Songwriting With Melody

John Legend

Lesson time 13:31 min

Without a great melody, your song can fall flat. Learn how John uses mumble tracks to spark melodic ideas as he shares how he wrote “All of Me,” “Again,” and “Dope.”

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Topics include: Start With a Mumble Track • ASSIGNMENT


(SINGING): I give you all of me. And you give me all of you. Oh-oh. - Melody is such a core part of songwriting. It's a core part of how we take in a song, how we understand what a song is. It in many ways defines what the song is to a lot of people. A lot of times I will come up with melodic ideas, hooky moments in the song, before I come up with what the subject matter will be. Most of my songs start with a melody, and then some sort of hook that has a lyric. And then I build out a concept around that lyric, with that lyric as the theme. (SINGING): We're just ordinary people. We don't know which way to go. - So, let's talk about what a song is. In my mind, if we're talking about popular music, we're talking about songs with vocals. A song is the chord progression, it's the lyric, and it's the vocal melody. So, that means even if someone arranged it differently with different instruments, if they applied a different beat to it, it would still be the same song because it has the same chord progression, has the same vocal melody, and has the same lyric. So, that's what is transferable about that song. No matter who covers it that song is a song, and that's the thing that is the core of songwriting. So, what is the melody? Melody is the part that the vocalist sings. It's the notes. It's the sequence of notes and the rhythm of the sequence of those notes that the singer is singing. And if it's an instrumental song, it might be the sequence of notes that the saxophone player or whoever is the lead instrument that stands out. So, for "All of Me," the melody of the chorus is-- [VOCALIZING MELODY] So, not only it's a sequence of notes, but it's a rhythmic structure of those notes. So, they fall at certain points in the measure. And some are extended longer. Some are more rapid fire. So, all of those components of the thing that you're singing along to, the main melody that the vocalist is singing or that the lead instrument is playing, that is the melody. It's those sequences of notes and the rhythmic arrangement of those sequences of notes that are the standout sing along-able part of a song. And so, part of what you're trying to do when you write a song is not only write something that you'll sound good doing, but that when people hear it, it makes them want to sing it too. So, I just wrote a song with Charlie Puth and Ryan Tedder and Ian Kirkpatrick, and they were primarily writing chords and the beat. And I came up with melodies for the song. So the beat was-- [PLAYING NOTES] Up tempo song. JOHN LEGEND (SINGING): She sold out. [VOCALIZING MELODY] I'm trying to make a melody that rides the beat. I'm trying to make a melody that is catchy. I'm trying to have enough space between the lines so that it makes it even more catchy and accessible and has the right rhythmic approach to what the beat is. The beat is a fun party groove. The keyboards are doing this cool k...

About the Instructor

When 12-time Grammy winner John Legend released “Free” in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, he called it a prayer for peace. Now the recipient of the first-ever Recording Academy Global Impact Award teaches you how he wrote and recorded the song—and his process for creating hits like “All of Me” and “Glory.” Layer melodies and lyrics, develop your musical point of view, and make music that makes the moment.

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John Legend

John Legend, the EGOT-winning music icon and coach on “The Voice,” teaches you his process for creating music with impact.

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