Overall Rating: 3.8 (of 5)
Rating Votes %
2 40 ||
0 0 ||
3 60 ||
0 0 ||
0 0 ||
From 5 votes total
Rate This Lesson
Rate from 1 (poor) to 5 (best)
Send Feedback

Melodic Tendencies

Jeff Brent (2731) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Intermediate · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1 2 3

Melodic Tendencies

As any beginning musican knows, the 7th degree of the major scale has an extrememly strong tendency to resolve to the tonic note a half-step above it.

In fact, all melody notes have some kind of tendency. And often a note will have more than one tendency.

A melody note having more than one tendency can be resolved many different ways. What makes one choice better than another?

Having played a short introductory series of notes at the beginning of an improvised phrase will surely bring you to a note that has many resolution options. Which one do you choose?

Your choices are based (in part) on either implicity or explicity understanding the following guidelines:

1. Newton's first law of melodic motion: "An ascending line tends to continue to ascend"

2. Newton's 2nd law of melodic motion: "A descending line tends to continue to descend"

3. On a strong beat the melody note tends to be a tone inside the current underlying chord.

4. The Surrounding Note Figure (aka "Enclosure" or "Encirclement"): If your melody line skips or jumps (any non-stepwise motion) there is a strong tendency to play the note in between the last two notes played immediately previous.

5. Cultural Factors: You are most likely to emulate the styles of music, phrasing and melodic features that you are most familiar with. A chinese musician will approach the subject of melody from a completely different viewpoint than, say, an Arabic or East Indian musician. For example, the more Jazz you listen to, the more likely your lines are going to sound like Jazz.

* * * * * * *

Whether or not you are consciously aware of the abovementioned factors,
writing or improvising a melody is much like a game of chess.

Each melodic snippet brings you to a point where you have to make a melodic decision.

You have several choices facing you and any choice you make immediately offers several more choices until the phrase reaches its natural resolution.


copyright 2005 Jeff Brent