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Melody - Just what is it?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by miccheck1516, Aug 27, 2003.


  1. miccheck1516

    miccheck1516 Guest

    Feb 15, 2003
    Ireland
    I just read in a thread that its a good idea to learn the melody of songs, just what is the melody? i probobly know allready but dont know i do, anyway, thanks folks...
     
  2. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    You probably think it more complicated than it is.
    Learn the vocal melody, or the lines of the most prominent instrument that plays singlenotes, e.g. guitar, sax, trumpet or the high "voice" (right hand) of the piano.

    Or to keep it more simple, play the part you would hum or whistle along with.
     
  3. miccheck1516

    miccheck1516 Guest

    Feb 15, 2003
    Ireland
    after me saying i probobly allready know it, hey i did, just didnt know how to explain it, cheers :)
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher

    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    A sequential arrangement of pitches.
     
  5. OldDawg

    OldDawg

    Jul 4, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Humm a song you like. That was the melody line.

    Many instrument players sound for a lack of a good term herky-jerky when they play. The notes are all right and the rhythms are right, but something doesn't sound right. Well it's usually because they don't know how to phrase things. Phrasing thing makes them sound musical. Phrasing is part of what makes you like one singer more than another when singing the same song. Same with instrumentalists great soloists know how to phrase. Many will say they listen to certain singers and copy their phrasing. If you listen or what there mouths if loud music you will see many musicians singing what they are playing especially when soloing. Singing what they play helps them phrase and make their ideas sound complete with a beginning and a end and dynamics.

    Learning to play the melodies of songs helps you learn how to phrase. Also learning melodies of songs helps you learn musical ideas for your own playing.
     
  6. kirbywrx

    kirbywrx formerly James Hetfield

    Jul 27, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia.
    is this a vailid theory?

    If you were going to put a song as a mobile phone ringtone, you would put the melody into the phone.

    Right?
    Well thats whats through alot of mobile phones. oh yeah, im talking about non polyphonic.
     
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Eh - I didn't get a word of that!! :confused:
     
  8. kirbywrx

    kirbywrx formerly James Hetfield

    Jul 27, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia.
    SOrry bruce, i got over excited :D

    You know how mobile phone ringtones usually follow the lyrics and not the actual song?

    Well is this a fair way to describe what melody is?
     
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    What do you mean by the "actual song" ? :confused:

    Anyway.....



    Here is the formal definition of melody from (my favourite source) the Oxford Dictionary of music :

    melody (from Gr. ‘Melos’). A succession of notes, varying in pitch, which have an organized and recognizable shape. Melody is ‘horizontal’, i.e. the notes are heard consecutively, whereas in harmony notes are sounded simultaneously (‘vertical’). The mus. of many primitive races still remains purely melodic, as does European folksong and also plainsong. Many apparently simple folk melodies will be found, on examination, however, to be highly organized, e.g. as regards the use at different pitch levels of some simple, brief motif, the adroit use of a high note as a point of climax, etc.; many such melodies will be found to be cast in some definite form, such as simple ternary form.

    Rhythm is an important element in melody, whether it be the prose rhythm of primitive mus., plainsong, and the comps. of some modern composers, or the metrical rhythm of most other mus. Indeed this element is so much a governing factor in the effect of a melody that if, while the notes of a popular melody are left intact, the rhythm is drastically altered, it becomes difficult to recognize the melody. The rhythm of many melodies is extraordinarily subtle and repays close study.

    Once harmony had become an element in mus. it began to influence melody in this way—that melodic passages are often found to be based on the notes of a chord (with or without added decorative or intermediate notes).

    It is difficult to define ‘originality’ in melody. Apparently it lies mainly in mere detail, since, on critical examination, what we accept as an orig. melody is often found closely to resemble some previous and quite well-known melody. It is often difficult to see what has led to the popularity of a particular melody, or what it is that gives some melodies durability while others prove to be merely ephemeral: however, it will generally be found that the long-lived melodies possess the valuable quality of logical organization.

    Racial and nat. feeling expresses itself strongly in melody, particular scales, intervals, and rhythms being typical of the mus. of particular races or nations.

    The word is also sometimes used as the title for a small, simple piece, e.g. Rubinstein's Melody in F.
     
  10. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Yes.

    With songs, in general, the melody is the lead vocal part.
     
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    But not necessarily - a lot of mobile phone ring tones I've heard on the train ( :mad: ) are actually what I would call a 'riff' - and a lot of these things are taken from modern dance music - which has no real vocal melody - just an insistent beat - Daft Punk etc.

    Even if we are talking about good old-fashioned songs - it doesn't necessarily apply - so Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" has a great melody which is never sung, but is actually the sax part.

    I have also heard people using things like the bass line to the Pet Shop Boys "West End Girls" as a ringtone, rather than the melody !!
     
  12. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    The melody of a song is usually the tune, the vocal, the bit that people hum etc.

    What is often forgotten about melody is that it's nothing without rhythm. That old jazz standard C jam blues has a two note melody which relies on the rhythm to become melodic.

    I believe that most people follow a single thread through any given tune, and that thread represents a composite of the strongest melodic parts. i.e. a song may start with a drum intro, followed by a guitar riff, then a bass fill leading into the verse vocal, maybe the odd fill in gaps in the vocal and fills into the chorus, continue along the chorus vocal melody, then maybe the guitar solo, back to a verse vocal, etc.

    I try to write songs with arrangements that take advantage of this, that give the listener a clear coherent line to focus on with supporting parts that add interest but don't obscure the main melody.

    Alex
     
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    See - the second para of my quote from the Oxford Dictionary of Music!! ;)
     
  14. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Conceivably, a riff could be considered as a simple melody - short and repetitive to be sure, but definitely ... a succession of notes, varying in pitch, which have an organized and recognizable shape....

    I think a broad definition of melody could well be 'the bit you go away humming' - so the sax riff on 'Baker Street' is definitely a melody... although not the melody followed by the main vocal line. I can remember several bars of the sax bit but only the first few words of the vocal line...

    Wulf
     
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree with you 100% - that's why I was trying to say that moley's statement : "in general, the melody is the lead vocal part." was too simplistic a view!
     
  16. miccheck1516

    miccheck1516 Guest

    Feb 15, 2003
    Ireland
    But he said 'in general' and as such, i understood that there are exceptions to what he said.
     
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - I'm not so sure in the context of mobile phone ring tones - which it was - generally, there isn't enough room/time for a vocal melody - what I hear more often are catchy instrumental riffs, from dance tunes etc.
     
  18. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    I think that's more what I'd call a (or the) hook. But the hook is by its very nature a melody, though a melody need not be a hook.

    Alex
     
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Again I'm not sure - I've heard people humming or singing riffs - guitar riffs or even bass lines, that are definitely not melodies and a lot of great melodies are too difficult for most people to sing or to get right anyway!! ;)
     
  20. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Why are they definitely not melodies? I'd argue that they are melodies, certainly not according to the Oxford Dictionary definition. They may be nothing to do with the vocal line but if people go away singing them, they're definitely melodies associated with the song.

    Wulf