A demonstration of the Melodica app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. There are similar apps out there — Tonepad, Synthtopia — but none of them are as simple and polished. That being said, there are a few features that could make Melodica stand out even more, such as the ability to save compositions on-the-fly and layer them under new ones, or the ability to change the sample sound, so I’m hoping they’ll be added in an update. Regardless, I’ve only had this app for a day, and I’ve been enjoying it immensely.
Some tips for composing/performing songs in Melodica:
- The rests, or spaces between the notes, are important too. Don’t feel that you need to fill the board with notes. Just like in jazz, it’s important to hear that notes that aren’t played. Sometimes a melody is strong enough that a few spartan notes by themselves are enough to establish something beautiful. Or you can places notes on every beat of a measure, except the downbeat, which subtly implies “this silence is where the downbeat is supposed to be, even though no note is being played”.
- Don’t feel that you need to use bass notes to establish a rhythm. You can switch it up with high notes as well, and have the baseline as the melody.
- Syncopation is possible. If you imagine each of the 16 squares going across as quarter notes in four bars in 4/4 time, then you can establish as rhythm by having a note at the beginning (counting as the “one”) of each bar, and the third note if you like. You can achieve a nice syncopated sound by putting a note on the second and fourth quarter note of a bar. But be careful; if you decide to remove certain notes, don’t remove the rhythm before you remove the syncopated notes. Otherwise, the listener easily loses a sense of where the downbeat is supposed to fall, it begins to sound like you’re making a mistake, and the song easily falls apart.
- Try to have a purpose, or an idea of where you want to go. Improvisation is totally one of the main advantages of Melodica, but you can still decide where you want to go during a song. If you can see the structure then it’ll be easier to work up to that ahead of time. For example, if you want a song that starts quiet, builds slowly to a climax, then crashes dramatically before re-establishing a steady pace, then you can plan out which notes to add and take away that will quickly and effectively achieve these changes.
- End your songs. Instead of just stopping, or clearing the board, fade out by taking elements away. And if you can, end your phrases, which means removing the notes from left to right as they’re being played. If you remove notes from right to left, it’ll sound like you stopped abruptly in the middle of a song. Sort of like hearing Westminster chimes without the last note, leaving the listener to wonder where the resolution is.
- Use several notes of the same pitch in a row sparingly. This is totally a personal preference, but I find I get tired of hearing these quickly.
- Songs sound better with contrast. That means keeping some space between highs, mids, and lows. Or abandoning the mid-range section altogether, since there isn’t much vertical room to compose. This is because you can create the illusion of more layers by having strongly defined parts of a song. Otherwise, it all sounds like one complex melody.