Every Melody You Know Comes From Just 24 Melodic Figures

melody is made from patterns

Melody relies on patterns. Every string of notes that listeners accept as a melody is full of them! These musical patterns – a.k.a. “melodic figures” – are present in countless other melodies. For over 30 years, I’ve cataloged melodic figures by shape, type, and behavior. Expect to see a “Field Guide to Melodic Figures” for composers soon. Think of this list of the 24 melodic figures as a preview to that book. 
 
I’ve already written and spoken about the 24 figures in blog posts, videos, and my eBook Figuring Out Melody. I welcome questions, concerns, and most of all, notes of encouragement.

 

the 24 melodic figures

written to project C major harmony
 

 
Here’s what I mean by “inflexible” shapes. 12 figures have an arpeggio (broken chord) for a frame. Start an arpeggio on a different chord tone, and the size of the intervals between its notes changes. Not so with the other 12 figures, which rely on a less flexible framework.
 

To see a few of these figures in action, start here:

 

 
 

the 24 melodic figures

all figures are written to project C major harmony
 

the 24 melodic figures

 

Here’s what I mean by “inflexible” shapes. 12 figures use an arpeggio (broken chord) for a frame. Start an arpeggio on a different chord tone, and the size of the intervals between its notes changes. Not so with the other 12 figures, which rely on a less flexible framework.
 

To see a few of these figures in action, start with these examples:

 

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David Fuentes
David Fuentes

A composer, author, clinician, and professor for over 30 years, Dr. Fuentes has a reputation as someone who finds new ways to approach persistent challenges. Come back often to see which aspects of melody he's been mulling over most recently! Be sure to leave a comment or question. For more about David, visit df@davidfuentesmusic.com

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Want more? 

Check out Figuring Out Melody, a 300+ page eBook. It’s full of examples to draw insights and inspiration from. And it gives step-by-step instructions that will help you use everything you learn in your own music. 

©2020 David Fuentes. No portion of this material may be used without permission from the author.

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