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A melody (from
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of 2018; Athens is ...
μελῳδία, ''melōidía'', "singing, chanting"), also tune, voice or line, is a
linear Linearity is the property of a mathematical relationship (''function Function or functionality may refer to: Computing * Function key A function key is a key on a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out se ...

linear
succession of
musical tone Traditionally in Western music, a musical tone is a steady periodic sound. A musical tone is characterized by its duration, pitch, intensity (or loudness), and timbre In music, timbre ( ), also known as tone color or tone quality (from p ...
s that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of
pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches that are a whole number of octaves ...
and
rhythm Rhythm (from Greek , ''rhythmos'', "any regular recurring motion, symmetry"—) generally means a " movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions" . This general meaning of regu ...
, while more figuratively, the term can include other musical elements such as
tonal color
tonal color
. It is the foreground to the background
accompaniment 250px, " Walking basslines", so-named because they rise and fall in a regular pattern, are a widely used style of accompaniment bassline in jazz, blues and rockabilly. Accompaniment is the part (music), musical part which provides the rhythmi ...
. A line or
part Part, parts or PART may refer to: People *Armi Pärt Armi Pärt (born 18 June 1991) is an Estonian handballer, playing in French D2 for Massy Essonne Handball. He is also a member of Estonian national team. Club career HC Kehra Armi Pärt ...
need not be a foreground melody. Melodies often consist of one or more musical
phrase In everyday speech, a phrase is any group of words, often carrying a special idiomatic meaning; in this sense it is synonymous with expression. In Linguistics#Analysis, linguistic analysis, a phrase is a group of words (or possibly a single word) t ...
s or motifs, and are usually repeated throughout a
composition Composition or Compositions may refer to: Arts * Composition (dance), practice and teaching of choreography * Composition (music), an original piece of music and its creation *Composition (visual arts) The term composition means "putting togethe ...
in various forms. Melodies may also be described by their
melodic motion Melodic motion is the quality of movement of a melody, including nearness or farness of successive pitches or notes in a melody. This may be described as conjunct or disjunct, stepwise, skipwise or no movement, respectively. See also contrapu ...
or the pitches or the
intervals
intervals
between pitches (predominantly conjunct or disjunct or with further restrictions), pitch range,
tension Tension may refer to: Science * Psychological stress * Tension (physics), a force related to the stretching of an object (the opposite of compression) * Tension (geology), a stress which stretches rocks in two opposite directions * Voltage or elect ...
and release, continuity and coherence,
cadence In Western musical theory, a cadence (Latin ''cadentia'', "a falling") is "a melodic or harmonic configuration that creates a sense of resolution inality or pause.Don Michael Randel (1999). ''The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musician ...
, and shape.


Function and elements

Johann Philipp Kirnberger Johann Kirnberger Johann Philipp Kirnberger (also ''Kernberg''; 24 April 1721, Saalfeld – 27 July 1783, Berlin) was a musician, composer (primarily of fugues), and Music theory, music theorist. He was a student of Johann Sebastian Bach. Accordin ...

Johann Philipp Kirnberger
argued: The Norwegian composer
Marcus Paus Marcus Nicolay Paus (born 14 October 1979) () is a Norway, Norwegian composer and one of the most performed contemporary Scandinavian composers. As a classical contemporary composer he is noted as a representative of a reorientation toward traditio ...

Marcus Paus
has argued: Given the many and varied elements and styles of melody "many extant explanations
f melody F, or f, is the sixth letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as repre ...
confine us to specific stylistic models, and they are too exclusive." Paul Narveson claimed in 1984 that more than three-quarters of melodic topics had not been explored thoroughly.Narveson, Paul (1984). ''Theory of Melody''. . The melodies existing in most European music written before the 20th century, and popular music throughout the 20th century, featured "fixed and easily discernible frequency
patterns A pattern is a regularity in the world, in human-made design, or in abstract ideas. As such, the elements of a pattern repeat in a predictable manner. A geometric pattern is a kind of pattern formed of geometric shapes and typically repeated lik ...
", recurring "events, often periodic, at all structural levels" and "recurrence of durations and patterns of durations". Melodies in the
20th century The 20th (twentieth) century began on January 1, 1901 ( MCMI), and ended on December 31, 2000 ( MM). It was the tenth and final century of the 2nd millennium File:2nd millennium montage.png, From left, clockwise: in 1492, Italian navigator Ch ...
"utilized a greater variety of pitch resources than ha been the custom in any other historical period of
Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...
music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human societies. General definitions of music include common elements such as pit ...

