Vertical Melodic Analysis

Where as my blog last week focused on horizontal  melodic analysis – this session concerned the vertical movement of melody. More specifically, the session was related to how tension and release operates when specific note types come up against a chord. These paradigms are achieved via the following techniques.

•Chord Tones: (CT) – short or long duration,. Essentially notes in the chord
•Colour Tones: (ct) ( most common 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th, Sharp 11th) Usually long in duration
•Passing Tones : ( Not chord tones and Always Short). Consists of two types:
•Accented Passing Tones (APT) On the Beat
•Unaccented Passing Tones (UPT) Off the Beat
•Colour tones and to a lesser extent accented/unaccented passing notes provide Tension
•Chord tones provide the Release

As with horizontal analysis – it is possible to engage with these techniques either aurally or visually via notation. When using the later – an indicative example could be as follows. Note – this example also has some notes that relate to horizontal analysis.


What I have not mentioned here is how to discuss the tension and release. It could range from color coded notes – which could then be backed up with more in depth discussion.

So – as last time, I am interested in comments. This is also something that will result in a published paper at some point relatively soon.

About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
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3 Responses to Vertical Melodic Analysis

  1. JoeB says:

    Hi Paul,
    I love this taxonomy – very effective and clear. One suggestion is to revisit the use of the word ‘accented’ when describing whether something is on the beat. I think we’d agree that accents can happen on or off the beat. Although this not they way you’re using the word ‘accent’ in this context, perhaps there might be a less ambiguous term.
    The taxonomy works well for pitch in harmonic context but is less consistently applied for pitch in harmonic *and* rhythmic context. It would be great to see this taxonomy expanded so that all categorisations could be sub-categorised for rhythmic context. In the case of your example, the (ct) E natural just before beat 3 of bar 1 functions (for me) differently from the same note when it appears on the downbeat, just because it is ‘pushed’.
    In summary, this framework is really strong and would be strengthened further by amplifying the rhythmic note placement categories.


  2. Paul Carr says:

    Thanks Joe – useful comments to. You are right – I am using the words ‘accented’ and ