SONGWRITING: Using the 3rd in your vocal melodies

So I was listening to a lot of Fountains of Wayne recently… (not just Stacy’s Mom, which is a great song, but they’re a far better band than that novelty tune— dig into their Welcome Interstate Managers album, and find gems like “Hackensack”, “Valley Winter Song”, “Hey Julie”, “No Better Place”, and “Fire Island”)…

I noticed something when I hear Chris Collingwood’s vocal melodies… he’s oftentimes landing on the 3rd, melodically…. whenever there’s a chord change.

This is a smart thing to do, but don’t overuse it.

If you don’t know what the 3rd is… it’s basically the 3rd note of the scale, that the chord comes from. So if he’s strumming D, he’s singing an F# note (in D major, the notes are D E F# G A… etc). If he then changes to G, he might play around with a melody, and then land on the note B (or hold the note a little longer, which is equally effective). Then, he might change to a C major chord… and then another melody/phrase is sung, and the last note might be an E (again, C major scale is C D E F G…….)

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about melodies that it’s always wise to use the “safe” notes of the chord (the 1, the 3, and the 5)… you can move anywhere you want, but those are the most important notes that should play a big part in the melody, because those are the notes in whatever chord you play (and of course, minor chords have the flatted 3rd instead of the regular 3rd).

I’ve noticed this melodic technique in other bands (many, many others)… but I was studying Fountains of Wayne the other night and all of this stuff came to my attention (plus, I’m doing some prep for my upcoming songwriting/recording camp).

So yeah.. again… a smart thing to do, but don’t overuse it, because sometimes it sounds really weird (especially over a lot of consecutive major chord changes).


About chriscaulder

Posted on July 20, 2013, in chord progressions, singing, writing melodies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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