How to Write a Melody Over Chords

Dec. 22, 2022

How to write a melody over chords
How to write a melody over chords
How to write a melody over chords
How to write a melody over chords

How to Write a Melody Over Chords

If you are interested in learning how to write a melody over chords then you have come to the right place! In this blog post, we will explore the fundamentals of how to write a melody over chords. 

We will look at some techniques for developing a catchy and interesting melody, and by the end of this post, you should be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to create your own unique melodies over chords. 

So, let’s get started!

Start with the chord progression

The first step in learning how to write a melody over chords is to start with the chord progression. Before you can start writing a melody, you need to know what chords you’re playing over. 

This could be a chord progression you’ve written or one that you’ve found elsewhere. The important thing is that you know what the chord progression is before you start writing the melody. 

Once you know the chord progression, you can start thinking about how to write a melody. 

One way to do this is to use the melody writing formula. This formula is a helpful tool for creating melodies and will help you create a more harmonically-sound melody. 

The formula consists of 3 steps: listening to the chord progression, finding the tonic note, and finding the chord tones. By using this formula, you’ll have a better understanding of how to write a melody that flows well with the chords.

Find the tonic note

The tonic note is the most important note in any chord progression and melody. It serves as the home base for the rest of the chord progression and melody, so it’s important to know how to find it. To find the tonic note, you need to determine the key of the song. 

You can do this by looking at the chord progression, or by listening to the chords and determining which note or notes feel like the root. Once you have identified the key, the tonic note will be the first note of the scale in that key.

It is common for the tonic to be the lowest note of the first chord in the progression, just like it is common for the tonic to be the note that occurs most within the progression. But this isn't always the case so to be safe you will want to use your ears. 

The chord with the tonic note will become your “home” chord throughout the song and as such it will sound the "best". 

In particular, any chord that resolves to the tonic chord, transitioning from one chord to another, will feel "complete" like it belongs there. When you think you have found your tonic, double-check to see if the rest of the notes in the progression are in key. If not then you may have the tonic incorrect.

Find the chord tones

Once you have your chord progression, the next step is to find the chord tones. Chord tones are the notes of a chord. To do this, you will need to determine what key your chord progression is in. The tonic note of the key is typically the root of the chords used in the progression.

To find the chord tones for each chord, you will use the formula of whole steps and half steps between notes. For example, a C major chord consists of C (the root note), E (a whole step higher), and G (a half step higher). 

When writing a melody over your chord progression, the melody should include some of these chord tones. 

Stepwise vs Leapwise Motion

When it comes to learning how to write a melody over chords, two of the most commonly used approaches are stepwise motion and leapwise motion. Stepwise motion is when a melody moves up or down by one scale interval at a time, while leapwise motion is when a melody jumps up or down by a larger interval. 

Using both stepwise and leapwise motion can help create an interesting melody. Stepwise motion helps create a smoother flow between notes, while leaps can create more dramatic moments in the melody. 

When creating a melody, try to use a combination of both to keep your listener’s interest. 

When deciding which approach to take for any given section of a melody, start by analyzing the chord progression. 

If you’re trying to accent a certain chord, aim for stepwise motion within its notes. If you’re trying to contrast with the chords, look for leapwise motion.

By combining both stepwise and leapwise motion when writing your melody, you’ll be able to craft an interesting and captivating piece of music. With practice and patience, you’ll be able to create beautiful melodies that capture the emotion of your song.

Create a phrase

Creating a phrase is the next step in learning how to write a melody over chords. A phrase is a musical idea that expresses emotion and has a beginning, middle, and end. To create a phrase, you will need to consider the song's lyrics and its overall mood.

When creating the phrase, it’s important to use the chord tones of the progression. These are the notes that make up each chord, like the root note, third, fifth, and seventh. Additionally, you can use passing tones or neighboring tones to add more interest to your melody.

These are notes that may not be a chord tone but you play them(usually for a shorter duration) “on the way” to the chord tones. In other words, they connect two chord tones together in sequence within your melody.

For example, if using strict stepwise motion over an I chord in C Major we may start our melody on the tonic of C but in order to transition to the chord tone of E we must first play a D in order to maintain strictly to the concept of stepwise motion.

That D would be considered a passing tone. 

If instead of E we went back down to the tonic C then the D would be considered a neighboring tone.

Ultimately, the key to creating a good phrase is experimentation. Keep trying different melodies and combinations of notes until you find something that sounds great with your chord progression and communicates your message effectively.

Arrange the melody

Once you have a phrase that works with the chords, the next step is to arrange it. This involves taking the phrase and repeating it in different ways to create an interesting and unique melody. 

Here are some ideas on how to arrange your melody: 

1. Repeat the phrase with different rhythms: You can repeat the same phrase but change the rhythm to add variety and interest to your melody. Try starting with a simple 4/4 beat and then alternating between different rhythms such as triplets, sextuplets, or even odd-time signatures. 

2. Create variations of the phrase: Once you have a phrase that works, try adding small variations to create something new. This could include adding notes, changing rhythms, or using different chord tones for emphasis. 

3. Combine phrases: You can also combine multiple phrases together to form a larger melody. This allows you to create something more complex and interesting than a single phrase. 


Writing a melody over chords doesn’t have to be daunting! With these simple steps and a few key concepts, you can easily create a melodic line that works with your chord progression. Remember to focus on the tonic note, chord tones, and phrasing when creating your melody. 

You can also use stepwise or leapwise motion to add interest to your melody. When writing for lyrics, make sure you match the syllables in each phrase with the notes of your melody. 

Finally, if you ever get stuck, try using the melody writing formula to help you out. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be writing beautiful melodies in no time!