#1
I'm having trouble understanding how to define the definition of a melody. I define melody as a series of notes being played horizontally in time rather than vertically.

The problem is that if you were to play two triads, one after the other, then this demonstrates three voices that are moving horizontally at two points in time. Looking at it from this perspective, the composition is made up of three melodies.

Should I redefine my definition of melody? It is known that a melody can be contained in chords. Is it a bit extreme to go as far as claiming that a chord is made up of many melodies? Perhaps defining a melody as a series of notes being played horizontally in time isn't a sophisticated enough definition.

We all know what a melody is when we hear it. It's that part of the song that gets stuck in our heads after we are done listening. However, it seems that there is more to a melody rather than horizontal movement through time.

One distinctive characteristic of harmony is the similarities in rhythmic motion between singular notes. Would a more appropriate definition of a melody be a series of notes being played horizontally in time which contains a rhythmic pattern that is distinct from the rest of the harmony?

Perhaps what really makes a melody stand out from a series of chords is the fact that its rhythmic pattern is distinct from a simple chord. Conversely, it is already known that a melody can be contained in a series of chords so in this case my definition would be simply disproven.

Would anyone on this forum mind lending me a few more thoughts on this?
Last edited by dannydawiz at Jan 10, 2014,
#2
My boy! You are beginning to understand music as the masters do!
Study counterpoint and voice leading, they are advanced musical ideas that pretty much treat every line as its own melody rather than a single line over block chords (which most pop music is. I use the term "pop" to describe ALL genres of music that aren't classical. Rock, metal, RnB, country, pop, blues, Jazz, reggae, etc. are all 'pop' music).
#3
A melody has rhythm and contour. Its is a line of notes with a musical purpose. If you string together a series of chords and hope melodies arises from it then its just random not deliberate. Similarly, I'd like to know if there is a musical definition of what constitutes a phrase. Does it always end with a cadence? And does melody = phrase?
Last edited by sweetdude3000 at Jan 10, 2014,
#4
Quote by macashmack
My boy! You are beginning to understand music as the masters do!
Study counterpoint and voice leading, they are advanced musical ideas that pretty much treat every line as its own melody rather than a single line over block chords (which most pop music is. I use the term "pop" to describe ALL genres of music that aren't classical. Rock, metal, RnB, country, pop, blues, Jazz, reggae, etc. are all 'pop' music).


Thanks for the compliment! It gave me and my father a good laugh!

My study of music came to a halt at counterpoint and voiceleading. I must admit that I do plan on tackling the subjects in the future. Before I do I want to maintain a better grasp on certain fundamentals. A great user named AeolianWolf taught me a few of the basics on first species counterpoint but I'll save that for future posts.

I'm still having trouble defining a melody. I wouldn't mind defining it as my first definition if it werent for the fact that there is room for it to be disproven. I would be labeled as crazy by many If I claimed that all harmony is a melody. People who are familiar with polyphony may understand my stance but considering that most modern music is homophonic I feel that I'd be perceived as a fool. The entire concept of homophony is based off of the idea that there one melody with accompaniment by chords. To claim that all music is composed of several melodies would disprove the concept of homophony.
#5
Your revelation is entirely correct - you have discovered Voice Leading. Possibly the most valuable and useful concept that you can apply directly to your instrument.

Yes, melody has a technical definition that means it can apply to the lines created by chord changes. It's a broadly applicable concept. The distinction you're looking for is one of usage: THE Melody is contrasted against accompaniment, but neither are purely melody or harmony. Both contain the same harmonic information, the difference is in the details of things like register, rhythm, timbre, dynamics, etc.

Now is the time you should start looking at chord inversions, as their purpose is to smooth out the melodic aspect of chord movement. Try things like making a I IV V moving each voice as little possible.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jan 10, 2014,
#6
Quote by sweetdude3000
A melody has rhythm and contour. Its is a line of notes with a musical purpose. If you string together a series of chords and hope melodies arises from it then its just random not deliberate. Similarly, I'd like to know if there is a musical definition of what constitutes a phrase. Does it always end with a cadence? And does melody = phrase?


You prove a very great point as far as defining a musical phrase. I'll come back to that question in the future.

Introducing contour as a variable also seems to be an interesting claim. It can be argued that a single note preceded horizontally by a single note of the same pitch can't be a melody. The very concept of voice leading is based off of the theory that the middle voices should maintain as little motion as possible. If the notes between two chords moved obliquely then you could argue that they couldn't be considered a melody since a melody must contain some sort of contour.

In this case a melody may be defined as the horizontal movement of notes with a unique contour.

The reason why I couldn't claim that a melody is separate from chords is because essentially you could make a melody out of chords. Even if the bottom voices remained in oblique motion as long as the top voice contained some sort of contour then it could be considered a melody.

Looking at it from this perspective even a scale is a melody.
#7
Quote by dannydawiz
Thanks for the compliment! It gave me and my father a good laugh!



My study of music came to a halt at counterpoint and voiceleading. I must admit that I do plan on tackling the subjects in the future. Before I do I want to maintain a better grasp on certain fundamentals. A great user named AeolianWolf taught me a few of the basics on first species counterpoint but I'll save that for future posts.

