is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?
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Old 09-10-2012, 08:30 AM   #1
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Icon5 is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

hey guys I have looked all over the internet and I still don't have a firm idea of what makes a melody a "melody" if you get me. I have been told it is just the notes of the chord progression with passing notes/neighbor notes in between those chord notes.

and I actually found the sheet music for Aphex Twins "Avril 14th" I copied the notes into my DAW and I noticed the melody at the very beginning is just the notes of the chords with passing notes in between, and I am sure many of you enjoy that song as much as I do (I have been listening to it on repeat for hours already ahah)

also I have been told that the rhythm of a melody is more important than the actual notes themselves?

what do you guys think, is this REALLY how melodies are made, or am I wrong?

because whenever I try to write my own melodies to my own songs they come out shitty and I can get a good chord progression going it's just when it comes to melody I just have no idea where to start...

I also studied counterpoint and I know my intervals and, but nobody ever really came out and said what a "melody" is... like I know what it may sound like in the context of a song, but is there like a set of rules to follow for writing melodies just like theres rules for everything else in music theory?

it just doesn't make sense to me...

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Old 09-10-2012, 08:44 AM   #2
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Here, have a slice of Wikipedia:

Quote:
Melody is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity.
Have another:

Quote:
...melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm...
It doesn't have to be chord notes. You can make a melody however you like.

Start with a note that sounds good, then add another, etc. Don't overthink it. Just try to capture what's in your head.

And there are no rules. Think of the "rules" more as suggestions or observations. Theory is good for having an organized understanding about music, not for writing the music for you.

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Old 09-10-2012, 09:01 AM   #3
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Hey OP: no offence intended, but it sounds like you've over-thought things and are a bit confused as a result.

As mimicry say (quotes), a melody is just a satisfying series of notes of whatever pitch/rhythm you like. Probably your best bet is to stop worrying about what would be 'technically' correct and just do what feels right.

In formal music theory, there are a lot of different approaches to melodies. If you've studied species counterpoint then you'll be aware that it's an incredibly specific, rule-based approach to composition (albeit where some rules can be broken occasionally). That's part of the reason why it went out of fashion, like, 250 years ago! Other approaches have very different rules - serialism being an extreme example. But over-reliance on any particular set of rules really limits the opportunity to explore different melodic concepts, which is why for the most part you're best off being aware of but not paying too much heed to some of these ways of thinking and doing.

However, saying that: I assume since you've studied intervals and contrapuntal music that you know your scales and modes? If not, learn them: they will help.

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Old 09-10-2012, 09:04 AM   #4
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Trust your ear. Experiment with notes that sound good together. Start with short combinations, and expand. Experiment with rhythm. Listen to your melody, and try and discern where it "wants" to go. I feel that good melodies have a sort of pull to them. Sometimes, you're a single note or quarter beat away from a melody that would resonate. Just move things around and trust your ear.

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Old 09-10-2012, 06:55 PM   #5
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Literally: Melody is the part of a song that determines whether you're getting a bj or not.
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Old 11-10-2012, 12:36 PM   #6
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

A melody is usually composed of notes from that scale meaning that if you play the C Major scale on a piano the only thing u will be able to tell is that its major but it wont have that melodic feel.There wont be anything special until you put a chord under it. If you play a C Major chord and then start messing with the C Major scale you will get a melody very soon.It may not be the most epic or special but thats a basic building block skill i think. Then you learn more scales and modes and learn how each one fits with the notes of the scale and start building melodies.
My advice is to take a basic chord progression like C-Am-G-C and take a piano or midi keyboard and start messing with a C Major scale which has no sharps or flats in it -- only WHITE KEYS and make something.Peace.

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Old 11-10-2012, 12:58 PM   #7
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by skateman247 View Post
hey guys I have looked all over the internet and I still don't have a firm idea of what makes a melody a "melody" if you get me. I have been told it is just the notes of the chord progression with passing notes/neighbor notes in between those chord notes.
You have been lied to. A melody is just a succession of notes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by skateman247 View Post
also I have been told that the rhythm of a melody is more important than the actual notes themselves?
Personal preference, depends on the instrument playing the melody, and what other instruments are going on at the same time. This is more often true in dance music, though.

