Learning to Listen - the Melody

Rt66's very own Music Reviewer - Singer-Songwriter Cyndi Alba gives you her latest lesson in listening!


As songwriters, we try to pick notes that flow together just like our spoken language. Talk like this, we do not. So the words and the melody should follow our natural speech patterns. The flow of the language should be more important than a forced rhyme, and unnatural speech has a tendency to jump out at the listener like a mistake.

For example, words like about, return, around, tuxedo, and removal should have the long note on the second syllable.

Words like sunshine, morning, open, loving, careful, and clearly should have the long note on the first syllable. And the higher pitches should rise and fall naturally in the tune they way they do in our speaking voice.


Grab a magazine or newspaper article, or whatever you’re scrolling through on your phone, and read two or three sentences out loud. Listen to which words are accented, and which words are pronounced quicker and seem almost not important.


In the melody, the higher notes are typically the main words in the lyric. Sing the line “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” – cry and rain are higher pitched than the small words between them.


For you folks who loved English class, the pronouns and prepositions should typically be lower pitched and shorter than the subjects and main nouns in the lyric. The melody of the song will be sound natural if the songwriter follows these conversational styles.

Songs are also easy to memorize if they flow naturally and follow the way we speak.


Sing the lyric “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and you’ll see that the first syllable of lonesome is the high note, and could is low and short. Hank gave us a melody we’ve been singing for 80 years because it follows natural speech and doesn’t feel forced.


Learning to listen will make you a better music fan, or maybe just make you a fan of better music.

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