Do You Have Something to Say in a Song? Here are 3 Easy Ways to Create a Melody for Your Own Song

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Do you dream of writing your own song? Your words? Your melody? Not anyone else’s? Well, you’re in luck because you don’t need to be Beethoven to whip up a catchy tune.

As a seasoned singer/songwriter, I’ve spent years wrestling with notes and chords. I won’t teach you how to write lyrics, but I’ve got some nifty tricks for creating melodies.

Cat on Keyboard With Mic Singing

Usually, melodies just come to me—like a cat deciding to sit on your keyboard while you’re working. But sometimes, I take a different route: I mess around with existing songs just enough to make them my own. Think of it as musical recycling, but much cooler.

Actually, while I was growing up, my cat would sit under the piano while I was playing, but when I was practicing the cello, he was nowhere to be seen! I wonder what that meant….

Nowadays I often have a parrot sitting on my head, under my shirt, or on my shoulder when I’m working. Why no cat? The parrots prefer NOT to be lunch!

For centuries, music has been all about building on what’s already there. Western music gives us a handful of notes and endless ways to mix them into melodies we love, hate, or can’t get out of our heads. You don’t need to read music; just listen and feel it. Trust me, even if you think you have two left feet, you can still find the rhythm.”


For newbies, I suggest starting with a simple folk song you know, like “Sweet Betsy from Pike” or “My Darling Clementine.” These are in a waltz style—think 1-2-3, 1-2-3. If you write your own words to these tunes, it’s a parody. And parodies are always a hit at parties (or so I’ve heard).

Want to get fancy? Change the beat to 4 beats per measure—1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. It’s one of my favorite tricks. Take a song like “Simple Gifts” or “Shenandoah” (my all-time fave) and switch it from 4 beats to 3 beats per measure. Clap your hands to the new rhythm: 1-2-3 or 1-2-3-4. The song transforms before your ears!

Musical notes


Mess with the tempo. Speed it up or slow it down. Imagine “Shenandoah” as a jazz song or “Simple Gifts” as a slow, soulful ballad. How does it sound acapella (just the voice with no instruments)? Or with a crazy new harmony? (By the way, I’m a harmony specialist!)

Pick a mood or style: Do you want it upbeat, melancholic, jazzy, or something else entirely? Maybe you’re feeling operatic, folksy, or like an old standard. Is it funny, romantic, or just plain weird? It’s your melody, so go wild.


Change the note pitches. Experiment with making certain notes higher or lower. Throw in unexpected twists or new emotions. This might happen naturally if you’re changing the rhythm. Imagine switching from a 4-beat count to a 3-beat count for the chorus. It’s like adding a surprise party in the middle of your song! I’m actually working on a song like that.


Have fun! This is your melody, your song. Play around with an instrument if you have one. The only person you need to please is yourself. And maybe your cat, if it’s sitting on your keyboard again.

In 1990, while I still had my greater sulfur-crested cockatoo, we played together…


Look for a master class on these techniques. Seriously, let me know if you’re interested. We could start a whole new music revolution.

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