Writing epic melodies with songwriting software: Why, when, how
OK, first, let's make one thing clear: Of course it is absolutely possible to write melodies the "classic" way. Grab a MIDI keyboard, open your DAW, then do your thing. Given time and patience, you will eventually end up with a tune that you can use in your song.
However, there are several areas where specialized songwriting tools can give you a major advantage:
- Play hundreds of scales fluently at once.
No need to remember the exact notes anymore. Tools like MelodicFlow make it possible to jam around on your MIDI keyboard without hitting the wrong notes. Basically, you simply add the plug-in to a track of your DAW, choose a fitting scale and then start to play. It will automatically adjust your notes (and you can also feed it with a reference chord progression, so that it knows even more about the harmonic background of your song).
- Write background melodies efficiently.
Not all melodies are created equally. While lead melodies have to stand out, background melodies work differently. You absolutely need them in your song, but in most cases, they simply follow time tested recipes. Let's take arpeggios, for example. They are a staple of many different genres, from rock and pop to melodic techno. And they simply work on the notes of the chord progression - in a very, very predictable way. Same goes for most basslines: When you know the chords, you can safely choose a rhythm and then map this rhythm over the chord notes. When you do this by hand in your DAW, you will need quite some time to test different "recipes". But when you use a tool like ChordPotion or Sundog, you can simply switch between different presets and test out various playing styles. A procedure that usually takes hours can now be done in minutes. And your listeners won't notice any difference.
- Leave your comfort zone and test new styles.
I guess we all know this situation: Again and again, we fall back to the same composing techniques we have known for years. Testing out new styles feels cumbersome compared to the comfort of our trusted methods. But when testing new playing styles becomes easy and playful, we suddenly can expand our musical repertory. This is why we have a growing library of free extension packages for Sundog and ChordPotion.
- Get out of writer's block - quickly.
Sometimes, we just feel uninspired. This is when starting a melody generator plug-in can be the rescue. Toying around with different generators can be a good way to reset the brain and find inspiration.
- Create your own re-usable playing styles.
Many producers create wonderful synth patches and new sample libraries outside their "song production hours". These sounds don't have to be immediately useful in a song context. But they are there, ready to use. You can do the same when you work with ChordPotion or Sundog. I often create new presets just for fun or because I want to "remember" a certain playing style. Sometimes they find their way into a song, sometimes not.
- Learn new stuff.
It can be quite enlightening to take a look at the generated MIDI notes that come out of generative music tools. It is one thing to listen to reference songs on and on. But diving deep into real MIDI notes, seeing the velocities and note durations etc., can really make it so much easier to learn new playing styles.
In the end, it all comes down to this: Using specialized songwriting software can safe you a bunch of time. It frees up new ressources that you can spend on other production areas. And your listeners won't notice any difference - promised.