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Musical Elements

Julie JD
October 29, 2011

I've already talked about the anatomy of a song, different rhyming schemes and phrases. But what about the actual music part? Well I have some information about that. In this blog I will be going over the different elements of music. You have rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, volume and form. Sounds like a lot to think about when you're writing music. For every musician it comes naturally, but it's always better to understand what you're doing so that when you're stuck you know different tricks to get where you're going.

So first we have rhythm. When you say rhythm you think drummer, and you'd be correct. However, they are not the only ones who deal with rhythm. Rhythm refers to the interrelationship between music and time, there is a beginning, a duration, and an ending. Though music is referred to as an art, it's not at all like looking at a painting. With a painting you see it all in front of you. With music, you have to let it unfold as you listen to it. Keeping this in mind, rhythm helps you determine the flow of your song. Whether it is slow moving, or fast paced, a composer must determine the exact length of each note and how it relates to the other notes surrounding it.

Though you may feel the rhythm, it is the melody that you remember. With writing popular music a melody is the main theme in which your music is surrounded. It can relate to the lyrics or have a mind of it's own. In the case of your song it is the main thing that your listener can hear. It can be either move smoothly, where the the music flows in easy waves like rolling hills, or jagged, like angular mountain ranges.

So if melody if the combination of notes in succession, harmony is the combination of notes simultaneously. When you say harmony you think of singers singing together but with different notes. But harmony is not just for singers. It is important in your music too. If you have a few instruments playing their own rhythms and melodies, they need to harmonize. Make sure it's all in the same key so when they happen to play a note that falls within a triad chord, it creates a harmony.

Timbre (pronounced tam-burr) is the quality of the sound that is being produced. You notice that a piano doesn't sound like a clarinet, and a clarinet doesn't sound like a guitar. This is because every instrument has a different tone quality. Have you ever thought about how many different voices you can recognize? Though they all might be saying the same words you would recognize the voices of your parents, siblings or friends. This is timbre. How is it important to music? Well when your writing it you need to take into consideration what you're trying to portray and which instrument has the timbre to suit it. For example Elvis's “Hound Dog” would not be the same if it was played by a marching band. Though they may play the same rhythms and melodies, it wouldn't be the same.

Volume is pretty self explanatory. It's how loud or quiet you play the music. How is it useful? It's like a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae. If a phrase is meant to be powerful, play it louder, with emphasis on the notes. If it's supposed to be sad you'd be quieter. Let volume bring out certain parts of your songs, and take advantage of it.

Finally you have form. Form is much like a chorus, verse, and break. Only with the music portion you'd have you're introduction, where you bring in the main melody and the lyrical topic. Then your reoccurring theme (chorus), then perhaps a section with new words and new music. Then it goes into your break, which must sound different from the rest of the song. Giving the listener a “break” from the repeating melodies of the song. Then finally you have the ending, either it fades out or all comes together in a final harmonizing note.

- Julie JD -