Arts & Entertainment, Music

Start With Melody and Lyrics

Alicia Keys

Lesson time 09:52 min

Alicia shares her methods and styles for developing lyrics.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Finding the Feeling · Improvising and Freestyling · Crafting Melody: “Diary”


[MUSIC PLAYING] - How do I start a song? How do I begin it? If I feel something, or I have created something, how do I begin it? You just don't know, because I've written many, many songs, hundreds of songs. But every time, I don't know how it's going to happen. I don't know what's going to come. I don't know, how is it going to find its way? I don't have a clue. And that's when I say that it's emotional to me, because some people are quite technical with music, quite specific, almost scientific. And that's awesome, because I've always wondered how to do that, because I truly don't know how to do that. All I know is, if I can find the feeling, then I can find my way somewhere. So that's usually what I do. Sometimes, it will be in my head. As I'm walking on the street, as I'm in my car, I hear bits and pieces. I'll grab my phone and record the pieces that I hear. Sometimes, it's just an emotion. And I sit down. And I play the first thing that I feel. Sometimes, I feel nothing at all, and I just sit down anyway, and I play whatever comes out. So any of these ways work. And if anything, you can try all of them, because it depends on the day. It depends on the hour. It depends on the alchemy, and the magic, and the whatever that we-- the unknown. I think improvisation plays a really big role in the songwriting process, just being open, just being fluid. I tend to improvise melody more than lyric. For me, I will play a few chords, and happily just-- [PLAYING PIANO] --sing the first thing that comes to my head, and then try it a few times, and just sing. Can I remember that? Do I love that? Does that feel right? [PLAYING PIANO] I always heard that the Beatles said that, if they couldn't remember their song the next day, then they weren't doing it, because it wasn't good enough. [PLAYING PIANO] So I love to improvise the melodies, and find my way through it, and find different places. And I usually also love to create levels to the song. If I'm starting at the beginning-- [PLAYING PIANO] --I like to keep it in a place that feels comfortable to access, something that's a little bit-- [PLAYING PIANO] --easy. And then, as I continue to go, then I like the melody of the song to lift up and get a little bit more energetic. [PLAYING PIANO] And then, by the time I hit the chorus, I'm usually freestyling something that really brings you higher so that, when you get back to that verse, it can be back to that-- [PLAYING PIANO] --calmer, more accessible space. So a lot of the time, that's usually how I think of a song. But obviously, there are no rules. And there are no right ways. And there are no wrong ways. It's all right. And it's all magic. And it's all amazing. And it's all you. And that's something that I've definitely been really thinking a lot about lately-- is the understanding that only you have what you're going to bring, literally. Nobody has it. No one. So there's a beaut...

About the Instructor

With 15 Grammy Awards and more than 40 million albums sold so far, Alicia Keys is one of the world’s most beloved singer-songwriters. Now the legendary artist invites you into her studio to share her process for creating music built from authentic emotion. Breaking down anthems like “Fallin’,” Alicia shows you how she writes lyrics, crafts melodies, and explores sonics so you can discover the music you were born to make.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Alicia Keys

The legendary singer-songwriter and producer shares her approach to making music that resonates and helps you find the power of your unique voice.

Explore the Class
Sign Up