STRUCTURAL NOTESMELODIC OUTLINE CONTOUR STARTING WITH STRUCTURAL TONES
The most important notes in a melody are the structural notes. These notes form the Melodic Outline.The
structural notes are "The Essence" of the song.
It's a variation of the song that could be called it's simplest
easiest way to get to the essence is to "jam" the song (with
your band or into your recorder) and simplify the melody until you
can't cut anything else away. The notes that remain are the structural notes
SIGNS OF STRUCTURAL NOTESThese notes are ussually found on: Strong beats of the measure (beats 1 and 3) Notes that are held longer than the notes around them. The begginning note of a phrase
The ending note of a phrase
The highest or lowest notes of a phrase.
And sometimes found on:
Groups of notes that have a combined time value longer than the notes around them. Accented notes that stand out.
Strong syncopations, (notes appearing off the beat) or anticipations
(notes that lead into longer notes, ussualy off the beat)
MELODIC OUTLINEOnce you discover the structural notes, you can figure out the Melodic Outline.
This ouline is a simplification of the melody that allows you to add harmony (chords) later.
the melody into whole note or half note* segments
and figure out what chord is occuring in each segment.
the longest notes in each segment are the best choice for the melodic
You can also use triads (1 3 5) to suggest a chord.
If 1 5 (power chord) is occurring, that would also suggest the chord.*Whole note is 4 beats. Half note is 2 beats.The most comfortable way for a melody to move is by Conjunct motion (by scale step). This is true for both the Melodic Outline and the individual melody notes.Example:
The longest notes are used to make up the melodic outline
.Example 2:This looks like an instrumental melody (it would be hard to sing).The colored numbers at the bottom of the chart represent intervals in different chords.Measure 1 consists of the same triads.Measure 2 consists of the same triads.
Measure 3's beat 1 gets added weight, and it can form a triad Measure 3's beat 3 and 4 are extended so I chose to consider them an outline note. They could also be an extended 5 (of the triad).
4 is tricky. Beat 1 is short, and could be considered a pickup
into + (and) (the Blue). So I gave it to Blue. The
second half of the measure (Green) was extended, so it also became
an outline note.
analysis is my opinion. You might disagree.
If you were
making a song and any of these choices
felt wrong, you should change it to what feels right.
CONTOURIt's important to make your melody "go somewhere", a melody that remains "in one place" is boring
Contour allows us to keep track of where the melody is going.There are five basic contoursToo many phrases with the same contour can be boring. The above examples were Phrase Contour
.We can also examine the Overall Contour of several combined phrases
.The "Arch Contour" is very satisfying, musically.
STARTING WITH STRUCTURAL TONESIf you start your song with a basic melodic outline, you'll want to enhance it to make it sound better.
There are several ways to do this.
The best way to enhance your melody is to keep singing and recording variations.
Keep developing it until it feels right. But you can also take the academic approach.
There are a number of ways to embellish structural tones. 1. Repeated Tones
Repeat the tone rhythmically
2. Neighbor Tones
A note that occurs between a structural tone and it's repitition.
Lower Neighbor Occurs below the structural tone
Upper Neighbor Occurs above the structural tone
3. Changing Tones
A two note embellishment that uses both the Upper and Lower neighbor.
4. Scalar Pattern Links structural tones with a "scale step" motion.
Passing Tone Links two structural tones a 3rd apart.
Anticipates the next structural note.
It's shorter in value and often appears on the weak part of the beat.
6. Leap Jump from one structural tone to the next.
Leap 2 Jump from a structural tone to any note, then jump to the next structural note.
Combine these embellishments however you like.
Learn how they work and include them in your improvisations.
better to try something new and screw it up, than to never try at
With practice, these embellishments will happen naturally.