Introduction to Melody


“the profile formed by any collection of pitches”

“a series or succession of linear [pitch] events which must contain a change of some kind and be perceived as a single entity”

“variety of pitches that have a rhythm and a contour and often agree with the underlying chords; most commonly found in 2-bar phrases and in 8 bar lengths”


duration: long notes / short notes / rests

contour: ascending / descending

phrases: coherence & congruency

pitch intervals: steps, skips, leaps

motifs: intervallic, rhythmic, contour, etc.

quality: timbre (tone quality), texture (thickness), dynamics (loudness)

harmonic context: chord tones, scale tones & chromatics

Your Assignment:

write & refine a melody to either one of these progressions:

| C | % | G | % | Am | % | F | % | end on C –  use C major pentatonic or C ionian


| Em | % | Am | % | B7 | % | Am | % | end on Em – use E minor pentatonic or E aeolian

use the checklist to refine your melody:

melody checklist

duration: does your melody have long notes, short notes, and rests?

contour: does your melody have ascending & descending passages?  what is the overall shape of your melody?

phrases: is each phrase clear & distinct?  does each phrase logically follow the one before it?

pitch intervals: does your melody have steps and at least one skips or leap?

motifs: are there any thematic devices in your melody such as a certain pattern of intervals, a specific rhythmic, a certain contour, etc. that gets reused or varied?

quality: is it possible you can either change tone quality, the amount of notes (either few or many) or the loudness or softness at a certain spot?


chord tones, scale tones & chromatics:  does your melody utilize some or all of these for intended points of tension & release?

rhythmic variety: does your melody have this?

climactic note / pitch range management: can your melody deliberately lead up to and hold a high note for a melodic climax?  if so, can you come away gently from it, presumably with a descending passage?