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:


Share on facebook
Share on reddit
Share on twitter

Want to go further?

Each chapter in this 300-page eBook will help you observe what music makers do intuitively. The examples break everything down into step-by-step instructions so you can create the same effects in your own music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

David Fuentes

David Fuentes

Professor Fuentes is a composer, author, teacher, and clinician. He brings over 30 years of teaching experience from institutions that include Berklee College of Music, the University of Iowa, Brandeis University, and Calvin University.

Dr. Fuentes’ music has been performed all across the world. It includes music for the classical concert stage, theater and musical theater, television, art installations, popular music genres, and the church.

A published author, his writing on composition, vocation and the arts, and the place of music in human flourishing has been influential in the development of music curriculum in an ever-changing world.

You can find samples of his music and writing on his personal website: davidfuentesmusic.com, which also provides a longer bio.

more posts

all four books