Yea he was a good teacher. He hasn't been on here for a while.

I'm still having trouble defining a melody. I wouldn't mind defining it as my first definition if it werent for the fact that there is room for it to be disproven. I would be labeled as crazy by many If I claimed that all harmony is a melody. People who are familiar with polyphony may understand my stance but considering that most modern music is homophonic I feel that I'd be perceived as a fool. The entire concept of homophony is based off of the idea that there one melody with accompaniment by chords. To claim that all music is composed of several melodies would disprove the concept of homophony.


I don't see a problem with using the dictionary definition of a melody, it being "A rhythmically organized sequence of single tones so related to one another as to make up a particular phrase or idea".

I distinguish polyphony and homophony based on how the voices come together rhythmically. It may not be a correct definition but it makes sense to me as of now. If you (or anyone else) knows a better definition I'd love to learn
#8
Quote by macashmack



Yea he was a good teacher. He hasn't been on here for a while.


I don't see a problem with using the dictionary definition of a melody, it being "A rhythmically organized sequence of single tones so related to one another as to make up a particular phrase or idea".

I distinguish polyphony and homophony based on how the voices come together rhythmically. It may not be a correct definition but it makes sense to me as of now. If you (or anyone else) knows a better definition I'd love to learn


A definition is essentially an interpretation of reality made by ordinary people like me and you. Although there isn't anything wrong with any pre-existing interpretations, I find it much more beneficial to create my own rather than accept someone else's as the absolute truth. To give anything a universal interpretation is absurd since everything is relative.

The definition of melody that you listed does make quite a bit of sense however! This thread has been quite thought provoking. I'll rest my head for a bit and give this a bit more thought later.

Thanks Graves, Mac, and Sweetdude!
#9
Quote by dannydawiz
Thanks for the compliment! It gave me and my father a good laugh!

My study of music came to a halt at counterpoint and voiceleading. I must admit that I do plan on tackling the subjects in the future. Before I do I want to maintain a better grasp on certain fundamentals. A great user named AeolianWolf taught me a few of the basics on first species counterpoint but I'll save that for future posts.

I'm still having trouble defining a melody.

A melody is a series of notes played with a certain rhythm. Although melody and harmony are related, they are not the same and shouldn't necessarily be tied together in that way.
Also, counterpoint really has nothing to do with diads, as counterpoint is simply two (or more) melodies played together. There are also rules attached to species counterpoint, as opposed to free counterpoint. Study Bach if you want counterpoint examples; the man was a master of it.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Jan 11, 2014,
#10
Melody is made up of phrases. Each phrase almost always ends on a cadence. A good melody must have some contour or shape. Bach's music is largely a series of voices, two or more, soprano
, alto, tenor and bass singing in harmony with each other. Chords are a byproduct. I think that is right.
#11
striking notes at the sametime is call harmonic interval
Playing notes one after another is call melodic interval

When I mix harmonic and melodic intervals. I call them Riffs.

When Angus dose it...it's call a Riff Raff...
Maybe the Raff is from Bon's sing
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErXbMB9R5-0
Last edited by smc818 at Jan 13, 2014,
#12
From 1958-1962 Leonard Bernstein gave a series of televised live concerts/lectures called "Young People's Concerts".

Linked here is the start of one of those concerts entitled: "What is Melody?". In this video he discusses some of the issues you have raised and you may find it worthwhile watching what Bernstein has to say...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AFovpvDRCI

I assume you know how to use youtube to find parts 2, 3, and 4 of this particular concert on your own. .
Si
#13
What if harmony was just the result of the interaction between carefully directed melodies?

melody -> counterpoint -> harmony

Harmony doesn't exist in time, it's an instantaneous snapshot of notes being sounded simultaneously. When you start talking about chord progressions, you put harmony in time and you're fundamentally talking about melody. More specifically, the interaction of melody. All chord progressions in tonal music arise out of melody.
Quote by sweetdude3000
A melody has rhythm and contour. Its is a line of notes with a musical purpose. If you string together a series of chords and hope melodies arises from it then its just random not deliberate. Similarly, I'd like to know if there is a musical definition of what constitutes a phrase. Does it always end with a cadence? And does melody = phrase?

Phrases always end in a cadence, but not necessarily in the way you're thinking of. Yes, in most tonal music, phrases are marked by harmonic cadences, but you can create cadence in music a lot of different ways. And melody =/= phrase. Melody is a much more intangible concept than phrase. A phrase is a more or less self-contained passage of music. I.e., it has a beginning and an end.
Quote by dannydawiz

Introducing contour as a variable also seems to be an interesting claim.

Nah, that's garbage. Melody doesn't need to move up and down to be melody.
Quote by macashmack
I distinguish polyphony and homophony based on how the voices come together rhythmically. It may not be a correct definition but it makes sense to me as of now. If you (or anyone else) knows a better definition I'd love to learn

You're right. Polyphony is a texture where multiple voices are moving independently and homophony is a texture where they're moving together.

As an aside, there's also heterophony, which is something we don't get much of in Western music, where two voices are sounding differently elaborated versions of the same melody.