Composing a melody by singing is a method that has been used by many of the greatest melodists. The reasons are obvious:
By singing it’s more likely that your melody will be generated from the deepest and most personal well of creativity within you. If you simply work out a melody with your fingers at the piano, you are less likely to be connecting with that innermost musical place.
Singing your melody helps you to better understand its structure (contour, climax etc.) in terms of the primal melodic instrument: the human voice.
Singing engages your body, and the body is the primal rhythm instrument. As a result, your melody is likely to be more rhythmically effective and interesting.
Melodies and even simple figures or motives that can be easily sung are more likely to be accessible to the average Joe and Jane. (This may be one reason why vocal forms are ubiquitous in both folk and popular music.) It’s especially useful to sing when composing a vocal melody.
Many (if not most) of the great composers did not write at an instrument. We may not know whether they sang their melodies as they composed, but it’s a good bet that they were “virtually” singing them by mentally hearing them.
The same is also true of many if not most of the great popular songwriters. For example, musical theater composer Richard Rodgers, one of the greatest melodists of the 20th century, wrote his songs by singing the melody while playing chords on the piano. John Lennon and Paul McCartney composed their tunes by singing them while playing their guitars.
Many of the greatest jazz pianists, such as Bud Powell and Keith Jarrett, vocalize while improvising (same principle).
Convinced it’s worth a try? Follow these steps, one at a time, to engage your virtual or actual voice when composing a melody:
First try hearing your melody inside your head (without actually singing it) and notate it without playing it on your instrument, if you can. This requires a pretty good musical ear, but that is easy enough to develop. By the way, don’t worry about the chords at first. It’s generally better – at least from a melodic perspective – to let the melody dictate the harmony rather than allowing harmonic demands to interfere with the organic nature of the melody.
If the above feels too challenging, sing your melody out loud and notate it without playing it on your instrument.
Finally, easiest – but last, because it’s tempting to get lost in your established compositional habits – sing your melody, then learn to play it on your instrument, then notate it.
I was honored last week to have the opportunity to present my music marketing research at the 2016 College Music Society National Conference in Santa Fe. My wife, Jennifer Jones-Mitchell, President of Brandware PR, and I participated in the poster presentation format in the main exhibition hall. We met some amazing, talented professors and musicians representing colleges from across the USA. My wife was able to share her immense expertise and inspire attendees to take advantage of social media resources to reach a global audience.
Our research features case studies of creative marketing campaigns, streaming services, music licensing data and much more. Have a look at the SlideShare below and don’t hesitate to reach out to me or my wife with questions or comments. Feel free to share as well.
For expert PR advice, contact Jennifer Jones-Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, I received a nice letter from the College Music Society. They selected my conference proposal! Jennifer Jones Mitchell and I will be presenting at the 2016 CMS National Conference in Santa Fe. We’re excited! Our topic is “Marketing Your Music Online: A Guide to Social Media for The Musician”.
The conference will be late October at at the Eldorado Hotel & Spa, the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza, and St. Francis Auditorium in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Here’s an interesting new composition. It’s a piece I wrote for Vocal Essence, “one of the world’s premier choral music organizations” according to their website. They host an annual choral music competition. The guidelines called for a Christmas carol featuring Scandinavia violin and chorus. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline.
I finished the piece of course, and it was selected by the Southeastern Composers League for their annual concert series. And I must say, the Campbell University Chorus conducted by Dr. Phillip Morrow featuring Lucy Greenleaf-Carter on violin did a wonderful!
This piece is a setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells”. The fast moving violin part creates a feeling of nervous energy. It’s intended to sound like snowflakes swirling in the air on a cold Christmas night in the dead of winter. The chorus mimics the sound of bells ringing at the stroke of midnight across a frozen city scape.
In January and February of 2016, the College Music Society Monthly Discussion Forum focused on music and technology. The survey questions were designed by Dr. David Mitchell and a summary of the results is now available on the College Music Society website. Click on the link below to have a look.
The purpose of this survey was to learn how many schools currently offer music and technology degrees and how many schools make technology part of their degree program. The results were very interesting…
On February 18th, 2016, I presented at the College Music Society regional conference at Birmingham Southern College. My topic was How to Designing a Music and Technology Degree. I covered NASM requirements and issues to consider when designing a Music and Technology degree.
In today’s digital entertainment industry, it is more important than ever for music graduates to master digital recording techniques, in addition to their instrument. After all, digital media is the medium through which our music is most often created, found and heard. Students with the right skills can distribute their music to a global audience for commercial applications, streaming, licensing and much more. In fact, the opportunities for today’s musicians are limited only by their imagination and ability to take advantage of digital music opportunities online.
In my opinion, M and T will be the preferred degree for 21st century musicians.
Dr. David Mitchell is scheduled to present at the College Music Society Southern Conference on Designing Music and Technology Courses on February 18, 2016.
Attendees will learn about and discuss the trend away from traditional instrumental performance degrees and toward music and technology degrees that better prepare graduates for today’s job market. The discussion will include paradigm shifts in the music industry, including online streaming, digital downloads and multimedia production.