Cool. Couple of questions about the “assignment”:
The way I would approach it is to write out the measures and chords to a song on music (tab) paper,
WHOOPS, stop. No tab, no paper, unless you just *can’t* do it that way at first. But you must learn.
It’s between you and your hand, and your sense of rhythm and the sounds you like, and THE MELODY of course. See what kind of dance you can get your hand to do, and dance is not a set of instructions, it’s a PULSE, expressed by various limbs (like fingers).
then place the melody notes in the measures, then try to find rolls that will work — sort of like a puzzle. Is this the best way to go about it?
Yep, like programming. Nice results possible there, but you’d like to graduate to where you can do that without involving paper. You and the strings, no paper, just your physical/musical memory. The “feel” and the sounds.
(This is how I usually work out my breaks to harder songs, although I’m not particularly rigorous about getting every note in the right spot).
Try for that once you’re in the ballpark. It’s a great challenge and will expand your right hand, and your musical sense too.
It seems like it would require some melodic-type phrases in order to get the notes placed exactly as they would be sung — is that true?
They’re usually not that tight together, rarely as many as 4 melody notes in an 8 note roll. But sometimes the way they hang together is what’s tricky, such as two notes immediately adjacent within the roll to get a vocal “turn”. Have at it!