How to tease a melody for maximum musical impact

In the ongoing quest to make your tracks as memorable, dynamic and exciting as they can possibly be, understanding what makes a great melody is as essential as knowing how to program beats, sit a vocal properly in the mix or effectively negotiate any other part of the overall production process.

In this walkthrough, we'll show you an always-effective method for gradually introducing a hook, lead line or other focal melodic element in order to build anticipation prior to high-impact release. For more compositional advice, pick up the January 2019 edition of Future Music.

Step 1: We start with a fully supported melody line. We’ve got a tune, supporting chords and a whole beat structure, and everything’s playing at once. But this certainly doesn’t sound like the start of a track. Let’s build an introduction to work up to this point.

Step 2: We move the track back a few bars and copy only the elements playing the hook to the start. The first of these is a house piano sound, and we start with this, stripping out the syncopated notes between the melody note completely, to produce something much more sparse.

Step 3: Increasing the delay on this sound keeps each fragment of melody audible for longer. Filling the space in between each hook line, this creates a sense of anticipation.

Step 4: Next, we bring in the synth line, which doubles the piano. To this, we apply Soundtoys’ FilterFreak, set up with a low-pass filter to sweep in under the piano from a muted, murky start, ready for the ‘full frequency’ version to take over when the track kicks off.

Step 5: Next, we introduce the bassline, which starts at the same point as the trance synth part, after four bars of the piano part. The bass brings in the movement of the syncopated pattern, providing some momentum before the beats arrive.

Step 6: This is a good time to add a few FX to the transitions - a white noise sweep leading into the main drop would work well to build further anticipation. Even playing the main hook’s melody at half time could be a winner.