The Components of Music: Part Two

Melody: LadyDpiano


Melody

A melody is a succession of pitches that move in time. Each tone in a melody has both pitch and duration. Most modules are built from pitch arrangements called scales. There are many kinds of scales. You are familiar with major scales and minor scales. Here's an earlier post to refresh your studies, Reviewing 4 Scales.

Because melody has both pitch and duration, it cannot be separated from rhythm. Melody, therefore, could be described as motion plus rhythm. Melody is a continuous movement, and is, therefore, the progress of a moving line passing through successive sounds. A composer manipulates this movement in much the same way as a painter draws a line or a sculptor molds a shape. A line of any kind, however, whether visual or tonal, has direction. It moves either upward or downward. The movement of the line is what gives the melody a recognizable profile. Most melodies are built from pitch organizations called scales. There are many kinds of scales.

Modes: LadyDpiano


Modes

D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D

The scale above is called the Dorian mode. If you want to experiment with different modes, then read Learn Improv with Modes.

"Scarborough Fair" is an old English song that is based on this scale, D  E  F  G  A  B  C  D. This scale is called the Dorian mode. There are many kinds of modes. each mode uses a different pattern of intervals.


Reviewing Scales: LadyDpiano


Reviewing Scales

The meaning of the term "scale" is an ascending or descending arrangement of pitches from which melodies and harmonies are built (generally within the octave). Half step examples: C-C#, E-F, A-Ab, B-C. Whole step examples: C-D, E-F#, A-G, Bb-C). A scale may start on any tone. Play some of these scales, starting in different tones. Choose one of the scales and improvise a melody.


  • Major Scale
          W   W   1/2    W W W 1/2

  • Minor Scale
        W  1/2  W  W  1/2  W  W

  • Dorian mode
         W  1/2  W  W  W  1/2  W

  • Mixolydian mode
         W  W  1/2  W  W  1/2  W
       
A great resource you may be interested in is Fundamentals of Piano Theory - Level 1.

Pentatonic Scales

You can use pentatonic scales for improvisation and composition. Pentatonic scales are related to the music of some of the Indian cultures. This is an example of a Pentatonic scale: D E F# A B. Not all scales have seven tones. Many songs are built on a five-tone scale. Five-tone scales are called pentatonic scales. Much music from the Far East uses pentatonic scales.

If you want to understand pentatonic scales, visit Altered Pentatonic Scales and Patterns.

Composing with Pentatonic Scales

"Sakura" is a famous Japanese folk song. This song is a delicate musical picture of cherry blossom time in Japan. When arranging notes of the song from low to high, use B C E F A B C. Notice that there are two half steps in this scale, unlike the more familiar, pentatonic scale. (Half steps are between B and C, E and F.)


Tone Row

Tone rows are pitch organizations like scales except that they have no tonal center. Some music has no tonal center. 

Building a Tone Row

The tone row was first developed by an Austrian author-composer, Arnold Schoenberg. Now manycomposers use tone row as a basis for their music. Schoenberg developed the twelve-tone system, in which every composition is based upon an arbitrary arrangement of the twelve chromatic tones, called a tone-row. An example would be C, E, G, C#, A, B, F, Eb, D, F#, G#, A#.

Building a Tone Row: LadyDpiano


Microtonal Music

Some composers make up their own scales. The American composer Harry Partch (1901-1974) used a scale which has forty-three pitches to each octave. His music based on intervals smaller than half steps is called microtonal music. Microtonal music sounds out of tune to people who listen only to music built from half and whole steps.

A great handbook resource I recommend to musicians is Jermaine Griggs, 300 Pg Piano By Ear Home Study Course. I refer to it often with my piano students wanting to compose songs with a few chords.

Have fun building on music theory and using the information to improvise with making songs at your fingertips! 

-- LadyD

 "The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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