Easy Does It.
Hi! It’s Charluxx.
At the local grocery store, in a small seaside village, a white hair man attending the aisle started whistling the melody of a famous children’s television show of old. It stopped me in my track and really touched me. For a few reasons...
First: I could feel the little boy in him just at the surface.
Second: That melody was still with him, probably 60 years later.
Third: We often whistle something that brings us to our inner happy place, for comfort, reassurance, to make ourself feel good, or because we feel good, so it isn't guarded, it is spontaneous and true. Like a cat kneading your chest. It's about security, it feels like home.
Lastly: simple melodies are the ones we remember, the ones we sing along, the ones we whistle. Years later.
I have seen and heard so many songs cram too much in or just being too complex for my taste.
You look at their song’s musical structure and it fills the place up, so many layers of sounds that you loose touch with the obvious: the song. Just find a melody and play it.
Good designers know not to be afraid of white space, they embrace it, use it to guide your eye to where the important information is. The same can be said about music: don’t envelop the melody in too much sound, give it space, let it breathe. Dare I say it... let it be.
My mastering engineer often tells me that my songs structures are simple, that the musicality is minimal. Well, most of the time I’ve got a drum, some percussions, a bass, a guitar, at least one keyboard, and my voice on quite a few tracks. I wouldn’t call it minimalistic by any stretch of the imagination. It sounds full and it contributes to the melody. But it isn’t complex.
For me, complexity often thwarts musically. The melody gets lost in the music. Sure it sounds good. But can you whistle it? Can you sing along?
Here’s a simple rule: If you can hum it, you’ve got a tune. It’s the KISS principle.
As a reminder—and a caveat—not all song, not all music, needs to be a tune. I’m just exploring the art of the melody here.
A lot of music is played in chords, or a combination of notes. Personally, I like to play notes. Sure I use chords too, but sparingly. To add texture, rarely to create melodies.
That’s my James Brown influence. For him, every instrument was a drum. The percussive sound. For me, as a bass player, every instrument is a bass in that you don’t really play chords on a bass, you play notes.
I do play chords on the guitar though... but everything else is pretty much notes.
Notes = Melodies.
We live in an age that considers simple things to be too basic, to be to... simple, therefore not developed enough.
We value complexity. The problem is, we get lost in complexity way too easily.
I’ve seen this in science, in entertainment, in politics a lot. In general, we look for complex answers to simple problems.
Over complicating is no solution. It often leads down a dead end path. A good trick is to always look for easy answers first, then gradually explore more complex possibilities.
In music that means creating a melody with simple notes. If it sounds too thin, then add chords to support the melody, not the opposite.
There’s a reason simple melodies stay with you. They work. They are effective, and efficient. They remove the superfluous to concentrate on the obvious.
Let that be today’s life lesson.
I’d love to know: what do you whistle when no one is watching, when you don’t think about anything, when you’re just being happy?
Stay groovy my friends!
Peace and Love,
Illustration: Melody Vectors by Vecteezy