A melody is most simply defined as a collection of pitches sound in succession, but this definition does not explain how melodies space built and also how they function in music. In this section we will discover the concept of melody in better detail and also discuss the relationships between melodies and also accompaniments, the sounds intended to support and enhance melodies.

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Contour defines the straight motion of a melody up and also down. Go it typically ascend or descend? Does it come back to the same pitch top top which the began? does the melody use large intervals or little ones?


When melodies relocate by whole or half steps (like a scale), this is conjunct motion. Motion in bigger intervals is referred to as disjunct motion. Most melodies incorporate the two, together in this instance from "Twinkle, Twinkle". In this melody the contour starts with a leap upwards (disjunct motion), then a steady descent using smaller intervals (conjunct motion) that finishes on the initial pitch.

Melodic edge is also important in the background of music notation. Prior to our current system that notation to be developed, musicians occasionally wrote under the edge of a melody in order to remember it. Over time, composers and also performers started including horizontal lines come make certain that when the exact same pitch changed it would be written at the exact same height, which made your contour drawings more specific, an ext accurate, and easier to read. They started with just one line, yet they soon began adding more. Occasionally the currently were also color-coded, utilizing red for C and yellow because that G, for example. Color-coding dropped out of practice, yet musicians kept including lines until there were 5 staff lines, as in our contemporary notation system.


Range describes the total selection of pitches encompassed in the melody: just how high and low the melody goes. If the score walk not indicate which voice or instrument must be supplied to carry out the music, the variety can be supplied to assist determine which voices and also instruments are appropriate for use. For example, if the range includes pitches that are too high or as well low because that a voice climate it must be played on one instrument. For much more on instrument ranges, view Timbre.


A motive or motif is the shortest feasible melodic unit and may covers as few as two different pitches, as in Beethoven"s fifth Symphony.

Motives are the musical tantamount of a capture phrase or slogan and are frequently used in that capacity in commercials. Notice the motive on "by Mennen" and "Hot Pockets" in these commercials:


Motives may additionally be incorporated into a bigger melodic unit: a phrase. Phrases space the musical tantamount of sentences, clauses, or present of poetry. They deserve to be split by commas in lyrics (for vocal music), breaths (for voices and also wind instruments), rests (silences), or merely by the shape of the melody. Phrases have tendency to be lyrical (singable, song-like) also if they space performed by instruments, and also they usually take place in continuous lengths.

In music analysis, phrases are figured out by lower case letters: "a" because that the first, "b" for the second, etc. If the expression repeats, the letter is provided again. Also, phrases often tend to end with cadences, which room melodic and also harmonic formulas that lug a sense of closure to the phrase.

Antecedent and also Consequent Phrases

Two important and interrelated types of phrases space antecedent and also consequent phrases. Antecedent and also consequent phrases occur when one expression seems come ask a inquiry (the antecedent) and the various other seems to answer that (the consequent). The antecedent phrase sounds unfinished or unresolved as soon as it ends because its last pitch is no the tonic pitch. The consequent expression then responds come the antecedent and also finishes with a stronger feeling of resolution, regularly by landing ~ above the tonic pitch.

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Idiomatic Melodies

When melodies room written specifically for a particular instrument or voice, the composer will certainly capitalize ~ above the strengths and avoid the weaknesses of that instrument or voice. This is referred to as composing idiomatically. Because that example, some melodies are much more suited to tools than voices: those the use big leaps (intervals) in between pitches, those that space too high or too low because that voices, or those with really fast passages, for example. Voices, on the various other hand, are frequently considered an ext expressive than instruments, an especially because they are uniquely capable of performing lyrics. So, once composers space writing melodies, they think about these strengths and also weaknesses and readjust their compositions accordingly.

Music Notation nottard

This intuitive glossary is a great resource for discovering to read music.


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"Music is naught else yet wild sounds civilized into time and also tune." - thomas Fuller


"After silence, the which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." - Aldous Huxley

"Music in the soul can be heard by the universe." - Lao Tzu

"Music is a greater revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." - Ludwig van Beethoven

"Music is the movement of sound to with the spirit for the education of its virtue." - Plato

"Music expresses that which can not be said and on which the is impossible to be silent." - Victor Hugo

"Music is nothing else yet wild sounds civilized into time and tune." - cutting board Fuller