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Changing Up Melodies
While a Melody might seem like just a sequence of Notes, there is a lot of variation that can occur within them...
According to Kiingo, there are four ways to highlight Notes within a Melody:
1. "Metric" Emphasis - What is the Position of the Note? (i.e.: Does the Note fall on a Beat or between Beats? If it falls on a Beat, what is the Accent of that Beat, Strong or Weak?)
2. "Agogic" Emphasis - What is the Duration of the Note? (i.e.: Is the Note longer or shorter than the other Notes around it?)
3. "Tonic" Emphasis - What is the Pitch of the Note? (i.e.: Is the Note higher or lower than the other Notes around it?)
4. "Dynamic" Emphasis - What is the Volume of the Note? (i.e.: Is the Note louder or softer than the other Notes around it?)
Extra Notes For Extra Spice
To refresh our memory:
• "Diatonic" = within a given Scale
• "Non-Diatonic" = outside of a given Scale
Chromatic Notes (or "Chromatics" for short) are Non-Diatonic Notes that are added to Melodies to give them some extra "flavor" or "color". There are generally two ways in which they are used:
1. We can throw a Non-Diatonic Note in front of a Diatonic one. These are called "Approach Notes" because we are approaching Diatonic Notes through them.
2. We can use several Non-Diatonic Notes to dance around a Diatonic one. These are called "Enclosures" because they enclose Diatonic Notes.
[Approach Notes and Enclosures are absolutely ubiqutous in Jazz because they are handy for Improvisation. If you are curious how Chromatics can be used for Composing in general, 8-Bit Music Theory gives some lovely examples within the soundtrack of the video game, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.]
The terms Diatonic and Non-Diatonic are not to be confused with...
• "Chord Tones" = the Notes within a Chord
• "Non-Chord Tones" = Notes outside of the Chord (usually within the same Scale that the Chord is derived from, but not always)
There are several different types of Non-Chord Tones, but we will cover five common ones:
• Passing Tone
• Lower Neighbor
• Upper Neighbor
• Double Neighbor
• Escape Tone
These give an idea of how Melody interacts with Harmony and Rhythm. To explain each of them more in-depth [all of the examples will assume that we are in the Key of C Major]...
• A Passing Tone links together two Scale Degrees. For example:
The magenta Note in the above diagram is the Passing Tone. It doesn't exist within the Chord that is played underneath it. We are simply "passing through".
• A Lower Neighbor dips down before coming back up to the same Note. For example:
The magenta Note in the above diagram is the Lower Neighbor. Again, it doesn't exist within the Chord that is played underneath it.
• An Upper Neighbor does the opposite; it pops up before coming back down to the same Note. For example:
The magenta Note in the above diagram is the Upper Neighbor.
• A Double Neighbor is like a combination of a Lower Neighbor and an Upper Neighbor. For example:
The two Notes in magenta within the above diagram are the Double Neighbor.
• An Escape Tone does a Step in one direction, and then a Leap within another direction. For example:
The magenta Note in the above diagram is the Escape Tone. The Step is shown in red, while the Leap is shown in blue. The Step and Leap can be either Ascending or Descending, so long as they are opposite one another.
All of the above images are adapted from ones given within the book The Elements of Music by Jason Martineau
Any of these Non-Chord Tones can fall on either a Strong Beat or a Weak Beat depending upon whether or not we want to emphasize them. Keep in mind that if we emphasize them, it will usually highlight how much they clash with the Chord being played underneath. If you are trying to figure out a way to get your Melody and Chord Progression to blend nicely but can't seem to get the Notes in both of them to mesh, try playing around with some Non-Chord Tones!
Embelishments are little flourishes that are done for the sake of adding some variety to a piece, like a tiny Improvisation. We will group them into two general categories, "Grace Notes" and "Ornaments"...
Grace Notes are single Notes that are added to a piece in order to emphasize a Note that is already there. They are connected to that Note with a Slur and played right before it, but are written as a very small Note next to it. There are generally two types:
• Appoggiatura - This word is pronounced something like "uh-poggy-uh-tur-ah" (from an Italian word meaning "to lean on"). It describes a Note that is played on Beat and is Counted as part of the Note that it is attached to. It looks something like this: The Appoggiatura really stands out, pushing or "leaning into" the attached Note.
• Acciaccatura (also called a "Crushed Note") - This word is pronounced something like "acky-acka-tur-ah" (from an Italian word meaning "to crush"). It is played right before the Beat and is Counted separately from the Note that it is attached to. It looks the same as an Appoggiatura, but with a slash through it, something like this: These Notes are usually very short in duration, "crushed" or squeezed to fit.
[Crushed Notes are really common in Blues. They are sometimes used to simulate "Blue Notes", or Notes that are slightly off Pitch. The so-called "Blue's Scales" have Notes that are only a Half-Step away from each other. This makes it easy to slide up or down between those two Notes to quickly do an Acciaccatura!]
Ornaments are multiple Notes that are used for reasons similar to Grace Notes. Here are a few different kinds:
This is usually written as a small "tr" (short for "trill") above or below the Note that it applies to. It may or may not have a little horizontal wave next to it like this: . A Trill tells us to quickly oscillate between the given Note and the next highest Note within the Scale for the duration of the Note that is marked. If a Trill has an Accidental above it, apply that Accidental to the upper Note.
This is usually written as a stack of lines that look like dashes, like this: . It may or may not have the abbreviation "trem." nearby. It functions pretty much like a Trill, but the Interval between the two Notes is larger.
This is usually written as the abbreviation "gliss." next to a diagonal line that looks like a long Trill connecting together two Notes. It tells us to quickly move from one Note to the other while gliding through every Note in-between.
There are two Mordents and they function in opposite ways. An "Upper Mordent" is written above or below a Note with a little horizontal wave that looks like a Trill, but is shorter, like this: . It tells us to quickly play that Note, the next highest Note within the Scale, and then go back down to the original Note, all within the duration of the marked Note. A "Lower Mordent" looks like an Upper Mordent, but with a vertical slash through it, like this: . It works just like an Upper Mordent, except that the second Note goes down instead of up.
Like the Mordents, there are two Turns and they function in opposite ways. A regular "Turn" is written with a backwards S-shape lying on its side, like this: . It tells us to rapidly play the next highest Note within the Scale, go back down to the given Note, then go down further to the next lowest Note within the Scale, and then go back up to the given Note. An "Inverted Turn" looks like a Turn with a vertical slash through it, like this: . It does something similar. It tells us to rapidly play the next lowest Note within the Scale, go back up to the given Note, then go up further to the next highest Note within the Scale, and then go back down to the given Note.
In general, there are a lot of different kinds of Ornaments. These are just a few of the more common ones.
All of this might seem complicated. Don't worry! This isn't super important to know. Embellishments are like a little bit of gourmet seasoning sprinkled on top of a dish. Sometimes you might want to add them for a little extra "something", but it can still be quite delicious without them.
Thank you for reading!