ap music theory study guides

2.9 Melodic Features





โฑ๏ธย ย 2 min read

written by

Mickey Hansen

mickey hansen

Caroline Koffke

caroline koffke


November 2, 2020

2.9: Melodic Features

Melody is the intersection of pitch and rhythm. A melody is created when a succession of pitches are played over a certain amount of time, expressing a musical statement. Often they are derived from scales and modes, and are organized into patterns that create musical phrasing and motives.


Melodies often have certain technical features, including contour, conjunct and disjunct, register, and range.

Contour is the shape of a melody which is created through the rise and fall of notes.

Conjunct motion is the step-wise movement of pitches, meaning they have either a half or whole-step between them.

Disjunct motion is the opposite; it is when a note leaps more than a step to the next note.

Register is the relative pitch area in which a melody is played (high, medium or low).

Range is the total span of notes played from the highest to low pitch.

Melodies have motives, or small musical themes, that are often recurring and develop throughout the composition. Their development can be created by a change in pitch, rhythm, or both!


Now when we are referring to melodies that are set to words, there are two types: syllabic and melismatic. Syllabic melodies use no more than one pitch per syllable, whereas melismatic melodies may have two or pitches per syllable. Each time there are multiple pitches per syllable it is a melisma.

๐Ÿฆœ Polly wants a progress tracker: Think about the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Which part of the song is melismatic and which part is syllabic?

continue learning

Slide 1 of 14

Join Our Community

Fiveable Community students are already meeting new friends, starting study groups, and sharing tons of opportunities for other high schoolers. Soon the Fiveable Community will be on a totally new platform where you can share, save, and organize your learning links and lead study groups among other students!๐ŸŽ‰

Fiveable Logo

2550 north lake drive
suite 2
milwaukee, wi 53211

92% of Fiveable students earned a 3 or higher on their 2020 AP Exams.

*apยฎ and advanced placementยฎ are registered trademarks of the college board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

ยฉ fiveable 2020 | all rights reserved.