“Music has a poetry of its own, and that poetry is called melody.”
~ Joshua Logan
What is a melody
The melody is the soul of the song. The reason for writing the song. Technically it’s the sum of all of the motives and phrases. When you add all the other elements of music to it: variation, dynamics, meter, tempo, and all of that, you have a composition.
Look at the melody below. This is a combination of the 2 phrases on the musical phrases page. Together they create a memorable melody. Now let’s look at the shape of the melody.
When we say we’re looking at the shape of the melody we really are looking at the shape of the melody. We are connecting the dots in the staff.
Look at the dots in the staff below. By the look of it (up down up down) it looks like it would be a bouncy sounding melody. And guess what, it is. Generally speaking, the dots don’t lie. Even if you can’t read music, you can tell a lot about the mood and tempo of the melody by connecting the dots.
Look at this other portion of the same song.
Essentially this melody, has a very flowing feel to it, just like the curve of the melody. It flows up, it flows down, it flows back up again.
Below, the dip shows us a little dynamics in the melody. At the very beginning there is a huge leap up to the E (5th fret high E in this tuning) then a downward slope to another little dip and a leap back up.
This kind of melodic curve can serve as a couple of different things:
- a high emotional point
- a surprise in the melody
- a huge release of tension or anything to add drama to the melody.
The closer sequential notes stay together on the clef, the smoother the melody sounds. There’s usually a more tranquil feel to it than with a dynamic curve.
Using intervals with melody
You can create memorable melodies by knowing something about intervals when writing your motifs and phrases. An interval is the distance between 2 notes, which you can learn more about in my music theory section or go to harmony and explore the feeling behind intervals.