How Simon developed unique melodies
As a young child, Simon made his first songs by changing the lyrics of ABBA, Bruce Spingsteen and Iggy Pop songs to something that would better reflect a conversation between two action figures that he would be playing with.
The use of a melody that already exists, known as interpolation, is very much influenced by the music that you listen to or sing.
As Simon started to write to express feelings and share a message, the need for unique and relevant melodies arose. So he would change a few notes here and there so it didn’t sound like another song.
Eventually Simon would co-write with another songwriter who would go through every single note of the melody to construct something really different and quite unique, whilst still being hooky and catchy. This inspired Simon to look at his melodies in a whole new way.
Here are Simon’s tips for developing unique melodies and developing your melody writing:
8 Tips To Writing Great Melodies and Developing Your Songwriting
1. Write without attachment
Before you get stuck into development and editing, it starts with creating. Don’t get stuck on what comes out first and judge it, as it’s not helpful in the creation of a song. Instead, work with the first idea as draft one, and then allow that judgment to come back in when editing the song.
2. Let the melody build itself
How long can you sit on one note until it feels like it needs to change, rather than deciding this in an intellectual way? Play with staying on the note til it needs and wants to move.
The more you do this, you’ll get a sense for what the song wants to be. This opens up creative discovery. And it is wonderful when you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of tools to use just yet.
3. Decide what works and what doesn’t
Ask yourself some questions to help you decide what works and what doesn’t and use these insights to edit your melody.
Is this memorable? Is this unique? Does this resonate with the lyrics? Identify where you feel it’s not working – it may only be one or two notes that can change the whole thing.
4. Edit in a creative way
Go for a walk and sing your melody. This way you’re not trying to conform to any chords or instrument part. Plus, when you’re in motion, this can be a great place for creative ideas to flow.
Another idea is to record the chords and then play the melody on an instrument, simply allowing your fingers to find notes that feel interesting.
5. Feeling stuck? Channel your songwriting gurus for ideas
When you’re open minded and willing to explore, anything is possible in the creative realm.
When your not sure what to do next, ask for songwriting guidance. Ask your spiritual, songwriting, real life mentors, your spirit guides, or even your favourite songwriters from beyond the realm? Ask them questions like, what would you do next?
Listen to the full podcast audio for how Simon channeled the energy of The Beatles to write one of his songs.
By asking in this space, you’re energetically connecting to them, and if you’re a fan of their music, or their wisdom, then you probably have an idea of the tricks that they would use anyway.
6. Balance intuition with craft and skill
As a songwriting mentor in our Beginner Songwriting Courses, Simon brings his balance of technical skill and intuition to create and craft his songs and guide others to do the same. Here are Simon’s insights on balancing creativity, craft and skill:
When people have musical or technical knowledge, they can feel too bound by rules to create freely. If you know rules, then break them.
Know the purpose for the song you’re writing and ask yourself if the music is expressing that? Is the melody expressing that purpose, are the chords, etc? If not, Simon suggests editing the chords, melody, rhythm or even the key-signature to alter the expression of the song.
Understand what the purpose of each section of the song is. Commonly, the chorus sums up what the song is about, and the verses give the detail. Is your song doing that? Perhaps move some of the detail in your chorus to your verses.
7. Make sure the melody pleases you first
When writing melodies, please yourself first. Don’t worry about pleasing other listeners. If you can’t please your own self and your own ear, and express something for yourself, then you’ll always be striving for something out of reach.
8. Get lots of songwriting practice
Simon writes songs in I Heart Songwriting Club each week, and has been doing so since 2019. To ensure life doesn’t get too busy and songwriting falls of the to-do list, Simon puts aside time each week to write, working around other existing commitments rather than letting them get in the way.
Simon says, “The good thing with writing a song each week is that you don’t have to write your best song this week. You don’t feel that expectation that it has to go on your record, that it has to be good enough to send to a publisher, an artist. It’s another week, another song and it can be whatever it wants to be. It’s liberating to not feel attached to the outcome.
When I only wrote 6 songs a year, it used to feel that if the next song wasn’t amazing, then I’m not amazing. If I’m going to write 60 songs this year, then I don’t care if people don’t like 50 of them.”
In summary, being able to write great and unique melodies is all about development and writing a lot of songs to try new things and refine skill and ideas.
If you would like some guidance to write great melodies, check out the range of opportunities we have to support songwriters, including an online songwriting club for established songwriters like Simon, and a beginner songwriting course if you’re just starting out – you might even have Simon as your mentor.
Timestamps for podcast audio:
3:51 – Simon first started writing songs by changing the lyrics to songs from ABBA, Bruce Spingsteen and Iggy Pop.
7:25 – We discuss receiving wisdom from other-worldly beings, and the impression Freddie Mercury and David Bowie made on a young Simon.
12:35 – A discussion on the illusions of the music industry and how it aims to sell ‘perfect’.
15:52 – On the evolution of writing songs and how the purpose for Simon’s songwriting has changed over time.
20:21 – Simon shares some practical songwriting tips for developing melody.
30:30 – Here are some ways to get started in songwriting. We discuss technical skill and intuition, creativity and craft.
36:51 – Simon shares his current songwriting process and the different artist projects he is writing for.
57:32 – We uncover some of the magic of songwriting.
1:10:15 – Simon shares about writing his song “Graceless”, which turned out to be life-changing for him and performs it live at I Heart Songwriting Club Headquarters.
1:16:36 – We discuss the songwriting choices Simon made in writing “Graceless”.
About Simon Shapiro:
Simon Shapiro is an award winning, Australian singer-songwriter.
In 2004 Simon joined the band Jeapster which later became KisTone, concentrating on North America, he co-wrote and recorded several E.P’s and 2 full albums in 4 years. The result was national radio airplay and song placements on prime time TV and feature film.
After releasing his first full solo album (Between The Noise) in 2008, Simon was soon named Australian Songwriters Association ‘Songwriter of the Year’, APRA Songwriter award winner, and Park City Music Film Festival(USA) Gold prize-winner.
Since then, Simon has toured with Martika, Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, Belinda Carlisle, Midge Ure, and has been the Bass player\songwriter with iconic band 1927, who have enjoyed a successful comeback with a return to the charts and tours with Roxette, Simple Minds and John Farnham.
Simon has also recently enjoyed chart success as songwriter of Jane Denham’s No1 country hit ‘Beyond These City Lights’ and Darryl Braithwaite’s comeback single ‘Not Too Late’.
Combining a passion for storytelling, philosophy and humanity, Simon uses his powerful and unique voice as the brush and emotive thoughtful lyrics as the colours, to create musical paintings of his experience of the world.
Song Credit: “Graceless” – Music and Lyrics by Simon Shapiro. Performed live by Simon Shapiro at I Heart Songwriting Club Headquarters.
Episode Show Notes:
Get your creativity, confidence, and songwriting output flowing. Join The Club and receive the support and structure to write 10 songs in 10 weeks and get feedback from a private peer community. This is THE essential writing practice that has changed the careers and lives of 1000s of songwriters worldwide.
Just getting started on your songwriting journey and need more hands-on support? Establish a firm foundation and develop your musical and lyric skills with our Beginner Songwriting Courses. They are the perfect place to begin and cover everything you need to know to write your first songs. You’ll receive lessons from Francesca directly!
Don’t struggle to write your next album – write an album a year with ease! Watch our Free Songwriting Masterclass.
Want more for your songwriting but don’t know where to go from here? Take the I Heart Songwriting Club Quiz to discover your next steps and inspire your way to writing better songs.
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Podcast theme song: “Put One Foot In Front Of The Other One” music and lyrics by Francesca de Valence
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