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  • Jackie Marx

MELODY AND SONG FORMS

Updated: Jan 15











From Shelia Davis' workshop, Nashville in the late 80s.


  • In the AAA, when composing the initial verse, be careful to make the melody so it will interest the ear enough to want to hear it TWO or THREE MORE TIMES. (It Was a Very Good Year). Two suggestions: in an 8-bar A section, avoid returning to the initial phrase of your first bar; better yet, through-compose your melody (First Time Ever I Saw Your Face).

  • In the AABA, contrast your bridge section to the A sections in atleast one of the following ways.

  1. MELODIC MOVEMENT a. from stepwise to skips and visa versa (Saving All My Love For You) b. from skips to leaps and visa versa (Over the Rainbow) c. change direction of melodic curve from up to down and visa versa (Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue). d. shift the pitch area (April in Paris).

  2. RHYTHMIC MOVEMENT a. change rhythm (example: half notes to eighth notes. (Somewhere Out There). b. change harmonic rhythm by frequency of chord changes; once a bar to twice a bar or visa versa (S' Wonderful).

  3. HARMONIC ALTERATIONS a. give greater emphasis to certain chords and/or b. introduce new chords (What I Did For Love).

  4. MODULATE, that is, shift from one tonal center to another. Modulation may be achieved as follows: a. use a single chord--a diatonic chord dominant 7th chord to move to a new key. b. use a present in both the initial and the new key to move smoothly from the last phrase of the old key into the first phrase of the new key (called a pivot chord). c. Move by half-step into the new phrase. EXAMPLES OF GOOD BRIDGES: Here You Come Again, Saving All My Love For You, Somewhere Out There). Consider augmenting the final A of your AABA with a coda (The Way We Were).

  • In the VERSE/CHORUS song, a more effective melody will result from making a rhythmic contrast between the verse and the chorus. (EXAMPLE: an 8th or 16th note pattern in the verse vs. a half-note pattern in the chorus. (Don't Cry Out Loud). It's a good rule of thumb to place the pitch of your chorus above that of your verses (Touch Me in The Morning),

  • Be mindful that the principle of contrast that governs the AABA bridge holds just as true as for a V/C bridge, (Just Once).





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