01/17/14 Building Blocks of Music: Melody & Rhythm

Assignment due via email before the beginning of class on Wednesday, January 22:

Choose a melody you know well: it could be a folk song learned in school, a hymn from church, a lullaby sung to you as a child, or a favorite pop song.

Provide the lyrics of the song and an online video link, if available.

Answer the following questions about your chosen song. You only need to include one verse and one chorus.

1. Is the melody’s range narrow, medium or wide?

2. Draw a line representing the contour of the melody as you listen to it. How is it shaped?

3. Is the motion mostly conjunct or disjunct? Are there any repeated notes?

4. How many phrases does the song contain, and where does each one start?

5. Where is the climax of the melody?

Melody, continued

On Monday, we looked at these characteristics of melody: range, contour, and motion.


Narrow Range: “America”
Medium Range: “Greensleeves”
Wide Range: Strauss: Don Juan

Melodies can be divided into phrases, similar to lines of poetry
End of text line often coincides with end musical phrase
Cadence: a pause or resting place at end of a phrase

Amazing Grace Diagram

Countermelody example:
Melody at 1:11, piccolo countermelody at 2:06

Basket Case lyrics


– Propels music forward in time
– Beat: basic unit of rhythm
– Meter: organizes beats into groups, often of 2, 3, or 4
Some beats are accented: we call them “strong beats”
Measures or bars: meters marked off in notation
Measure lines or bar lines: vertical lines that mark off measures

In some music, the beat and meter are very easy to hear:

In other music, it is more subtle:
Gregorian Chant from Medieval Era:

Examples of Meters

– Syncopation: when accents fall on offbeats (also called “weak beats”) instead of
strong beats

“Dance of the Youths” from The Rite of Spring, by Igor Stravinsky, 1913


Basket Case


– Polyrhythm: simultaneous use of different rhythmic patterns