MUS 111 Study Guide G (Chapter 7)

Melodic Line I

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  1. Form:  refers to the shape or structure of the object or concept being described.  In music, a form usually ends at a cadence point; a form begins either at the beginning of a piece or immediately after a cadence.  Compositions usually contain a number of cadences, so there are a number of formal sections–smaller forms make up the larger forms.

  1. The Phrase:  a group of notes leading to a cadence.  A phrase is most commonly four measures in length, although phrases of eight or more measures are ... possible.

  1. Motive:  two or more distinct units within a phrase.

  1. The Period:  Two phrases may combine to form a period.  The first phrase (antecedent) usually ends with a half or imperfect authentic cadence.  The second phrase (consequent) usually ends with a perfect authentic cadence.

  1. Parallel / Contrasting:  A period is parallel when the two phrases are similar in some respect. Often, the two phrases are identical except at the cadence points.  But any marked similarity in the two phrases justifies a "parallel period" analysis, including the mere repetition of the first few notes of the melody.  When the phrases lack specific or general similarity, the period is contrasting.

  1. Elision: a term which describes a melodic overlap. The last note of the first phrase is the beginning note of the next phrase.

  1. If two phrases both end with the tonic note, they cannot be combined into a larger form, as the period typically requires a weaker cadence followed by a strong (perfect authentic) cadence.  Two such phrases would simply be considered ... two phrases. :-)

  1. Phrases are also classified according to whether the rhythmic placement of their first and last notes occurs on a strong or weak beat.  A strong beat would be beat one, of course.  Often, two phrases which form a period will commonly display the same beginning- and ending-note characteristics (e.g., both strong or both weak).

  1. Repetition:  Repetition within the phrase is as valuable as repetition within the period (e.g., parallel period) for emphasizing a good theme within the space of four measures.  Repetition may also be modified by inversion of thematic material.  Inversion of a theme is somewhat like holding a piece of music in front of a mirror.  What first went up then goes down in inverted form.

  1. Sequence:  similar to repetition, but the repeated material is presented at a new pitch level.  This allows similarity and variety simultaneously.  A sequence requires at least two segments–the original and the one restated at a different pitch level.  Most sequences contain no more than several notes. And most usually move in one direction, either up or down.  Also, sequences generally continue with the same interval distance between statements.  There are five types:

Real sequence:  contains continuing segments that are an exact transposition, interval by interval, of the first segment.

Tonal sequence:  contains continuing segments that are a transposition of the first, but accommodate the diatonic scale.

Modified sequence:  some of the segments may be embellished in a way that does not destroy the character of the original.

Modulating sequence:  leads from one tonal center to another.  Sometimes each has a temporary tonal center different from the preceding sequence.

False sequence:  repeats part of a figure and states the remainder in sequence–a mixture of sequence and repetition.

  1. Intervals and Scale Passages:  Effective melodies include those with few skips/narrow range to those of many skips/wide range.  Most fall somewhere in the middle, however.

Intervals:  Intervals of a third or larger can be used freely when resulting in the arpeggiation of a chord, though the number of successive skips is usually not more than three.  A leap of a fifth or larger is usually approached from the direction opposite the skip, and left in the direction opposite the skip.

Scale passages:  The usual scale-line passage does not exceed six tones, though longer passages are not uncommon.

Range:  The range of the melody (lowest to highest note) must not exceed the range of the voice or instrument for which the melody is written.  Doh!  In most melodies, the highest tone, the climax tone, is usually not repeated within the passage, as its effectiveness is lost upon repetition.  This observation is somewhat true of the anticlimax note, the lowest note.

  1. The Leading Tone:  The leading tone, scale degree 7, must be treated with care, as it leads to the tonic.  When approached by step from below, it must progress to the tonic.  When preceded by the tonic, it may progress down by step, as in a scale, or it may return to the tonic.  When it is part of an arpeggiated triad figure, its direction is determined by the direction of the arpeggio, except when it is found as the final note of the arpeggio, where it returns to tonic.  In part-writing exercises, the leading tone is NOT doubled.

  1. Minor keys–the Sixth and Seventh Scale Steps:

If the harmonic form of the minor is used, the unwanted interval of the augmented second results between scale degrees 6 and 7, e.g., C D Eb F G Ab B C.  While the A2 does have limited uses, it should be avoided at this point.  As its name implies, the melodic form of the minor is generally used in melodic writing.  

When a melody ascends through a scale line from the dominant tone to the tonic tone, 6 and 7 are usually raised.

When the V triad is written as an arpeggio (either direction), #7 is used.

With the descending scale pattern 1 7 6 5, the 7th and 6th scales degrees are generally lowered, a la melodic minor.

When 7 is used without 6 in a stepwise passage, it is raised and proceeds up.

When 6 is used without 7, it is lowered and proceeds down.

Occasionally, both 6 and 7 are found in a stepwise passage, but not between tonic and dominant tones.  In this case, each 6 and 7 of the group is treated alike.  If the last note of the group is 7, all notes of the group are raised.  If the last note of the group is 6, all notes of the group are lowered.  This avoids the melodic A2.

  1. Harmonic Implication:  Approaches to harmonizing melodies ... what to look for:

A chord that is actually outlined in the melody, or suggested by an interval.  (In some cases, the fourth scale degree can be harmonized with either IV or V7.)

When there is no chord outline, the strong beat, or beats, of the measure may suggest the harmony.

Most melodies will contain nonharmonic tones.  These usually occur between chord tones and are stepwise.

  1. Rhythm and Meter:  Rhythmic sequences are usually coupled with melodic sequences.  Rhythmic patterns in recurring measures of equal lengths with accents implied on the strong beat(s) of the measure are typical of the music of the tonal era.
  1. Melodic Composition:  The art of composing is not as "mystical" as it may seem.  Having a thorough knowledge of the tools of the trade can go a long way toward being creative.  Following are some simple techniques used in a melodic motif from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony:

Scale lines are used throughout.

The harmony implied is I and V only.

The rhythmic pattern of repeated quarter notes is varied only at each cadence.

The form is a simple eight-measure period.

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