Melodies are hard

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Right now everything's hard. Nothing coming quickly. (I know, I have several songs up, but each one is a struggle).

So today I have a half-finished lyric. I know what the chorus is, so start there. A lot of times I'll try to come up with a melody in my head before touching a guitar, so I don't immediately fall into the same old guitar chord thing I do.

Today it took hours. I sang a couple of things to myself while I was working today. Then I had to go pick up the dog from "doggie daycare", which is a 20 minute round trip walk. Singing to myself the whole way.

I had a start, but when I did pick up a guitar it sounded stupid.

So I ended up with something that started with what I had thought but it had to go somewhere else.

So right now: Words are hard. Lyrics are not really coming easily. And chords all sound dumb.

I'm pretty sure it'll get better, but that's where I am today.

Dude. We all have days/months/seasons like that. Hope it gets better for you soon, because you really are one of the great ones.

My first idea of 50/90 is still an unfinished lyric that may end up as a connected song suite because there are too many ideas for one song. I set it aside, did a couple of self-skirmishes, six more over the weekend, and am working on something else. I do hope to get back to it because I really like the idea anyway. It may take awhile to develop. Fortunately there are 77 days left in the challenge and worst case I post it as a WIP on the last few days. @standup I hope you get the song to where you want it to be.

I hear ya standup! I got off to a good start as well, and now.......meh, as the kids say... am feeling a little stalled, ....and it is hard not to fall into the usual patterns again and again for all of us. Sometimes the best thing is to try to power thru and just do 'something', and sometimes its 'leave it alone and come back later- either way, you've done it enough before so you know you'll get back there to that creative place! (and for what its worth, the songs i've heard of yours this time 'round are great!)

yep. i so get you. I have been thinking lately of the image of forging. and the process of making something from nothing. it also reminds me of timelapse footage of, say, brambles growing, where you see the force of the energy becoming matter. might sound a bit abstract but that is what it feels like to me creating. i always find the first bit hardest, bringing it into being, then once i have something of substance i can fill it out and tweak it. but that still feels like the forging side of my analogy. Anyway, i hope you feel more inspired and motivated soon, till then keep on!

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Just allow yourself to sound dumb.

Only way to break through barriers is to experiment. And experiments sound dumb. But that's how you learn.

You might find solace in the idea that they're not final versions but just demos that you can work on later to make them sound less dumb.

I have 2 vocal recordings that I made a week ago that I'm struggling with. Can't find the inspiration to put music to them. They sound crap-ish, but I know that all vocals sound better once they're set to music. But still struggling.

I think it's a mood thing. Just need the right mood and I'll knock 'em out quickly. Hopefully.

Sorry, I had to vent my frustration last night. By 11:30 I had some ideas worked out, maybe can finish tonight.

Can you play piano at all? It doesn't have to be well. I find that helps. If I can hear a melody in my head then it's quicker and easier for me to pick the melody out on piano and figure out my chord options from there. I'm a terrible piano player, but it's a really useful tool.

I’m a primitive 2-3 finger keyboard player.

But i like that idea—it might be good to play the melody on a keyboard and figure out how to harmonize the melody from there. Get a few chord ideas on the
piano, then work out a guitar part.

would probably bypass my guitar-playing same old/same old habits

Then there's the problem of recordings not sounding as good as they could. I just recorded 5 minutes of high-gain guitar. It sounded average. Listening back on headphones sounded better. Listening back on laptop speakers sounded way worse. *sigh*

This is a major problem for me. I know my rig can sound bloody awesome, but I've never been able to record that awesomeness. Not sure if it's jitters when I hit record or what, but it definitely holds me back from making songs.

Damn you gear! *shakes fist*

I'd second the suggestion of switching to a different instrument to mix up your writing habits. I write very different stuff when I start a track on piano rather than with a guitar, or with a drum track (Peter Gabriel often starts writing from a noise loop. It's a fun way of getting very different results).

And @cblack recording distorted electric guitars so that they sound good probably needs a whole thread of its own...

Ah, so it's not just me then? :P

+1 on picking up a different/out-of-comfort-zone instrument. For me the different tuning and timbre on other stringed instruments sends me in different directions. Without changing instruments, I also find using a less familiar alternate tuning on guitar to be helpful. Alternate tuning prolly deserves a thread of its own (so I'll start it). Specific to this thread, playing a different arpeggio (picked or fingerstyle guitar, using partial capos, and definitely on keyboard), is a way to generate a melody that breaks my pattern of hanging the melody on the chord root note.

This sounds more like writer's block than melody problems.

Regarding melody.

Try thinking of your melody lines as upside down V shaped. The melody ascends in pitch to some point, then flows back down.

If that doesn't yield anything, try V shaped. The melody descends in pitch, then ascends again.

Mix and match.

Both these can help bust loose a fresh melodic line. If you listen you'll hear variations on these two melody techniques repeated all the time.

Blech. Motivation for me right now. I can write lyrics and have it all in my head but the thought of sitting down to record it is… it’s like there’s a big chasm and I can’t see the other side. Too much trouble to cross it.

I struggled at getting better at melody for a long time. Getting praise for good lyrics was gratifying, but you can’t hear words well in clubs or on cheap speakers.

Having melodies that use notes from the chords in the progressions and the scale of the songs’ keys made a big difference from singing lyrics to chords to make the melodies fit. The melodies are what the listener focuses on, so lyrics set to the melodies that align with the chords work better for the listener. The lyrics might look less poetic on the page, but the listener is not reading the lyric sheet.

Reviewers focus on the lyrical content. Listeners like what they connect with. So, if you can write great words to a melody related to your chord progressions, you’ll be on track. It seems craftsmanship-oriented, but it’s something to consider.

1. sound. the most crucial element. listen to a playlist of the most popular songs and you will hear ir is the sound that distinguishes them, this is why the generic arrangements genera ted by programs such as B!AB are poison. i would include vocals as part of the sound,
2. rhythm. it is the groove that keeps the listener engaged.
3. melody. this is what the listener takes away from the song. what sticks in the head
4. lyric. it expresses the melody in concrete terms, you should write lyrics in melodic phrases.
5, harmony. chords are are unimportant, it is the voicings of the chords that create special harmonic moments

Finding melody notes in each chord in your progressions and tying them together takes some time, but achieve better melodies than singing your lyrics over the chords. Or you can use the scale of the songs key to find notes that work with the chords.

I did that with this song with the scale of F# Harmonic Minor over the chords on an iPad’s garage band. (But there’s not much contrast between these sections.)

And on an iPad GarageBand keyboard, I used the Japanese scale in the key of E on a typical 12 bar blues song in E.

Two words for you: word painting……7 times out of 10, my tunes come from the lyrics themselves. Tighten up the story in your lyrics and they will sing themselves into a tune. (Or maybe that is just my brain and you can ignore everything I just typed.) I am one of those people who if someone tells me they saw a purple cow, I can immediately visualize the purple cow in my head. I realize that we all think differently.

Another trick for me when I hit writer’s block is to take myself somewhere new….creativity needs mess. It needs for rituals and routines to be broken and chaos to ensue so that you can reorganize the building blocks into a new structure.

sing themselves into a tune. .... words i live by xx

I'd say don't fret it too much. Just write a melody even if it's a boring one. You'll get better as you keep coming up with melodies. Also time yourself! No need to spend hours and hours trying to come up with a melody for one song!! You can always go back and fix them but songwriting challenges its best to start with a very terrible melody than to spent hours to looking for the best melody (would makes to do if publishing).