How many melodies should you compose for a single song? Is more the merrier when it comes to popular music? In this article, we’ll talk about the ideal number of melodies in a song and ways to keep them interesting.
How Many Melodies Should A Song Have?
A song should have just one main melody line with two parts: a melody for the chorus hook and a secondary part or variation for the verses. Adding small variations to the primary melody is fine, but I would advise against adding entirely new melodies once your song already has one.
You do not want to dilute the potency of your hook. It’s usually the most important part of your entire song. If you include too many different melodic lines it will draw attention away from the main vocal hook and diminish the staying power of the entire track.
Repetition is a powerful tool. If a song sounds catchy and repeats enough times, it will get stuck in peoples’ heads and become an ear worm. And the catchier a song sounds, the more likely it could go viral.
So, if you composed multiple good melodies for a song, I would strongly recommend that you keep one of them for another track. Perhaps even write a second song as a spiritual sequel to the first.
Can A Song Have More Than One Melody?
It’s recommended to keep one melody per song, but yes: it is still possible (and sometimes reasonable) to use more than one melody in the same track. However, the secondary melody should usually be quieter than the first (if they are playing at the same time).
If you are new to songwriting and music composition, then perhaps stick to one melodic top line. Getting two melodies to intertwine is an intermediate composition task. But there are times when two or more melodies improve a song. Two of the most common situations are:
- Tracks with multiple singers performing counterpoint to each other,
- Songs with a simple vocal line that’s lacking a lyrical chorus/hook (this is a good situation where you rely on a supplemental instrument hook)
Songs that feature multiple singers can employ multiple melodies to play off each other. These two melodies are usually interlinked by sharing keys and complementary pacing. This style of composition is called counterpoint, and it’s been used since the Renaissance.
The two singers could sing the same lyrics with different notes, or different lyrics entirely. Here are a few popular music examples:
Songs without Vocal Hooks
Some songs have very simple vocal lines that don’t really stand out. They may only use one or two notes for the entire melody. In these situations, your song may benefit by adding a more expressive secondary melody that plays as a hook between vocal sections. Usually, this extra melody will play on an instrument like guitar, trumpet, piano, violin, or a monophonic synth.
This technique is quite common for rap and EDM. But it was also common in rock’s heyday, with some guitar riffs being more memorable than the lyrics of the actual song.
How Many Times Should A Melody Repeat?
A melody should repeat twice at most before a variation is added to it somehow, and a chorus should only be repeated two to three times throughout the entire song.
Repetition is good, but it’s also a two-edged sword. If you repeat the same melody unmodified for too long it will just sound annoying. Modulations to the main melodic line can prevent this.
Types of Melodic Variations
If you add variations to the melodic phrase, then it’s entirely acceptable to repeat it throughout the song. Changes you can make to the melody include:
- Different lyrics using the same melody (using the same top line for different verses/sections)
- Ornamentation (where a section gets embellished and elaborated with more notes)
- Rhythm (the pacing of the notes change but the actual notes used remain the same)
- Substitution (you switch out one or two of the notes in some bars; for example, a different resolving note in the 3rd bar)
Most songs should have one good melody with small variations to keep it interesting. Adding too many different melody lines to one song can make it sound congested or reduce the catchiness of the main vocal tune. I recommend that beginners focus on having one great melody line per song.
I hope you found this content useful. If so, then here are a few more articles that may interest you: