What is a Melody?

Melody on Music Staff

A song’s melody is perhaps the most important element of the song.  Writing a good melody should not be difficult. However the songwriter must understand certain principles associated with writing a good melody.

The bedrock of music belongs to the melody.  This is one of the most important aspects that make a great song.  It is what makes a song memorable.

A melody is a sequence of single notes that is musically satisfying.  Any series of single tone creates a melody. The human voice, the flute, horn,—all instruments capable of emitting but one tone at a time.  Each of these instruments produces a melody. It constitutes, then, a line of tones. The quality of the melody depends upon the choice and duration of each successive tone.

A good melody is one that appeals to the music lover as tuneful, pleasing, and intelligible. It is one where each successive tone and each successive group of tones stands in a rational harmonic relation to the one before it, and even, usually, to several preceding tones or groups. To say it another way, the tones are not arranged haphazard, but with reference to their harmonious agreement with each other.

The melody needs to be simple. This makes it easy for the listener to remember.  A complicated melody may alienate the average listener.  Make melodies simple in a way that even a child could sing or hum it.

The key to writing a great song means making a memorable impact on the listener.  There are certain aspects that go into composing a song.  Including these elements is the job of the composer and helps make the listener remember the song.

Practical Application

To compose great melodies for your songs you will need to know several things.  Your assignment is to pick songs from different eras and genre.  Listen to these songs with your primary focus on the melody.  Create a journal of what you hear.  Here are some questions to answer to help you with your observations.

  1.  Is the melody simple?
  2.  Is the melody easy to remember?
  3.  What instrument carries the melody?


Melody is a major element in every song ever written.  It is made up of a combination of pitch and rhythm.  It is important that a it be memorable and simple yet at the same time be interesting.

To help stimulate ideas in your songwriting use the Melody Shape Generator found here:

Random Melody Shape Generator


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  • Songwriter Tip:

    While it’s not important that you know all of the different types of rhyme schemes (or the names of all the different kinds of rhymes, for that matter) it is important that you know how to use them. For example, if your first verse has lines 1 and three rhyming at the end as well as line 2 and 4 rhyming at the end, you have set up a rhyme scheme that should continue in the rest of the verses.