Skip to content

Making it melodic

Thinking about melody, there are a few components that are common to all music – pitch and rhythm. None of the topics in deal distinctly with rhythm, but it is interwoven into everything. Yesterday in my made-up melody example, I used different rhythms to give meaning to the notes. It made me think. There are some pieces of music where the notes are constant, and then what? It is not always the rhythm that points to the melodic line. The components of music can be shuffled so that one comes to the foreground while something else, that maybe more constant, fades more into the background.

For example, on the cello there is the very famous Prelude to Bach Suite I in G Major. (there are many editions, this one is in the public domain and was published in 1879, available from IMSLP)

The score looks like this:


What you will notice is that nearly all the notes are semiquavers (16th notes), and that suggests that it is not the rhythm that is particularly shaping the melodic content of the piece. This is not uncommon for Baroque music to have one rhythmic idea in a movement, and for there to be other things that are giving the melodic line shape. In this case you can see there are patterns in the way the music is voiced. This gives the performer any number of choices to showcase the musical contours to take their audience on an aural journey. If no outline is projected for the listener, this music could sound like a study. Imagine the listener bombarded over and over by the same thing: A semiquaver hammer. Ouch! That is hardly necessary. It does take technical proficiency to go beyond the notes. Then the performer can concentrate on expression and deeper layers within the music.

Part of the joy of this music is the choice and the way in which a performer can present nuance to tell a story. It is so much more than the notes. Hear how these performers make different interpretations through bowing and tonal emphasis to make melodies out of the constantly flowing notes.


I am still both amazed and bemused when I think of how many different performances are possible of the same notated music. -lovely how a piece becomes your own, for so many different performers.

This is my daily post for #MUS654 thinking about ‘what makes a melody?’


One Comment Post a comment
  1. Playing this 0n trumpet is a b*tch. All those wide intervals are murder.

    September 26, 2016

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.