View Full Version : Learning to play melody

02-24-2004, 11:47 PM
The ability to play super fast is just practice practice practice. Now that I got my technique and speed to at least reasonable level (nothing super fast but good enough) I find it difficult to come up with a nice melody. When jamming my playing sounds like..Speed Lick 1, followed Cool blues lick #2, followed by Sweep pick lick #3, followed by 3NPS tapping lick #4 etc.... Its not very melodious if you get my point. Its hard time coming up with decent melody. Is it possible to teach or learn this. What are some techniques you use? Or is it just one of those things where you either got it or you don't. Any hints/tips/advice would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks

Bongo Boy
02-25-2004, 06:09 AM
You might try putting down the guitar for a moment and reading lyrics--poetry, etc. Obviously melody doesn't require poetry--but good poetry evokes melody. To my mind, at least.

Good music that 'tastes good, lasts a long time' has a cool story--even if you don't really know what the story is. Anything that doesn't evoke a movement or a journey--a story--is probably just another etude. :)

02-25-2004, 08:09 AM
This is something I work on also (improvised solos) so perhaps I can at least stimulate some ideas (as I am also far from great). If you are playing a song that has a definite melody (ie a jazz standard will have a melody like St. Thomas) then you can experiment with taking the main melody (which is already written out etc.) and try to "rephrase" it. Approach notes stepwise etc.

Another thing since it sounds like you have a pretty technical playing style might be to limit yourself. Something I've found very useful is to take just 4 or 5 notes out of a major scale and solo exclusively with those. See how much music you can make with that.

A few basic ideas that can be a pretty good base if you play with them, we'll see what else gets contributed.


02-25-2004, 01:46 PM
What do you listen to?
You are what you eat (so to speak)
Or maybe you play like what you listen to.
Listen to stuff with great melodies and you are more likely to play great melodies.
Maybe you are listening to guys that play Speed Lick followed by cool blues lick followed by tapping lick etc...

The best Music is not based on LICKS.
Licks are like little memorized things you can play subconsciously.
The great music happens when you are inspired and try to play what is in your head, most of us never get to where we can play whatever is in our head. Part of the reasoning for this is that most people haven't learned to LISTEN to what is in their head, Trust it, and be brave enough to attempt to execute it.

The other thing is listen to your playing. Don't just play from your hands, play with you heart soul and mind.

Studying technique should give you the ability to express yourself, not lock you in to playing based on what your hands can do. Too many people spend all of their time getting ready to play and never playing. It is OK not to have Micheal Angelo's speed and OK not to have Eric Johnson's technique or Yngwie's vibratto. Joe Pass' Chord technique, Pat Martino's lead technique etc...

You are learning to play because it is supposed to be FUN, play and have fun it is the best part.

02-25-2004, 10:29 PM
I seem to have just the opposite problem. I'm trying to learn how to "rip".:)
Most of my improv. doesn't come from "licks". It's straight out of the chord, or scale "of the moment". I end up being, fairly melodic but I get tired of that after a while.
You've already gotten some great advise, above. Go back to basics, as though you'd just learned the major scale. Start slow and see what comes out.

.......well, I hope there's something helpfull in there.,?


02-25-2004, 10:36 PM

find something ( a backing track, a chord progression, a riff ) that really inspires you. It has to make you want to play over it.
You told me you like "Hidden Creek". Well the "chorus melody" of that one ( the one I play over the E/D chord ) came together when I was jamming over it. Also, there are a few licks in that song. Buit everything else, all the melodies, were improvised when I recorded it.
And I played that song a bit different every time I played it live. And its fun every time... and every time, I kinda like the results

The Bash
02-26-2004, 05:41 AM
Try coping singers.

Much like the jazz standars approach you might try laying down the chords for some tunes u like. Now instead of ripping over them play the vocal melody. You might start by staying real true to the melody and gradually begin adding a bit here or there until finally you got a solo loosely based on the vocal melody.

Not true in every case but a ton of songs use either the verse or chorus progessions as the solo section. If u find this to be the case in something your playing try playing the vocal part over it. Try it in diffrent postions etc. as it's a good way to build a good seeing ear. Once your comfotable with it and can actually hear the melody your playing real good in your head try adding a trill here or a bend there or a slide to here or there, or toss in a few extra notes, toss in some ripping licks to get from one melody note to another if you feel it's appropriate and adds something.
Your solo may or may not resemble the actual melody you began with in the end but it will at least have a sense of stucture and should sound as if it fits or belongs.

Other things you can pick up from singers is instead of just coping the notes really try to cop the phrasing, the vibrato, the dynamics. Sting and Prince are two guys off the top of my head that have excellent phrasing.

02-29-2004, 04:25 PM
Spent two weeks on getting comfortable with the 5 positions of a major scale. Understanding how to move the 5 positions up and down the neck as you change keys. This got me comfortable with my guitar fretboard and recognizing the sound of good and bad notes. Good ones are in the scale and bad ones are out of the scale.

Next he gave me three jamming tracks on a CD. One in A, one in C and one in G. Then I spent a week jamming with each of them. Taking A up the neck in two or three positions while jamming, etc.

Next he asked me to go home and pick by ear -- no peeking at tabs -- Mary had a little lamb, This old man, Twinkle twinkle little star, Jingle Bells and Somewhere over the rainbow. Simple tunes I've known for years.

My assignment this week is to pick by ear as many songs as I can get the melody started -- not necessary to pick out the complete melody -- just the start of the song or the chorus. Well, this tought me that there are really only 12 notes, and I am actually only using 7 at a time --- and those 7 will make a lot of melody. That seemed to pull everything into perspective.

Melody is begining to come into my playing.

03-01-2004, 04:16 AM
Thanks all!! Its been a great help, everything seemed to click today. I got the making of a song coming together. Believe it or not, I never actually tried to write an entire song before....well at least, I never got too far with one :) I usually just played other peoples stuff or just jammed.
I have a bunch of ideas I got down on tape, melodies and chord progressions and stuff. Man I'm so excited. :)

03-01-2004, 04:27 PM
Know how you feel ---- My next few weeks, with my instructor, will take me into writing songs. I sat in on a "fireside chat" he gave and have a better idea of where we will be going in a few weeks. Several friends also take from John and he does have a road he seems to take all of us down.

He said in the chat, that we are our worst editors i.e. right at first don't be too critical just get it down on paper.

Good luck.