Melody and Harmony

m.j.mermikides@surrey.ac.uk As mentioned, in 'Complete Track Analysis', harmony can only be fully understood in relation to other musical considerations. This handout looks at melody's relation to harmony in a little more detail. Remember that context is crucial on music, so none of the following are immutable laws, just helpful guidelines and incentives to notice the most salient features. Music is multi-dimensional, there is expressive power in timbre, rhythm, groove, melody and harmony as isolated features, and in their complex interactions. First we look at some expressive features of melody in itself, and then its interaction with melody.

Melodic Tension
Note Hierarchy of the Major Scale

& œ
R

œ
2

œ
3

œ
4

œ
5

œ
6

œ
7

A scale is usually written, and conceived, in ascending form (see above). However, in terms of hierarchy, the 7 notes may be better arranged in terms of degrees of resolution. Diatonic Tones from pentatonic Non-pentatonic scale tones

Triad tones

R more resolved

&

œ

œ
5

œ
3

œ
2

œ
6

œ
4

œ
7 less resolved

The layout above gives a general impression of how the notes of a major scale compare in terms of resolution level. This explains why we see certain shapes of melodies, and how phrase endings differ between phrases of a melody. We may also extend this concept of melodic tension to include non-diatonic notes, an impression is given below. Although subjective, there are technical reasons for the rough layout below. However, although we are still considering melody as independent of harmony, the following should be taken only as an approximate guide - context of surrounding melody notes, implied keys, phrasing and rhythm are still critical.

& œ

R 5 more resolved

œ

œ
3

œ
2

œ
6


b7

œ
4


7

b3

#4

b6 b2 less resolved

©2011 Milton Mermikides

2 We have so far been looking at a 'major' context. If however a minor (or modal) context is established a different pattern may emerge, still noting all the caveats previously mentioned. Here's an impression of a melodic tension continuum in a minor context:

&

R

œ

œ
5

b3

œ
4


b7

œ
2

œ
6


7


b6

#4

more resolved

b2 3 less resolved

So far we have looked as melody as separate (as far as possible) from harmonic context. This is an important component of analysis (and context) and establishes the sense of expression in an isolated melody. The following extract (Beatles-Across The Universe) gives a simple general impression of the melodic tension in the melody. Note how a phrase is repeated almost identically, except for the ending which is at first unresolved, and then resolved.

# &#œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ
D DŒ„Š7

F©‹7

œ œ œ œ œ œ œ ‰

œ J

Resolved (Root)
E‹7 A7

Quite resolved (5th)

# 5 &#œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ 4œ œ œ œ œ œ œ ˙
Less resolved (4th) Unresolved (7th)
F©‹7

4 4

## 4 D œ œ œ DŒ„Š7 œ œ œ œ œ & 4œ
Resolved Root)

Quite resolved (5th)

2 œ œ œ œ œ œ œ ‰ œ 4 J
œ œ Ó

## 2E‹7 & 4œ

Ϫ

œ

œ

4œ 4
G‹

œ

Less resolved (4th)

Resolved (Root)

If we look at the chords in isolation we get another pattern of tension and release, which sometimes correlates with the melodic tension and sometimes doesn't. They differ most notably here when the melody resolves at the end of the 2nd phrase while the harmony holds down a colourful and unresolved subdominant minor (iv) chord. This is an example of the multi-level property which makes music so endlessly fascinating and absorbing. Now we've looked at melodic tension, and also mentioned that it exists in relationship (but not direct correlation) with a sense of harmonic resolution, we now turn our attention to consonance and dissonance, how particular melody notes are heard against specific chords - sometimes referred to as the vertical relationship.

Consonance and Dissonance
The following diagrams give an indication of the level of consonance/dissonance over a few common chords. Remember context is important - for example - whether the note is diatonic, or if it stressed rhythmically or left unresolved will alter the sense of dissonance. Still, it is certainly worth trying these out yourself and considering this important mechanism in both your analysis and composition.

3

Major chord

& w w w

R 5 Consonant

œ

œ

œ
3

œ
2

œ bœ nœ
6 b7 7

œ
4

bœ #œ bœ bœ
b3 #4 b6

b2 Dissonant

Minor or minor 7 chord

& nw w w

R 5 Consonant

œ

œ bœ
3

œ
4


b7

œ
2

œ #œ
6

nœ bœ
7 b6

#4

bœ nœ

b2 3 Dissonant

Major 7 chord

&

w w w w

R 5 Consonant

œ

œ

œ
3

œ
7

œ
9

13

œ #œ nœ
7

11

#9

bœ #œ bœ bœ
b13 b7

b9 Dissonant

& bw w w w

Dominant 7 chord

R 5 Consonant

œ

œ

œ
3


b7

œ
9

œ #œ nœ
6 #2 4

bœ bœ
#

b13

œ
4

œ
7 Dissonant

The above guide treats chords in isolation, divorced from harmonic context - whether the chord is a I, ii or IV for example. A general persepective of consonance and dissonance which includes this element might be represented thus: Consonant Chord Tones (CTs) Common Diatonic note whole tone or above nearest chord tone Non-diatonic note whole tone or above nearest chord tone Diatonic note semi tone above nearest chord tone Dissonant Non-diatonic note semi tone above nearest chord tone Rare

There are some exceptions to this guide. Most notably the minor 3rd, which is a very commonly used and stylistically fundamental non-diatonic note in a major or blues context.

