Really struggling with melodies/leads

need some advice on improving my melodies and leads, both from a sound design perspective and a composition side.
I find i always end up with really bland sounding lead parts that dont really add any hook to the track.
Sound design wise i either end up with some kind of supersaw or just a pitched lead with a bit of vibrato on it i really need some tips on getting out of this rut because i usually have some decent drums together and a chord progression but my leads sound lifeless!

u can get a lot further with a really nice 3 note melody sometimes, and if your sounds are interesting and fresh you can keep your melody really simple and it’ll stay interesting to ears

otherwise, try pitch bending, i find it sounds more interesting than using pitch envelope - whack a big pitch bend on one of your chords for that BWAOW sound that works really well in grime, detune shit- the spread function on ableton sounds really good for this and ads a nice stereo vibe to a hit,
reverb the shit out of it- try sidechaining your reverb-give u more control so it’s not totally washed in it, and compressing after it anyway can make it sound pretty cool, or eqing it on a send so your reverbs on working on only the tops for example- this can sound fucking cool

try these tutorials


this is coool, you can get this nice twinkly echo from it and plenty of mix controls so you have a lot of choice about how much or little you want

can always wack on the arpeggiator too, or ableton has a nice resonator effect to bring out some other tones/sorta chordy things

and then with whatever effects your feeling you can automate it so the chord hits differently in the track

i really enjoy doing melodies tbh, sometimes you just gotta wait until you get that simple 3 note progression right

i like using old synth samples a lot too, shit sounds cool immediately without much processing, or just have that hook based around sample from other types of music like some jazzy piano/grimey violin etc

Composition wise, get yourself a copy of The Idiots Guide To Music Theory. Should be available through Google as a pdf.

You can also download MIDI files of melodies from tunes, which might help with the learning.

I want to say there is another guide to music theory we used to recommend on the old board, but can’t remember the name right now.

Thanks for those tips! the first vid was pretty interesting.

My theory is fairly good, i understand scales and how they relate to chords etc. Its the creative approach to comping i have trouble with. But i think i will try looking at some midi files for inspiration, thanks!

Really it’s just down to spending tons of time in front of a keyboard. Different patches for different stuff. I tend to go for a basic piano patch for the really base level noodling. Then maybe a string quartet/symphony for chordal stuff and something like a flute/guitar patch for melodic things. The idea is to get a variation in timbre and amplitude envelope from ‘natural’ instruments that are tried and tested to perform a sonic function, and then use that as basis to direct your ear into how specific melodic and chordal movements work in different contexts, and how they interact. do this outside of the context of a production session. Do this every couple of days for an hour or so (or however you feel). Take it easy, you know. You can then take that sense and feel for it into your production sessions and use the same logic on synth and sample patches, fitting the sonic pallet of your track, that provide a similar sonic function to those in your practice sessions.

Over time develop an ear and feel for the whole ‘thing’ surrounding constructing motif. You’ll find little tid bits along the way, little melodies that sound nice, little chord progressions that sound nice and how these give of a certain emotion and ‘feel’. the important thing is though they’ll be yours. Every musician has to go through this process of developing their little bag of tricks. (many call it developing your sound). You can keep going back to them and extrapolating more ideas off the top of them. You’ll begin to get a proper grip on the ‘feel’ of keys and modes, a feel for how they translate in to moods and then from that you can get as low as deciding a basic key and having much more of an idea about where it can go and what you can do with it.

The point is to develop that underlying structure, based on knowledge gained through physical practice and, basically, through an exploration of composition.

The short answer is - persevere and it will come with time.

I think your problem is that (it seems) you haven’t understood the need to go into that space and physically find your motifs, your bag of tricks, and bring them back out from the possibility space of musical sound, cataloging them for later use and over time developing a mental structure and personal theme off the back of that process. It would make sense then that you find melodies and such hard, because it requires a process that builds competency over time. A skill set largely removed from the academic understanding of musical theory. (although this can instruct the process, though it isn’t essential, and it isn’t the real meat and veg of the situation either).

Hope this helped.

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