AskDefine | Define melodies

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of melody

Extensive Definition

This article is about melody in music. For other senses of this word, see melody (disambiguation).
In music, a melody (from Greek μελῳδία - melōidía, "singing, chanting"), also tune, voice, or line, is a series of linear events or a succession, not a simultaneity as in a chord (see harmony). However, this succession must contain change of some kind and be perceived as a single entity (possibly Gestalt) to be called a melody. Most specifically this includes patterns of changing pitches and durations, while most generally it includes any interacting patterns of changing events or quality. "Melody is said to result where there are interacting patterns of changing events occurring in time."
Change is necessary for events "to be understood as related or unrelated." Melodies often consist of one or more musical phrases, motifs, and are usually repeated throughout a song or piece in various forms. Melodies may also be described by their melodic motion or the pitches or the intervals between pitches (predominantly conjuct or disjunct or with further restrictions), pitch range, tension and release, continuity and coherence, cadence, and shape. "Many extant explanations [of melody] confine us [sic] to specific stylistic models, and they are too exclusive."


The melodies in most European music written before the 20th century features recurring "events, often periodic, at all structural levels" and "recurrence of durations and patterns of durations" are also important in 20th century music.
While in the 20th century pitch includes "those aspects of sound that are classed as having highness or lowness" earlier music included almost exclusively sounds having "fixed and easily discernible frequency patterns" and composers have "utilized a greater variety of pitch resources than has been the custom in any other historical period of Western music." While materials from the diatonic scale are still used, the twelve-tone scale became "widely employed."
DeLone states "The essential elements of any melody are duration, pitch, and quality [timbre, texture, and loudness].". However, quality is not an essential element of melody, as the same melody is recognizable when played with a wide variety of timbres, textures, and loudness.
Melodies in the 20th century where increasingly reliant "upon the qualitative dimensions" with those dimensions "in pre-twentieth century music were almost exclusively reserved for pitch and rhythm" such as being an "element of linear ordering" rather than a highlight to "the more predominant pitch and rhythmic aspects." See Klangfarbenmelodie and Musique concrète.


Different musical styles use melody in different ways. For example:
  • Rock music, melodic music, and other forms of popular music and folk music tend to pick one or two melodies (verse and chorus) and stick with them; much variety may occur in the phrasing and lyrics. "Gino Stefani makes appropriation the chief criterion for his 'popular' definition of melody (Stefani 1987a). Melody, he argues, is music 'at hand'; it is that dimension which the common musical competence extracts (often with little respect for the integrity of the source), appropriates and uses for a variety of purposes: singing, whistling, dancing, and so on."
  • In western classical music, composers often introduce an initial melody, or theme, and then create variations. Classical music often has several melodic layers, called polyphony, such as those in a fugue, a type of counterpoint. Often melodies are constructed from motifs or short melodic fragments, such as the opening of Beethoven's Fifth. Richard Wagner popularized the concept of a leitmotif: a motif or melody associated with a certain idea, '''person or place.
  • Balinese gamelan music often uses complicated variations and alterations of a single melody played simultaneously, called heterophony.

See also

Further reading

  • Apel, Willi. Harvard Dictionary of Music, 2nd edition, p.517-19. Includes "a capsule definition of melody." (Delone et al 1975, p.270)
  • Edwards, Arthur C. The Art of Melody, p.xix-xxx. Includes "a catalog of sample definitions." (ibid)
  • Holst, Imogen. Tune, Faber and Faber, London, 1962.
  • Smits van Waesberghe, J. A Textbook of Melody. Includes "an attempt to formulate a theory of melody." (ibid)


melodies in Bosnian: Melodija
melodies in Bulgarian: Мелодия
melodies in Catalan: Melodia
melodies in Czech: Melodie
melodies in Danish: Melodi
melodies in German: Melodie
melodies in Estonian: Meloodia
melodies in Spanish: Melodía
melodies in Esperanto: Melodio
melodies in Persian: لحن (موسیقی)
melodies in French: Mélodie (succession de hauteurs)
melodies in Galician: Melodía
melodies in Croatian: Melodija
melodies in Italian: Melodia
melodies in Hebrew: מלודיה
melodies in Latvian: Melodija
melodies in Lithuanian: Melodija
melodies in Malay (macrolanguage): Melodi
melodies in Dutch: Melodie
melodies in Japanese: メロディ
melodies in Norwegian: Melodi
melodies in Norwegian Nynorsk: Melodi
melodies in Polish: Melodia
melodies in Portuguese: Melodia
melodies in Romanian: Melodie
melodies in Quechua: Takina
melodies in Russian: Мелодия
melodies in Simple English: Melody
melodies in Slovak: Melódia (hudba)
melodies in Slovenian: Melodija
melodies in Serbian: Мелодија
melodies in Finnish: Melodia
melodies in Swedish: Melodi
melodies in Ukrainian: Мелодія
melodies in Chinese: 旋律
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1