4

Melody on Harmony
Chord-Tone Melody

The study and understanding of melody is a life-long pursuit, but let's look at a succinct representative selection of broad concepts addressing how melody may effectively integrate with harmony, how dissonance is resolved and common 'tensions.'

In the following example (All The Things You Are - Hammerstein/Kern) the melody is constructed entirely from chord tones (CTs) from the underlying chord sequence. Chord degrees (not specifically major minor) are given.

b & b bb w
3rd

F‹7

B¨‹7

˙™

3rd

7th 3rd

œ œ œ œ œ œ ˙
7th 3rd

E¨7

A¨Œ„Š7

7th 3rd

œ œ œ œ œ œ n˙
3rd 3rd

D¨Œ„Š7

D‹7 G7

CŒ„Š7

7th 3rd

œ nw

Diatonic Sequence, Passing Tones and CT pivots
There are 3 powerful devices in the following extract (Autumn Leaves - Kosma/Mercer) 1) Diatonic sequence: A fixed pattern of chord degrees are moved through a harmonic progression. 2) Passing Tone: Stepwise resolution of NCTs between CTs. Note how the NCTs here (9ths) are approached from, and resolved to, CTs using a diatonic scale. 3) Chord-tone pivots (a new term): Note how held notes change from one CT to another CT of a new chord.

b &b Œ

(Gm7)

b &b œ
7th

E¨Œ„Š7

Root 9th 3rd CT NCT CT (step) (step)

œ

œ

œ

C‹7

w

F7

œ

3rd CT
A‹7(b5)

7th CT
D7

Root

œ

9th

œ

œ
3rd

B¨Œ„Š7

w

3rd
G‹7

Root

œ

9th

œ

3rd

œ

w

œ

(G melodic minor)

3rd

7th

Root

œ

9th

3rd

w

3rd

Common NCT Devices
Now the concept of passing tones has been introduced, let's take a survey of many of the typical devices for handling NCTs.

5

Anticipation (ANT)

& ˙™
CT

C

œ

E‹

˙™

œ

˙™

F

NCT CT (same note)

NCT CT (same note)

NCT CT (same note)

œ

C

w

A CT is played before the harmonic change, resulting in a momentary NCT (usually but not always diatonic). In other words, the NCT is created (and resolved) by anticipating a harmonic change.

Neighbour Tone (NT) or Auxillary Note (AUX)

& ˙

A‹

œ
(step)

œ

E‹

˙

NT

œ

œ
CT

˙
CT

F

NT

CT

NCT CT (step)

CT

NCT

NCT

œ

œ
CT

E7

œ
CT

NT

œ

œ
CT

CT

NCT

A NCT (usually diatonic) is played above or below a CT and is approached, and resolved in step wise motion.

Incomplete Neighbour Tone

& œ œ œ

C

CT NCT CT CT NCT CT (skip) (step) (skip) (step) (aka appoggiatura)
G

œ œ œ

CT NCT CT (skip) (step)

œ œ ˙™

œ œ œ
CT NCT CT (skip) (step)
A‹

F

(non-diatonic)

CT NCT CT (skip) (step)

œ bœ œ

& œ œ ˙™ & œ
C

CT NCT CT (skip) (step)

CT NCT CT (skip) (step)

œ œ œ œ œ œ™ J œ œ œ œ

œ œ œ œ œ œ™ J ˙
CT (skip)

CTNCTCT (skip) (step)

œ

œ

CT NCT CT CT NCT CT (skip) (step) (skip) (step) (same-direction)

CT NCT CT (skip) (step)

CT NCT CT (skip) (step)

œ

CT NCT CT (step) (skip)

œ

CT

œ

CT

œ

NCT

œ

(step)

A NCT is approached by a skep and resolved by a step (usually but not always in the opposite direction) Appoggiatura. A NCT may also be approached by a step from a CT and resolved by a skip (usually in the opposite direction) This is very similar to the idea of escape tone, where the skip occurs on a harmonic change. NCTs are usually but not always (see bar 3) diatonic.

6

Escape Tone(ET) or Echappeé
NCTs are approached by step and then resolved onto a CT of a new chord in the opposite direction.

