What Is Melody?

Melody is an important aspect of most music. The melody of a song is usually what the listener focuses on, especially if there are words that go along with the melody. You probably have some sense of what melody is. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star has a melody. What this means is that the first “Twinkle” is sung using a lower sound, and the second “twinkle” is higher. The melody is the pattern of lower and higher sounds. Try improvising a melody using your voice or an instrument. Pay attention to your improvisation, listen carefully, try to imagine what notes would sound good next, and try to play those notes. If this seems hard or impossible, I hope reading this chapter will help.

The melody chapters contain a lot of information. If you are a beginner, I recommend reading slowly. Make sure you thoroughly understand each concept before moving on to the next one. Each concept builds on the previous one, so you might get confused if you read too fast.

At times, these chapters might seem like an intellectual exercise, disconnected from “real” music. Just remember that this information is useful in your attempts to play music by ear with other people, or improvise by playing the music in your imagination. I’ve tried my best to connect the information to its “real music” application. Also, remember that you don’t have to learn all of this. There is plenty of beautiful music you can make without knowing all the modes of the harmonic minor scale, for example. Follow your ears.

I’ll begin with some definitions that will help you understand the concepts.