Compose a Melody in 5 Minutes

I’d like to share one of my favorite exercises for generating new music. This organic process allows you to draw from your own imagination. If you have never composed your own music before, this is a great way to start.

Composition VI by Wassily Kandinsky, 1913. Public Domain
Composition VI by Wassily Kandinsky, 1913. Public Domain

Intuitive Melody Writing

  • Sit at a piano. Take a few deep breaths to let your mind and body relax.
  • Sing a pitch.
  • Find the pitch on the piano through trial and error.
  • Play/sing the pitch and listen. Let your inner hearing reveal the next pitch. Sing the second pitch and find it on the keyboard.
  • Sing the first two notes and listen for the third. Try to withhold judgementfollow your ear and intuition.
  • Repeat the process until the phrase reaches a natural ending
  • Play/sing your melody several times and experiment with rhythmic phrasing.
  • Write down your melody.

Repeat this process dozens of times and fill a notebook with melodies, fragments, and sketches.

Next Steps

Here are a few ways to begin shaping one of your melodies into a larger composition:

  • Write melodic and rhythmic variations
  • Write a contrasting B phrase to answer your melody
  • Combine variations with your B phrase:
    A (original melody) A’ (variation) B (response or answer phrase)
  • Write a countermelodytry recording your original melody and sing or play along
  • Write a bass line
  • After writing a bass line, harmonize your melody with inner voices
  • Turn the intuitive melody into a bass line and write a new melody above it
  • Write a rhythmic groove to accompany your melody

If you feel stuck, see my article “A Cure for Writer’s Block.”

Please share one of your intuitive melodies in the comments (you can upload an image or link to a recording).

– ST

Get free downloads of drum groove and drone tracks from my book when you subscribe to my email newsletter

Subscribe to the Creative Music Blog to receive new posts by email