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Old 11-10-2012, 01:39 PM   #8
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

whoever told you there are rules in music theory is a filthy liar and you should punch them. preferably with a chainmail glove on, in the groin. but a normal, unclad punch to the face or stomach will do too.

theory isn't rules. it's explanations of how you can expect sounds to work together. no rules.

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Old 12-10-2012, 04:01 AM   #9
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by skateman247 View Post
hey guys I have looked all over the internet and I still don't have a firm idea of what makes a melody a "melody" if you get me. I have been told it is just the notes of the chord progression with passing notes/neighbor notes in between those chord notes.

and I actually found the sheet music for Aphex Twins "Avril 14th" I copied the notes into my DAW and I noticed the melody at the very beginning is just the notes of the chords with passing notes in between, and I am sure many of you enjoy that song as much as I do (I have been listening to it on repeat for hours already ahah)

also I have been told that the rhythm of a melody is more important than the actual notes themselves?

what do you guys think, is this REALLY how melodies are made, or am I wrong?

because whenever I try to write my own melodies to my own songs they come out shitty and I can get a good chord progression going it's just when it comes to melody I just have no idea where to start...

I also studied counterpoint and I know my intervals and, but nobody ever really came out and said what a "melody" is... like I know what it may sound like in the context of a song, but is there like a set of rules to follow for writing melodies just like theres rules for everything else in music theory?

it just doesn't make sense to me...
I have to disagree with everyone on one thing.

A melody is always either a note in the chord or one next to the chord as that is literally all 12 notes that exists within all keys.

To answer what you are really asking let me alter/reask the questions I THINK your asking.

What is melody?

Melody is the series of sounds you tend to hum along with a song.

Is rhythm more important than melody?

Depends on the musical style. An all percussion African drum choir definitely emphasizes rhythm over melody. Sometimes melodies and rhythms interact, such as when the rhythm pounds a beat with the melody emphasizing certain words or notes. Sometimes melody is purely, well melody, such as classical works which typically have very limited rhythmic vocabularies.

What makes a good melody?

Different styles have different needs. Miles Davis's Kind of Blue is an incredible record, the melodies that made it great can be very useful in different styles but embody certain styles of Jazz. On the other hand BB King gets along just fine with good ole blues. A modern Electro track will have vastly different needs for melody that are quite different from a Psychobilly band.

How are melodies made?

Varies person to person. Some people start with a chord progression and then come up with a melody around it. Others start with a melody and build their progression around it. Then their are variations involving rhythm, changing instruments, call and responses etc. When Frank Zappa was asked where his ideas came from his answer was simple, "in my head." Pretty much music is just stuff people made up. Until you really learn a bunch. Then you realize its mostly stuff people thought they made up but really just stole.

And yeah, 98% of the time it is just chords and melody interlaced.

Music Theory? What for if their are no rules?

Understand what theory can and can not do. When I first took up guitar over a decade ago I didn't know any theory. Well, I also started writing music, day one. Even tried to write the world's most awesome guitar riffs, many times over. I thought, theory smeary, and just wrote. Well, a couple years later I revisited some of those riffs after learning theory, and guess what, they ALL fell into patterns within theory.

Theory is tied to your ears. In short, the cover band I am currently playing in requires a certain minimal amount of theory. You must understand what "key" a song is in, how to follow "chord changes" and what scales/licks/melodies work over those changes or how to come up with them on the spot if need be. Learning 5-7 songs per night without this basic knowledge is, well, impossible.

The thing that scares so many regarding theory varies person to person. Anytime I go outside of theory and it works, I turn around and do a little research into theory in that area. Guess what. Their is ALWAYS an explanation. The good news is you don't have to learn every nook and cranny of theory for it to be useful, the bad news is IF you learn a good amount of theory you will write EXACTLY the music you hear. No randomly mashing keys looking for something that works.

