The Definition and Concepts of Melody

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Melody is the main tune of a song; the outcome of a series of notes. Melody is regarded as “horizontal” because its notes are read from left-to-right, while harmony is “vertical” because the notes are played simultaneously (and therefore must be written vertically in notation).

The complexity of a song is observed in its texture. Musical texture can be simple or elaborate - and everything in between - and melody fits into this concept in the following ways:

  • Monophonic:  A single line of melody with no harmony.
  • Biphonic:  Two different, simultaneous melodies (though some overlap of notes may create harmonies).
  • Heterophonic:  A slightly elaborated melody with one or two voices and some intervals. Harmony is sprinkled throughout.
  • Homophonic:  A single line of melody with harmony in the form of chords.
  • Polyphonic:  A composition with many voices and harmonies. Many melodies may appear throughout the composition.

Also Known As:

  • melodia (It)
  • mélodie (Fr)
  • Melodie (Ger)


mell'-oh-dee; mell'-ə-dee

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Your Citation
Kraemer, Brandy. "The Definition and Concepts of Melody." ThoughtCo, Jun. 2, 2017, Kraemer, Brandy. (2017, June 2). The Definition and Concepts of Melody. Retrieved from Kraemer, Brandy. "The Definition and Concepts of Melody." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 21, 2017).