try to sing the name of the show along and you’ll find it often fits!

A classic old British (Yorkshire, specifically) show comes straight to mind: The Last Of The Summer Wine :slight_smile:

1 Like

You can hear it:

“the last of the summer wine, the summer wine, the summer wine”

1 Like

I remember hearing (or reading) at some point in the past where composers have done this when they get stuck. They might take a phrase from the scene (or the title of the project) to create the rhythm of the piece that will be created.

Great technique!

1 Like