What is it in this song by Mac Demarco that makes the lead melody sound uniquely Mac?
The personal touch in your music can be a tricky thing to define. When it comes down to describing exactly what it is that makes you sound like you, most are left scratching their heads.
One side of the equation is the instruments or effects you use. On the other side is the melody and how the main musical voice of your music is expressed.
Melodies have a unique way of carrying across personal style. Amongst one of the most popular and timeless tools for songwriters, composers, producers, and performers alike, is the use of ornamentation.
Ornamentation in music can refer to the way in which a melodic line is expressed. When used with care, ornaments can add levels of depth and emotion. It also adds a human element to your productions if you work mostly on the computer. Where one melodic phrase may sound a little flat, ornamentation brings volume and life.
How exactly can ornaments be used in your music you might ask? Well, let’s take a look at an example from a song you can learn in Melodics, Chamber of Reflection by Mac Demarco.
While the lead melody seems like a simple stroll down two octaves from G to B with a few moves in between, the short F (grace note) played immediately before F# adds a decorative flourish that gives it character, as well as a slight tension as the F natural is not part of the E minor scale. This dissonant note, paired with the wavy slow vibrato of the synthesizer speaks the language of Mac Demarco and really adds to his lazy slightly “off” sound.
This grace note is an excellent example of ornamentation. Back in the 17th century, when ornamentation cemented itself as a key component of western music, ornaments themselves were not always included in the written music. It was often left open to the performer to make the music their own through their personal use of ornaments.
If you’re interested in working with ornaments for added inspiration and creativity in your melodic songwriting, try out Melodics’ course on Ornamentation.
You’ll have the opportunity to play through some exciting examples ranging from minimalism to trap so that you can improve your keyboard skills and add a definitive personal touch to your future productions.
For Melodics premium subscribers – get inside the Chamber of Reflection and learn how to play and write melodies with your own special herbs and spices.
If you’re not at your instrument right now, start training your ears and listen out for the ornamentation in these tracks (hint… it’s often most obvious in vocals).