Are you struggling as a topliner? Need some help with background vocals as a vocal producer, or just want to create better vocal melodies as a lead singer? Well, today’s blog post is just for you!

Not long ago, singer/songwriter/producer SEIDS asked a simple question to her followers: Do you need a vocal topline for one of your songs? People then had the chance to submit songs to her via Boombox that they needed a topline to, and now here we are!

Today featured artist SEIDS will give us detailed insight into her creative process with tips and strategies for crafting memorable toplines. We’ll also learn the importance of embracing a personal style and infusing that into your songwriting, along with the essentials of constructing melodies that suit your lyrics and singing style.

Let’s get those melodic ideas flowing!

Topliner Tip #1 — Add Your Markers

OK so the first track we’ve chosen has a bit of a fun, dance pop, 90s vibe. So we’re gonna roll with that! And the first thing we’ll do is download the file from Boombox and pull it up in Logic.

Then we’re going to add in our marker tools. A quick, easy way to do this is to just hold down Option and then drag your marker over where it needs to be. You can also select Option+C to open up the colors, if you want to color code your markers, which we suggest. It’s a simple yet useful tool to help visualize what you’ll be writing to.

Topliner Tip #2 — Use Notes When Collaborating

You don’t want to write anything too specific or too vague. Too specific means too few people will be able to relate to it—too vague and you’ll run the risk of people not fully understanding you. You want to make notes that people can easily relate to, so try to find that balance between specific and vague.

Topliner Tip #3 — Use a Few “Rules” When Constructing Vocal Melodies

As far as the melody goes, our goal is to make something interesting enough that it’s not boring, but also not too complex that it’d be hard to sing along to.

Ultimately you want to write something catchy, repetitive, or something with a call & response, or question & answer, etc. If it’s catchy, people can easily learn to sing it, it’ll get stuck in their heads and they won’t be able to stop singing it over and over. Create an earworm, basically.

We also don’t want to stuff it with too much. You’re going to want some space in there. And keep in mind, rules are also meant to be broken. Use whichever rules make more sense to you and those that will benefit the song

Topliner Tip #4 — Let Your Lyrics Tell a Story

As we start to think about what type of story to tell, try coming up with characters that are believable and relatable.

In our example, the story is about two people who are into each other. One is a little more aggressive, and the other is more on the shy side. We’re gonna write this from the perspective of the shy one who’s pretty aware that the other is into them.

We often like to use lyrics that don’t necessarily define gender—think “you” and “I.” That way, it can more easily relate to a broader audience. But you do you! Whatever you like best.

OK for the first verse, we want to help paint the picture. Keep in mind, a good idea here is to show instead of tell. That’s pretty much Storytelling 101.

Also, because this is an electronic song, we’ll wait until we get to the first verse to start with lyrics, instead of starting them in the intro or chorus. A producer can always decide to add in some vocal chops here and there. Anyway, we’ll start to come up with a melody, and if it works, we’ll  repeat it and start plugging in some words.

In our example, we’re looking for rhymes for the last word, “shadow.” It doesn’t have to be exact, but try to be close. In fact, if each rhyme is “perfect,” it can often come off a little cheesy. If you need a little assistance, you can use RhymeBrain to discover words that rhyme and nearly rhyme.

We’d like to change the pre-chorus up a little bit, making it more rhythmic. It helps to build a catchy lead-up to the chorus.

Topliner Tip #5 — Play Around With Your Chorus

So now our shy protagonist is at a point where he’s learning about a different kind of fear, meeting the person they’re into. One thing SEIDS likes to do when writing lyrics is to see if they make sense as read top-down, as if they were a letter. This can help with comprehension too. You want it to make sense as a story, right?

You can also introduce the chorus with a “but.” Not literally, necessarily, but in the verse we’re stating a few things and then in the chorus we shift with an exception or two. You can also try matching words within the chorus. For instance, matching “why” with “way” in the structure of the line, not necessarily a rhyming match, but more like matching “w” words that are also monosyllabic.

It also helps to choose your rhyming word first for the end of a particular line. You can then work backwards to fill in the gap before it. Check out the video to see a bit more detail on how SEIDS constructs each line of the chorus.

And there you have it!

Topline songwriting requires a blend of creativity, strategy, and personal touch, as demonstrated here by SEIDS. By integrating her insights and techniques, aspiring topliners can significantly enhance their songwriting skills.

From the strategic use of markers to visualize the composition, to finding the delicate balance between specificity and relatability in lyrics, each tip here offers a valuable approach to creating engaging vocal melodies. The emphasis on constructing melodies that are catchy yet simple enough for audiences to sing along to also highlights the importance of accessibility in music.

Storytelling through lyrics, with a focus on showing rather than telling, enriches the emotional depth of a song. And SEIDS’ approach to the chorus, treating it as a pivotal point for narrative and emotional shifts, underlines the necessity of thoughtful lyric construction.

Altogether, these strategies underscore the artistry involved in topline writing and song structure, and serve as a comprehensive guide for artists seeking to refine their craft and connect more deeply with their listeners.

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