about the project

At first glance, Figuring Out Melody might look like it belongs in the “For Dummies” series. After all, two very basic instructions (found at the beginning of Chapter One) form the basis for everything that follows. And they are practically easy enough for a chimpanzee.

(1) Put a chord tone on each beat.
(2) Connect the dots.

But when we stop to think about all that’s going on behind the scenes, we quickly recognize that the underlying theory is hardly simplistic. To show you what I mean, let’s look more closely at each of the two instructions above.

(1) Put a chord tone on each beat.

  • Why a chord tone?
  • What happens when I put a nonchord tone on a beat?
  • When is a nonchord tone effective?
  • When is it “bad?”
  • What makes the effective nonchord tone effective, and the bad nonchord tone bad?
  • Are all chord tones equal, or are some “better” than others?
  • Why on each beat? Are beats different than “non-beats?” How?
  • Are there other places within musical meter that also require special treatment?

(2) Connect the dots.

  • What does it mean to “connect” to a chord tone on a beat? Does it mean to make it sound “smooth?”
  • How do I accomplish smoothness?
  • Are there common melodic patterns that accomplish smooth connections?
  • What does an unconnected chord tone sound like?
  • In which situations is it appropriate to not connect to a chord tone?

Implicit in these “simple” instructions are some deeply-seated principles that demonstrate just how thoroughly melody, harmony, and rhythm are intertwined. Melody is made mostly of chord tones, which behave differently when they land on a beat than just before or just after a beat. This “one-in-all” phenomena rarely gets mentioned, and aside from my book, has never been explored. Indeed, several ideas that flow from this statement have never been stated anywhere before, either. I recognize that these are bold claims, but in working on this project for over 25 years, I know that they are true.

Early on in my research, I shied away from writing a theoretical treatise about what I discovered, and instead focused on practical applications for students of all ages. There is still plenty of work for theorists here, and I hope that someday, someone will take up that challenge. In the meantime, I hope you are thoroughly intrigued, challenged, empowered by what you find in Figuring Out Melody!

I welcome any and all questions about this project. Just use the form below to contact me.

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