Fortunately you are in the electronic music world, where you really don't have to have ANY idea what is going on or what you are doing musically, after all its just you and the machine. This is not meant as derogatory but simply reality and is one reason I like kickin on the machine myself, to get away from the rigidity of playing with other musicians.
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Old 12-10-2012, 04:53 AM   #10
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Basically my less than knowledgeable approach is:

If the note I just played sounded good with the one before it, then I think I'm on to something. I take that same thought process and apply it to anything I play out. My play is pretty basic though.

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Old 14-10-2012, 04:29 PM   #11
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

A melody can be from chord tones, but to achieve certain sounds it's important to use nonchord tones as well. Non chord tones add a lot of color to harmony.
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Old 17-01-2013, 02:24 PM   #12
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

I think there are no rules in inspiration. Just Do It.
Do it how You feel sounds good
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Old 17-01-2013, 04:22 PM   #13
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Use the theory, do not use it....
I would say, learn the theory, benefit from it, but be NOT bounded by it. I learned music theory and it helped me understand the flow of music and why things sound or do not sound good. I think its great to have some fundamental knowledge about music.

As for a melody. Yes notes in the chords sound good most of the time. But, other notes in the scale might sound good as well, don't be bounded by the chords. Just as some notes outside of the scale might sound good (this might be tricky to use but some notes outside the scale do sound good in some melodies, just use your ear. If it sounds awesome, it is awesome).

And of course rhythm is important. Not the most important, just as important as everything else. Just remember that music is about sound AND silence.

As an idea to start, you might want to start at a note in the chord and move from there to what sounds good along with your chords. In some genres a great way to start is playing the same note and create a rhythm. Then change some pitches to create a melody.
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Old 21-01-2013, 07:00 PM   #14
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Actualy chords are melodies sounding together!
The strong beats of a bar need to sound "nice" and that's what a chord is, notes that sound well together. The "rules" of music theory are aesthetic rules, what sounds good or not.
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Old 21-01-2013, 07:12 PM   #15
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Melodies are more like steps you take up a stairway. so if you're walking up the stairs from C to the Octave, that's the scale. If you jump around on the stairs at different steps and times, that's a melody (you can use any scale). It also helps if you pretend you're an acrobat, and have a very long stairway.

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Old 21-01-2013, 08:22 PM   #16
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

You could even make a melody that doesn't use any "notes" at all. Different frequencies of sound with different intervals are even ok.

It's not really the norm, but you did mention listening to Aphex Twin so I assume you are down with experimentation.
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Old 21-01-2013, 08:34 PM   #17
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

things are just things with things.

valid descriptor of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE

water is just hydrogen with oxygen

toast is just bread with more heat applied

humans are jsut monkeys with concrete cities

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Old 23-01-2013, 03:27 AM   #18
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Melody implies chords. Melody is not PART of the chords. This is from a jazz standpoint, you don't always need chords for a melody to make sense. But, you can also have crazy melodies which need chords to support them in order to be understood.

If you wanted to you could take a melody and find a chord that fits EVERY NOTE and it would be horribly wrong but still make theoretical sense.

To expand on ghyt's statement, melodies are just notes and the way they relate to the chords, both of these are things you choose. You really can't reliably figure out chords from a melody and certainly not vice versa. I mean, you sort of can, but this is based on knowing styles and the style the song is in, and being a good musician, lol.

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Old 25-01-2013, 05:21 PM   #19
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

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Originally Posted by crackmontage View Post
You really can't reliably figure out chords from a melody and certainly not vice versa
it's called arrangement but ok I guess

the reason there's chord subtitutions is because a chord progression can already "sing" and have a nice melodic movement to it.

chords and melody aren't opposed things. A guitar, a piano, a vibraphone, can play chords. A saxophone can't (or maybe evan parker can). Chords are multiple notes played at the same time. Chords progressions can be melodic.
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Old 25-01-2013, 05:53 PM   #20
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Re: is Melody just chord tones with passing notes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ghyt wembpang View Post
things are just things with things.

valid descriptor of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE

water is just hydrogen with oxygen

toast is just bread with more heat applied

humans are jsut monkeys with concrete cities
that should be a song's lyrics. seriously.

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