How to Compose a Melody on Piano
It doesn’t matter how great of a bass line, chord progression, or lyrics you
have. None of these work well without an appropriate melody lying on top of them. Just think about your
favorite songs: what do you remember first? In many cases, it’s the melody that pops into your head and makes
a song stand out.
So your task when you are working on your next original composition is to devise the perfect melody that
expresses your message and makes your song memorable.
It can be difficult to just sit down and write a melody. Sure, there are probably a few people out there who can
do it. But learning how to compose a melody on piano is as challenging as learning to tie our shoes when we’re
Yes, it is important, but it is difficult to get our fingers in the right spots. While it is difficult to tell
anyone where exactly to begin, there are a few helpful tips that any songwriter can take with them into that
next composition session they will have.
First, you need to decide on the right kind of mood for your song. Do you have a serious emotion? Is your song a
joyous love song? Are you expressing a sad feeling? How about an angry one? Try to figure out exactly what you’re
feeling, and aim for notes and rhythm that communicate that mood to others.
Once you decide on the mood, let your fingers do some exploring. Like wanderers traveling through an enchanted
forest, let your fingers surprise you with what they find. The piano is a place for limitless opportunity, so when
composing a melody for piano, try to experiment with what possibilities are available.
Remember that you will likely ultimately reject 99% of the melodic
ideas you find. But the longer you play around with different notes, the more likely you are of finding that
ideal melody that fits your ears perfectly. You might want to check out our section on piano ear training for more details on
When dancing around on the keys, one incredibly helpful piece of knowledge is to know your scales. Most melodies
will occur within the same scale, meaning that if your song is in the key of C major then your melody will commonly
fall on the notes that make up C major.
If your song is in B minor, then your melody will commonly fall on the notes that make up B minor. If you’re
having trouble finding notes that seem to follow one another well, then you probably aren’t playing notes within
the same scale!
Remember that each song usually occurs within one key, so if you know that key, then you can immediately
eliminate several notes from your options and simplify your process.
Finally, finding a melody doesn’t only have to occur at the piano. Hum all of the time. In fact, sometimes
sitting at a piano can be limiting in the sense that you are relying on your ears hearing the next notes from your
fingers rather than letting the creativity of your own mind wander. When you’re away from the piano, try to just
casually hum the parts of the melody you already know, and see what naturally comes to mind next!
There is no magic formula to composing a melody on the piano. The right combination of time, talent, and passion
will transform even the vaguest idea into a beautiful work of art.
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