music
." While the
diatonic scale In music theory Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. ''The Oxford Companion to Music'' describes three interrelated uses of the term "music theory". The first is the "Elements of music, rudiments", that are ...
was still used, the
chromatic scale The chromatic scale is a set of twelve pitches (more completely, pitch class In music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspec ...

chromatic scale
became "widely employed."Kliewer, Vernon (1975). "Melody: Linear Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music", ''Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music'', pp. 270–301. Wittlich, Gary (ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. . Composers also allotted a structural role to "the qualitative dimensions" that previously had been "almost exclusively reserved for pitch and rhythm". Kliewer states, "The essential elements of any melody are duration, pitch, and quality (
timbre In music, timbre ( ), also known as tone color or tone quality (from psychoacoustics Psychoacoustics is the branch of psychophysics involving the scientific study of sound perception and audiology—how humans perceive various sounds. More spec ...

timbre
), texture, and loudness. Though the same melody may be recognizable when played with a wide variety of timbres and dynamics, the latter may still be an "element of linear ordering."


Examples

Different
musical style A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal ...
s use melody in different ways. For example: *
Jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recognize ...
musicians use the term "lead" or "head" to refer to the main melody, which is used as a starting point for
improvisation Improvisation is the activity of making or doing something not planned beforehand, using whatever can be found. Improvisation in the performing arts is a very spontaneous performance without specific or scripted preparation. The skills of impr ...
. *
Rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, developing into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and later, particularly in the United States and ...
, and other forms of
popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.Popular Music. (2015). ''Funk & ...
and
folk music Folk music is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and ti ...

folk music
tend to pick one or two melodies (
verse Verse may refer to: Poetry * Verse, an occasional synonym for poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language ...
and
chorus Chorus may refer to: Music * Chorus (song) or refrain, line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse * Chorus effect, the perception of similar sounds from multiple sources as a single, richer sound * Chorus form, song in which all verses ...
, sometimes with a third, contrasting melody known as a bridge or middle eight) and stick with them; much variety may occur in the phrasing and
lyrics Lyrics are word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many langu ...
. *
Indian classical music Indian classical music is the classical music Classical music generally refers to the formal musical tradition of the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, nations and state (polity), ...
relies heavily on melody and
rhythm Rhythm (from Greek , ''rhythmos'', "any regular recurring motion, symmetry"—) generally means a " movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions" . This general meaning of regu ...
, and not so much on
harmony In music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human societies. General definitions of music include common element ...

harmony
, as the music contains no chord changes. *
Bali Bali (; ban, ) is a province of Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian Ocean, Indian and Pacific Ocean, Pacifi ...

Bali
nese
gamelan Gamelan () ( jv, ꦒꦩꦼꦭꦤ꧀, su, ᮌᮙᮨᮜᮔ᮪, ban, ᬕᬫᭂᬮᬦ᭄) is the traditional music, traditional musical ensemble, ensemble music of the Javanese people, Javanese, Sundanese people, Sundanese, and Balinese people ...

gamelan
music often uses complicated variations and alterations of a single melody played simultaneously, called
heterophony In music, heterophony is a type of texture (music), texture characterized by the simultaneous variation (music), variation of a single melody, melodic line. Such a texture can be regarded as a kind of complex monophony in which there is only one bas ...
. *In western
classical music Classical music generally refers to the formal musical tradition of the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, nations and state (polity), states, depending on the context, most often consis ...

classical music
,
composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Re ...

composer
s often introduce an initial melody, or
theme Theme or themes may refer to: * Theme (arts) In contemporary literary studies, a theme is a central topic, subject, or message within a narrative. Themes can be divided into two categories: a work's ''thematic concept'' is what readers "think the ...
, and then create variations. Classical music often has several melodic layers, called
polyphony Polyphony is a type of musical texture consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to a musical texture with just one voice, monophony " is monophonic as long as it is performed without chord (music), chordal a ...
, such as those in a
fugue a 6'' from ''The Musical Offering'', in the hand of Johann Sebastian Bach In music, a fugue () is a Counterpoint, contrapuntal Musical composition, compositional technique in two or more voice (music), voices, built on a Subject (music), subject ...
, a type of
counterpoint In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more musical lines (or voices) which are harmonically interdependent yet independent in rhythm Rhythm (from Greek , ''rhythmos'', "any regular recurring motion, symmetry"—) ge ...

counterpoint
. Often, melodies are constructed from motifs or short melodic fragments, such as the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
Richard Wagner Wilhelm Richard Wagner ( ; ; 22 May 181313 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemic A polemic () is contentious rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of persuasion, which along with grammar and logic ( ...

