Illustration: Nicole Ginelli
Do you know this song? I forget the name, but it sounds just like… *indistinct humming*
What’s the very first thing you usually think of when trying to remember a piece of music? Chances are it’s going to be the melody. From Beethoven to Beyonce, these patterns of single notes remain at the very center of our favorite music due to their ability to stay fresh in someone’s mind for hours, weeks, and even years after listening.
For this week’s Firestarter, we’re looking for the catchiest melodic hook you can possibly think of. That’s right, a true earworm that won’t get old even after a hundred listens. We’ve taken care of the rhythmic foundation with the provided Live project file so all you have to worry about is that sweet topline. Need a little inspiration? Let’s check out some of house music’s most legendary tracks.
The main hooks in Daft Punk’s 1997 hit “Around The World” inspired us because they’re incredibly effective without being overly complex. Take for instance the synth melody, which is characterized by bright delayed plucks that set the stage 33 seconds in. The track was composed in E minor, and this pattern makes use of almost every single note in that scale over just a single octave (sorry, F#!).
This hook is all about movement – the phrase starts with a low E and jumps up to a D before moving back down in a stepwise manner. The second half of the pattern makes an entire octave jump – from E to E – before coming back down to where it began. You can also see how the beginning and end of each phrase doesn’t actually happen on the beat, but just before. This subtle use of syncopation helps lead in and out of the melody, and works well along with the more static drum beat underneath.
And then, of course, we have the namesake phrase, “around the world,” which can be heard over 140 times throughout the song! While the melody we looked at earlier can be thought of as staccato, with each sound or note sharply detached or separated from the others, the notes in this vocal hook are naturally more sustained and blend together. Combining melodies with different features is a great way to add variety and character to your track. Oh, and remember that missing F# from earlier? It’s actually in the vocal hook, during the second half of the word around. While using every single note from a given musical scale isn’t necessary, it can definitely help when a melody stays in the same key.
Experiment with different ways of arranging notes in a given key, as well as how the melody interacts with the drum beat. Anything goes, as long as it’s catchy. Click here or on the DNA player above to get started with the provided house beat, and get us hooked on a feeling!
Every week we are blown away by the quality and creativity of the submissions we get, and we love listening to every single one. Here are the projects from the Build challenge that created the most tension and excitement in our hearts.
Our first shoutout goes to PiersM2003! We really enjoyed the rhythmic interplay between the clap and snare during this buildup. Peppering in the siren helps to build the titular “tension” as it melts into the risers and pounding bass drum. The culmination of this tension is the twisting and grinding snare, which wrings out the tension and brings a nice transitional quality to this build!
The second shoutout goes to EUROPA! The palette of sounds on this build is really inviting. We love the repeated vocal sample as a pure melodic element which helps build tension. Europa created a wonderful atmosphere between the arpeggiated strings and smattering percussion echoes throughout the build. When the drums enter, this build really feels like it’s going somewhere!
Our final shoutout this week goes to ranekmusic. We loved the precise percussion work interlaced with the rising sirens that build tension quickly. When the drums suddenly hasten, the build reaches its peak with a brilliant filter sweep which quickly cuts out to reveal a subtle reversed piano sample. The drum fill and vocal sample which cap the the build may be our favorite elements, and certainly leave us wanting more!