How to Write a Lydian MELODY
Includes multitrack MIDI example
Simple music can be great music. Depeche Mode’s lead single “Ghosts Again” from their new album “Memento Mori” is proof. It has a well-written and creative vocal melody in the verses, but it’s really simple. So, here’s a method for writing melodies from a band that’s been going for over 40 years!
Step 1. Mode
If you’re going to write a simple melody, it helps to choose an interesting mode. They chose Lydian, which is an uplifting but quirky mode. So, we’ll use F Lydian for our example, which is all the white notes from F to F.
Just before we jump into the next step. If there’s an artist you want us to hack, drop us a comment. Also, are you new to music theory? Or are you experienced, but you want a refresher? Then download our FREE Book (link opens in new tab). It only takes 30 minutes to read, then you’ll have a solid theory foundation that you can instantly apply to your songwriting and producing.
Step 2: Roots & 3rds
Write a simple four-bar chord progression, then mute your chords and only play the root note of each chord on your bass. That’s the only thing Depeche Mode plays under the vocal melody in their verse.
Right, are you ready for a melody masterclass from Dave Gahan? So, most of his vocal melody consists of only the 1, 3 and 5 of each chord. These are known as harmonic notes, as they form the chord. Over the first two chords, he only sings the 1 and 3 of each chord, and over the third chord he only sings the 1 and 5.
But, his melody sounds extra beautiful for two reasons: First, it’s in Lydian, which makes it unusual. And second, there are no chords playing, so his vocal melody is what creates the harmony and therefore the emotion. The 3rd note of each chord is the most emotional note, as it makes a chord either major or minor. And because there are only root notes in your bass, your melody will create that uplifting sound when it plays a major 3rd, and that sad sound when it plays a minor 3rd.
Also, in a F Lydian melody we wanna use the note B somewhere, as that’s what makes the mode different to the F major scale, which has a B♭. If you wanna learn about the modes and how to use them, that’s in our Songwriting & Producing PDF (link opens in new tab).
Step 3: Variations
Over the last chord in the progression, Dave sings the 2 and 4. These are non-harmonic notes. In other words, they’re not in the chord. This is what makes them sound like they’re floating, as they’re not anchored into the chord. So use a couple of non-harmonic notes at the end of your melody, to avoid it becoming predictable. Then lastly, in the second cycle of their melody, Dave sings a small variation to keep it fresh, so change a few notes when you loop your melody.
Listen below, or on any podcast app.