Richard Wagner
popularized the concept of a ''
leitmotif A leitmotif or leitmotiv () is a "short, recurring musical phrase" associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It is closely related to the musical concepts of ''idée fixe'' or ''motto-theme''. The spelling ''leitmotif'' is an anglici ...
'': a motif or melody associated with a certain idea, person or place. *While in both most
popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.Popular Music. (2015). ''Funk & ...
and classical music of the
common practice period In the history of European art music Art music (alternatively called classical music, cultivated music, serious music, and canonic music) is music considered to be of high culture, high aesthetic value. It typically implies advanced structural ...
pitch and duration are of primary importance in melodies, the
contemporary music Contemporary classical music is classical music Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both Religious music, liturgical (Religion, religious) and secular music, secular music. Historica ...
of the 20th and 21st centuries pitch and duration have lessened in importance and quality has gained importance, often primary. Examples include
musique concrète Musique concrète (; ): " problem for any translator of an academic work in French is that the language is relatively abstract and theoretical compared to English; one might even say that the mode of thinking itself tends to be more schematic, with ...
,
klangfarbenmelodie ''Klangfarbenmelodie'' (German for "sound-color melody") is a music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural ...
,
Elliott Carter Elliott Cook Carter Jr. (December 11, 1908 – November 5, 2012) was an American modernist , Solomon Guggenheim Museum 1946–1959 Modernism is both a philosophy, philosophical movement and an art movement that arose from broad transform ...
's ''Eight Etudes and a Fantasy'' (which contains a movement with only one note), the third movement of 's '' String Quartet 1931'' (later re-orchestrated as ''Andante for string orchestra''), which creates the melody from an unchanging set of pitches through "dissonant dynamics" alone, and
György Ligeti György Sándor Ligeti (; hu, Ligeti György Sándor ; 28 May 1923 – 12 June 2006) was a Hungarian-Austrian composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

György Ligeti
's ''Aventures'', in which recurring
phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical properties of sp ...

phonetics
create the linear form.


See also

*
Hocket In music, hocket is the rhythmic linear technique using the alternation of note (music), notes, pitch (music), pitches, or chord (music), chords. In medieval practice of hocket, a single melody is shared between two (or occasionally more) voices su ...

Hocket
*
Parsons code The Parsons code, formally named the Parsons code for melodic contours, is a simple notation used to identify a piece of music through melodic motion Melodic motion is the quality of movement of a melody, including nearness or farness of successiv ...
, a simple notation used to identify a piece of music through
melodic motion Melodic motion is the quality of movement of a melody, including nearness or farness of successive pitches or notes in a melody. This may be described as conjunct or disjunct, stepwise, skipwise or no movement, respectively. See also contrapu ...
—the motion of the
pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches that are a whole number of octaves ...
up and down. *
Sequence (music) In music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the soc ...
*
Unified field In music, unified field is the 'unity of musical space' created by the free use of melodic A melody (from Greek μελῳδία, ''melōidía'', "singing, chanting"), also tune, voice or line, is a linear Linearity is the property of a ma ...


References


Further reading

* Apel, Willi. ''Harvard Dictionary of Music'', 2nd ed., pp. 517–19. *Edwards, Arthur C. ''The Art of Melody'', pp. xix–xxx. * Holst, Imogen(1962/2008). ''Tune'', Faber and Faber, London. . * (1955). ''A Textbook of Melody: A course in functional melodic analysis'',
American Institute of Musicology American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States ** Americans, citizens and nationals of the United States of America ** American ancestry, people who self-id ...
. * Szabolcsi, Bence (1965). ''A History of Melody'', Barrie and Rockliff, London. * Trippett, David (2013). ''Wagner's Melodies''. Cambridge University Press. *Trippett, David (2019). "Melody" in ''The Oxford Handbook to Critical Concepts in Music Theory''. Oxford University Press.


External links

* *
Carry A Tune Week, list of tunes

Creating and orchestrating a coherent and balanced melody
{{Authority control Musical texture Harmony Polyphonic form Formal sections in music analysis