Classical Jazz '05

Listen to Music


A melody (from Greek - melōidía, "singing, chanting"), also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. It also is an exponential succession of musical tones perceived as two entities. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tone color. It may be considered the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody.
Melodies often consist of one or more musical phrases or motifs, and are usually repeated throughout a song or piece in various forms. Melodies may also be described by their melodic motion or the pitches or the intervals between pitches (predominantly conjunct or disjunct or with further restrictions), pitch range, tension and release, continuity and coherence, cadence, and shape.



In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches (tones, notes), or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic line, or the "horizontal" aspect. Counterpoint, which refers to the interweaving of melodic lines, and polyphony, which refers to the relationship of separate independent voices, are thus sometimes distinguished from harmony.
In popular and jazz harmony, chords are named by their root plus various terms and characters indicating their qualities. In many types of music, notably baroque, romantic, modern and jazz, chords are often augmented with "tensions". A tension is an additional chord member that creates a relatively dissonant interval in relation to the bass. Typically, in the classical Common practice period a dissonant chord (chord with tension) "resolves" to a consonant chord. Harmonization usually sounds pleasant to the ear when there is a balance between the consonant and dissonant sounds. In simple words, that occurs when there is a balance between "tense" and "relaxed" moments.



In music theory, an interval is the difference between two pitches. An interval may be described as horizontal, linear, or melodic if it refers to successively sounding tones, such as two adjacent pitches in a melody, and vertical or harmonic if it pertains to simultaneously sounding tones, such as in a chord. In Western music, the most commonly used intervals are those formed by pairs of notes of a diatonic scale. The smallest of these intervals is a semitone. Intervals smaller than a semitone are called microtones. They can be formed using the notes of various kinds of non-diatonic scales. Some of the very smallest ones are called commas, as they describe small discrepancies, observed in some tuning systems, between enharmonically equivalent notes such as C♯ and D♭. Intervals can be arbitrarily small, and even imperceptible to the human ear.
In scientific terms, an interval is the ratio between two sonic frequencies. For example, any two notes an octave apart have a frequency ratio of 2. This means that successive increments of pitch by the same interval result in an exponential increase of frequency, even though the human ear perceives this as a linear increase in pitch. For this reason, intervals are often measured in cents, a unit derived from the logarithm of the frequency ratio.
In Western music theory, the most common naming scheme for intervals describes two properties of the interval: the quality (perfect, major, minor, augmented, diminished) and number (unison, second, third, etc.). For instance, minor third or perfect fifth. These names describe not only the difference in semitones between the upper and lower notes, but also how the interval is spelled. The importance of spelling stems from the historical practice of differentiating the frequency ratios of enharmonic intervals such as G-G♯ and G-A♭.



A round is a musical composition in which two or more voices sing exactly the same melody (and may continue repeating it indefinitely), but with each voice beginning at different times so that different parts of the melody coincide in the different voices, but nevertheless fit harmoniously together. It is one of the easiest forms of part singing, as only one line of melody need be learned by all parts, and is part of a popular musical tradition. They were particularly favoured in glee clubs, which combined amateur singing with regular drinking (The Aldrich Book of Catches (1989) introductory essay, pp 8–22, especially at p 21: "Catch-singing is unthinkable without a supply of liquor to hand...").
"Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is a well known children's round for 4 voices. Other examples are "London's Burning" and "Three Blind Mice". However, not all rounds are nursery rhymes. Serious composers who turned their hand to the round format include Thomas Arne, John Blow, William Byrd, Henry Purcell, and Louis Hardin.
A round is a simple type of canon. A catch is a round in which a phrase that is not apparent in a single line of lyrics emerges when the lyrics are split between the different voices.



In music, the range of a musical instrument is the distance from the lowest to the highest, pitch it can play. For a singing voice, the equivalent is vocal range. The range of a musical part is the distance between its lowest and highest note.
The terms sounding range, written range, designated range, duration range and dynamic range have specific meanings.
The sounding range refers to the pitches produced by an instrument, while the written range refers to the compass (span) of notes written in the sheet music, where the part is sometimes transposed for convenience. A piccolo typically has a sounding range one octave higher than its written range.[1] The designated range is the set of notes the player should or can achieve while playing. All instruments have a designated range, and all pitched instruments have a playing range. Timbre, dynamics, and duration ranges are interrelated and one may achieve registral range at the expense of timbre. The designated range is thus the range in which a player is expected to have comfortable control of all aspects.
The duration range is the difference between the shortest and longest rhythm used. Dynamic range is the difference between the quietest and loudest volume of an instrument, part or piece of music.
Although woodwind instruments and string instruments have no theoretical upper limit to their range (subject to practical limits), they generally cannot go below their designated range. Brass instruments, on the other hand, can play beyond their designated ranges. Notes lower than the brass instrument's designated range are called pedal tones. The playing range of a brass instrument depends on both the technical limitations of the instrument and the skill of the player.
Classical arrangements seldom make woodwind or brass instruments play beyond their designed range. String musicians play the bottom of their ranges very frequently, but the top of a string instrument's range is rather fuzzy, and it is unusual for a string player to exceed the designated range. It is quite rare for wind musicians to play the extremes of their instruments. The most common exception is that in many 20th century works, pedal tones are called for in bass trombones.
This chart uses standard numberings for octaves where middle C corresponds to C4. In the MIDI language middle C is simply referred to as 'Middle C', which is MIDI note number 60.
The lowest note that a pipe organ can sound (with a true pipe) is C-1 (or CCCCC), which is 8 Hz, not visible on this chart. However, if acoustic combination (a note and its fifth) counts, the lowest note is C-2 (CCCCCC), which is 4 Hz.

Typical ranges


Sound Waves

Sound is a series of longitudinal or compression waves that move through air or other materials. Sound does not travel in a vacuum.

Like any waveform, sound has the characteristics of wavelength, frequency, amplitude and speed or velocity. Sound waves are created by the vibration of some object, like the cone in a radio loudspeaker. The waves are detected when they cause a detector to vibrate.

Questions you may have include:

What is a description of sound?
What are the characteristics of sound waves?
How is sound created and detected?
This lesson will answer those questions.

Three characteristics are used to describe a sound wave. These are wavelength, frequency, and amplitude.


  • Wavelength; this is the distance from the crest of one wave to the crest of the next.
  • Frequency; this is the number of waves that pass a point in each second.
  • Amplitude; this is the measure of the amount of energy in a sound wave.




Pitch is a perceptual property that allows the ordering of sounds on a frequency-related scale. Pitches are compared as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies, which require sound whose frequency is clear and stable enough to distinguish from noise. Pitch is a major auditory attribute of musical tones, along with duration, loudness, and timbre.
Pitch may be quantified as a frequency, but pitch is not a purely objective physical property; it is a subjective psychoacoustical attribute of sound. Historically, the study of pitch and pitch perception has been a central problem in psychoacoustics, and has been instrumental in forming and testing theories of sound representation, processing, and perception in the auditory system.



Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency. The period is the duration of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency. For example, if a newborn baby's heart beats at a frequency of 120 times a minute, its period (the interval between beats) is half a second.



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