Importance of a defining melody

One thing that amazes me about the Beatles is their use of melody in songwriting. It’s like every song they wrote had a “defining” melody. It’s why their songs are covered by all styles -even jazz groups, classical versions etc…

So what do I mean by a “defining” melody? I suppose it’s a melody that’s unique, singable and identifiable without any accompaniment. Think of songs like “Yesterday”, “The Long and Winding Road”, “Strawberry fields” and they’re all easily identified without any accompaniment, and flow with their own distinctness.

Writing classic melodies like this really is the work of genius. Almost anyone can write a song. I’ve seen guys who know three chords on a guitar, add a few cheesy lyrics and come up with a song -even quite catchy. Possibly because we’ve all heard so many songs in our life time, there are melodic clichés that will just flow from us even as we strum along basic chords like C, F and G.

However, writing a song with a defining melody is another story. This is the factor that can rescue your song from the sea of song-writing blandness that permeates radio and the internet. It’s incredibly easy in this day and age as a songwriter to fall back into cliché dribble -which kind of sounds good but there’s nothing different about it.

And it’s not just a “hook”. A “hook” is anything that can catch a listener -and often a cliché will do it -for a short time that as. A defining melody can lead to a classic song which can lead to not just a hit, but an enduring song that finds its way into people’s consciousness. That’s why Lennon and McCartney were such geniuses.


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