& ˙™
CT

A‹

œ
(step)
NCT

G

CT

˙™

œ
(step)
NCT

F

(opposing skip to CT on new chord)

NCT CT (step) (opposing skip to (opposing skip to CT on new chord) CT on new chord)

CT

œ

œ

E7

˙

Changing Tones (ChTs) or Double-Neighbour Tones (DNTs)
CTs left by a step, then skip in the opposite direction and resolved to CT by step.

& ˙
CT

C

œ

œ

A‹

˙

œ

œ

F

˙

NCT NCT

CT

NCT NCT

CT

NCT NCT

œ

œ

œ bœ
CT CT

F‹

C

CT

˙

Suspensions and Retardations

& ˙™

C

G

œ

A‹

œ

sus.4-3 prep. sus.9-8 res.

˙

œ
prep.

F

œ

œ

G7

˙
prep.

C

œ

˙™

ret.7-8 res.

ret.2-3 res.

A delayed step-wise resolution to a CT. When the resolution falls its a suspension, when it rises the NCT is a retardation. The note in the preceding chord is known as the preparation.(prep.) which are suspended (sus.) or retardated (ret.) and then resolved (res.).

Passing Tones (PT)
From Heart-Shaped Box - Nirvana

& Œ

A‹

CT NCT CT NCT CT

œ œ œ œ œ œ J J œ œ œ œ™ J J J
F

D7

˙

˙
NCT

˙
CT

Ó

NCT

CT

NCT

CT

Stepwise connections between CTs of the same, or next chord using NCTs. These are usually single and diatonic, but may also involve more than one note (eg double passing tones) or may also be chromatic, and combined with other devices to form more complex approach patterns.

7

& œ

C7

Double Passing Tones (DPTs), Approach Patterns and 'Accepted' NCTs

CT NCT NCT CT Double chromatic passing tones.
C7

œ

œ

˙

F7

œ


NCT

œ
NCT

œ
CT

˙

CT

Double chromatic passing tones.

& œ


NCT

œ bœ
CT

CT

NCT NCT NCT NCT

œ

œ #œ

œ

CT

j œ bœ

NCT

j nœ

NCT

œ

Œ

Neighbour Tone

Chromatic Passing Tone to...

Changing Tone with chromatic passing tone: Approach Pattern

Chromatic 'Accepted' Passing Tone NCT. to...

The last note here introduces the idea of 'accepted' non-chord tones. Clearly the 9th sounds just fine and may be happily left unresolved. Actually in Jazz such melody notes are often 'written in' to the harmony, a C9 in this case. But this isn't always appropriate, and often in popular music these notes are clearly not included in the harmonic accompaniment, doing so can make the harmony overly fussy and weaker. So how do we decide what is 'acceptable' in terms of NCTs? A musical ear is always the best judge and context and style are important and sometimes 'outness' is desired. (Just listen to Zappa, Blur or King Crimson for perfectly judged 'wrong' notes) Page 3 of this section (Consonance and Dissonance) will provide some theoretical context to the degrees of dissonance in melody, not forgetting that placement on strong or weak beats - the rhythmic emphasis of NCTs is crtitical. Using dissonant notes is not necessarily bad (although involves skill) and perfectly 'correct' notes does not necessarily produce good music. However an awareness of the consonance/dissonance continuum is hugely valuable. This particulary topic is vast but we will end with just one further illustrative example:

Fixed Melody and Changing Harmony
A powerful device is to use a fixed melody, over a changing harmonic sequence. The melody may create NCTs (in this case very common ones) and there is an interesting musical effect of hearing similar material in different harmonic contexts. In a way this is the opposite of the sequence, which changes melody to maintain similar chord degrees over changing harmony.

& œ œ Œ & œ œ Œ
9 9 5 F7 5

C7

Ó Ó Ó

F7

œ œ Œ
9 9

œ œ Œ
9 9

C7

œ œ Œ
9 9
G7

œ œ Œ
9 9

5 C7

Ϫ Ϫ

R

œ Ó J œ Ó J
E¨7 E‹7

∑ ∑ ∑
A7

& œ œ Œ
11 11

D‹7

R

œ œ Œ
R

R

œ œ Œ
R

5 C7

Ϫ
5

R

R

œ Ó J

A¨7

D¨7

8

The End and the Beginning
Often dismissed by people don't know any better as 'simple', popular music harmony is a complex and fascinating mix of concepts and cultural influences that are endlessly interesting, effective and inspiring. Do remember that harmony lies in a complex interrelationship with all other music parameters and how its used - and its musical effect - is determined by context rather than theoretical abstraction. I graduated from a 4-year degree in 1996 which I approached with passion and commitment, since then there has not been a day that I have not thought about, played or composed music, I've even completed a PhD in composition, and I am still discovering fascinating and rewarding insights about understanding and using 'simple' harmony. I wish you the same enjoyment and satisfaction.

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