Melodic Figures — Points for Review

  • Melody is made of groups of notes, not individual notes.
  • I call those groups melodic figures. (Elsewhere, “figure” is a
    catch-all term.)
  • Melodic figures line up with beats.
  • Unlike motives, which have unique profiles, melodic figures are generic.
  • The fact that figures are generic is an advantage: you can use them to create anything you want.
  • Even so, figures have aspects that set them apart from other figures.
  • There are only three types of figures: scale figures, neighbor figures, and arpeggio figures.
  • We don’t compose figures, we combine “pre-existing” figures to make something new. (The same applies to words and sentences.)
  • Musicians learn figures the same way we learn language: intuitively, by ear.
  • Learning about figures is a powerful way to start thinking more intuitively about music.
  • A great way to learn about melody is to switch out one figure for another and hear the difference.
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