about figuring out melody

The central task of the Figuring Out Melody project is to explore all the ways that small bits of melody combine to make larger bits of melody, and to do so in ways that ignite the composer’s imagination while adding nimbleness, precision, and expression to their musical toolbox.

The Backstory

Back in the ’80s when hair was big and ideas were bigger, David Fuentes was writing a paper in graduate school that made him suspect that melody isn’t a series of individual notes. Instead, he started to see that it’s built from a handful of common "melodic building blocks" (3- to 4-note patterns) found in every piece of tonal music. A radical idea? Perhaps. Yet, one that offers a profound understanding of melody’s true nature.

His first teaching gig at Berklee College of Music gave him a perfect chance to introduce these "melodic figures" and see what happens. His students? Hooked from the word go. And their projects “ROCKED” (even when they wrote jazz and classical music). The registrar told him that his classes were always the first to fill up during the 10 years he was there.

Since then, he’s refined his initial ideas and developed an original, comprehensive theory of melody called "Melodic Figuration," which he continues to develop.

Through written materials, public lectures, private lessons, workshops, videos, seminars, and applications for AI, Fuentes continues to show composers how to use melodic figures to create melodies that are more imaginative, personal, technically solid, and emotionally expressive.