Learn to improvise. 2004-2005. Lesson 14: melody building blocks.
Musically critical people sometimes sit at their instrument rejecting all
their melodical creations, with the result they end up with no melody at
all. That's a pity. Especially these musical people must not let
discourage themselves to continue improvising and composing.
Melodies may be originated from channeling (just entering your mind
without any explanation), but when this phenomenon stays away, it may
be practical to analyze the process of creation. If you want a computer to
create a melody, you must teach him to do the following things:
By this process the melody will meet the requirements of the criterion
better with every repetition. The point, of course, is the criterion: what
is beautiful? For a nowadays computer this problem cannot be solved.
- Make at random a little melody (a)
- Make another little melody (b) at random
- Compare both melodies (a) and (b) according to a certain criterion
- Replace melody (a) by the best of the two
- Repeat point 2,3,4 a number of times
But the hesitant improviser can! He only has too little experience to go
through the points 2, 3, 4 fast enough. The most important gift, a good
taste, he already has. The only problem now is to speed up his process of
choice. Apart from lowering the level of his musical requirements, he
may apply the following techniques.
Last but not least: don't ferret out till you have the quality of Chopin. If
it is good, it is good enough. Otherwise you might keep on searching
and never come to playing.
- By experience a 'library' of prefabricated short melodies will be
originated as building blocks for larger melodies, e.g. c d e. If you
sing or hum this melody you may feel its musical value. Creating
a melody by means of suchlike melody building blocks goes faster
than with single notes.
- This melody may be repeated (that's easy and fast).
- Also a variation of that little melody may be used (this is faster
than creating a new melody from scratch). This may be repeated
- A refinement may be ferret out and remembered.
- The building blocks may be longer than about three notes as also
repetitions, variations and combinations may be used as building
- Certain melody notes have a special effect in modulations. These
may be added to the library too.
- If the flow of the chords has already a meaning, the melody may be
restricted to very few notes.
- The touch is a powerful means to let a simple melody be enough
(provided the instrument is velocity sensitive and has a nice
- You may learn complete songs by heart to have a start.
- The building block melodies may be thought in groups:
- riffs for blues and boogie-woogie
- parts of scales for Viennese waltz
- starts for festive music
- broken chords for musette
- rhythm effects for the tango
- romantic elements
- Antillean elements
Don't make a problem out of making a melody. Just
take some simple building blocks and repeat them in all kinds of
variations. Be content with it! Sing along with it; it will seem better
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