Writing better melodies and harmonies (on Elektron machines)

Hi everybody!

Lately I’m getting back into more melodic music (some would even say cheesy) and I am starting to feel the need to make more of it myself. I have some knowledge of theory from my guitar/bass years, but nothing crazy and I sometimes feel it is more limiting than anything when I feel lost in the same boring scales and patterns. Writing beautiful melodies and interesting chord progressions is still a big mystery to me.

So I thought that we could use this place to share our knowledge on the subject, with the added layer of using the Elektron sequencer. What are your techniques, strategies or tips to analyse existing melodies and write exciting new ones? Do you have interesting sources to check out to learn more about this? What is your method for coming with some using the Elektron machines? Is it all instinct, method or luck? Are you more into generative techniques or do you write everything yourself?

I hope we can share knowledge and ideas, learn together and inspire each other to get more satisfying results from these machines we love!

PS: not sure if there should be other subjects on writing rhythms, sound design or if we should be crossing everything in a mega “make better music” topic, but I think it’s better to have more specific discussions


Here are a few examples of the music I’m talking about:


If you have iOS I recommend the Pensato app.

It’s by the Once Upon A Synth youtuber

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If you’re more comfortable on guitar/bass, have you tried writing melodies on one of them and then converting them to a synth? If you’re looking for generative stuff to get you going, try plugins like Cthulhu or Captain Chords/Melody, or hardware like NDLR. Or else mess around with arps if you have them (not sure which Elektrons you have), record the results in real time as you make adjustments and keep only the very best bits.

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If you have OT, it’s arpeggiator is really powerful. You can lock it to a specific music scale and then transpose it, use LFOs modulate and so on. Where powerful and can create melodies similar to your references.


I’ve taken a break from trying to finish tracks to work on my keyboard playing for a good few months now because I want to make more melodic music…
and I’m already finding it much easier to write chords and melodies without having to use plugins etc

Maybe try get back into playing the guitar/bass or piano to get better at your theory and playing then put that into the sequencers… that’s what I’m doing it and seems to be working pretty well so far.


Can any recommend ant tutorials for sequencing melodies with hardware?

The A4 is my first synth and I’m struggling with the aspect of sequencing good melodies.

First, I would say choose a minor or Major chord and stick with those notes. Start by doing relatively simple melodies with them. The sequence of a minor or Major chord is easy to learn.

minor : 0-3-7 (3 notes chord) or 0-3-7-10 (4 notes chord)

Major : 0-4-7 (3 notes chord) or 0-4-7-10 (4 notes chord)

0 is the root note.
3-7-10 or 4-7-10 are the other notes in increment of semi-tones.

As an example, if the Root note is C :

minor chord will be C, Eb, G or C, Eb, G, Bb
Major chord will be C, E, G or C, E, G, Bb

So, when composing melodies, you can always have your fingers on those notes and play them as you like. After a moment, you will start to feel them and then, composing and recording melodies in the sequencer will be yours.

I started like that years ago and after a while, I’d added « music theory » in my arsenal.


I’m going to be a grammar nazi and correct you on your spelling. A C minor 7 chord is C Eb G Bb. Remember, chords are built in thirds. C to D# is an augmented second (which exists) and even though that sounds the same, it’s an important distinction.

As for writing better melodies. I like that the one poster mentioned playing an instrument. I would also recommend transcribing your favorite melodies and absorbing them. Lay them out on your Elektron boxes and see how they flow.


To build good melodies, my advice is to pick your favorite lead patch and a Keystep or other Midi keyboard and explore combinations/sequences of three to four notes, carefully listening to what they evoke for you, and to how they wish to continue…


PS: most remarkable melodies are actually quite simple…


Thanks for those Adolf distinctions. As a purely electronic musician, I didn’t know that aspect was important.

Edit : previous post edited

I thought it was only written that way to not have doubles of notes when writing music on a staff or something and it depends on what scale you writing in to how you describe it?
Well I think that’s what it said in a video I watched recently if I’m remembering it correctly maybe not though…

Learn music theory or work things out on an instrument! Also C E G Bb is not a major chord, it is a dominant seventh


It is written that way so that each scale uses one of each letter name plus accidentals. While it occurs sometimes in chromatic music it does not occur in triads.

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Exactly, you dont want to double notes. There is one exception to this rule (the octatonic scale).

But every (triadic) chord is built in thirds. Otherwise you could spell a C chord as B#, Fb G. Gross.


The key to a great melody isn’t actually the notes, its the rhythm. You can get great melodies with just two notes and a crazy rhythms.

My suggestion would be to listen to a melody you like, seperate the tones and the rhythm and then try to decipher what it is you like about that melody, maybe it’s a syncopation or an interval… break it down and emulate.


For me, melodies are made from interactions between sounds (it could be from the same instrument or not). I’m thinking about something like Akufen did years ago with micro sampling. Totally different sounds but the interactions between them felt like a whole.


App developer here - please remove if the post violates the rules - I’ve made an app for myself to explore harmonies, called Navichord. It shows chords and scale relations on the special note grid. Basic chord sequencer included. Lite version is free (no MIDI).


Thank you!

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