Melodic Math

Lyrical Structure & Style

Melodic Math

YouTube video

‘A great lyric to me in a pop song involves words that don’t get in the way of a melody.’

Savan Kotech, American writer and record producer.

What is Melodic Math?

Melodic math is a technique that can be useful in pop writing, and applied to your writing as an editing tool. The video above explains in more detail. 


Syllable-counting and weighting

Straight vs. syncopated lines


Balance and symmetry

No more than 3-4 melodic parts

California Gurls – Katy Perry

YouTube video

‘while knowing English is clearly an advantage to songwriters and producers seeking success in the U.S. and the U.K., a lack of facility with the finer points of the language is equally important. Swedish writers are not partial to wit, metaphor, or double entendre, songwriting staples from Tin Pan Alley through the Brill Building era. They are more inclined to fit the syllables to the sounds—a working method that Martin calls ‘melodic math’—and not worry too much about whether the resulting lines make sense. (The verses in ‘I Want It That Way,’ for example, completely contradict the meaning of the chorus lines.) Fans of Cole Porter may see this development in roughly in the same spirit that ‘Downton Abbey’ fans might view ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’—with horror—but one can argue that this very freedom from having to make sense lyrically has allowed the Swedes to soar to such melodic heights.’

Max Martin, Songwriter, Producer, Hit Maker

Read More – The New Yorker

Writing Activity

Write Lyrics for Rhythm

Write three sections of lyric – verse / pre-chorus / chorus

No pitch allowed – rhythm only!

Aim to create as much rhythmic contrast and development as possible across these three sections.