Songwriting Hack #2 – “Lay It Down, Repeat It, And Move On”

by Clay Mills
Mar 22, 2024

If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed over the last year that there have been quite a few songs popular in both pop and country music that have the same chords in the verse and the chorus. Yet, they still manage to keep the songs interesting. So today I wanted to talk about a technique for doing that. A technique of repeating melody lines. I call this the “establish your melody, repeat your melody, and move on”.

To get started, take a listen to a little bit of a song called “Careful With Your Heart”, that I wrote with my band. We’ll break down to see how I approached writing the melody to that song. I was playing around with this chord progression for probably six months or so, and I really liked the voicings on these chords in DADGAD tuning, just repeating four chords.

The Technique – Laying Down and Repeating Melody Lines.

repeating melody lines - songtown- clay mills

So what I did with the melody is using a technique where every eight bars, I introduced a new section to keep it interesting. So I would use four bars of one melody, and repeat that. 

So that’s my verse – eight bars. Now we’re going to go right into the chorus, another four bars where I establish a new melody. Then I’m going to repeat it – that’s eight bars. Now, move on.

In the next section, I did a vocal lick over this part, and just sped it up. I did two bars with that falsetto lick, and repeated it. From there, we go into the next section, continuing with the establish / repeat pattern. Now I’m ready for the second verse.

So we’ve kept the song moving by going to a new section every eight to four bars. That way, the listener never gets tired. I also do some other tricks with my guitar playing, so even though I’m playing the same chords, I’m approaching how I play them differently.

Observe It In Action

So that’s the technique: lay it down, repeat it, move on. As you’re listening to the radio and your favorite tunes that are coming out today, try to listen for how they create newness through repeating melody lines. How do they keep your attention? How do they keep the next section fresh? Mastering Melody Writing is a process and a journey. The more you understand, the more enjoyable the ride will be.

Write on! ~Clay

Clay Mills

Clay Mills

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He is the co-founder of SongTown and has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay is also the co-author of Mastering Melody Writing and The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing.


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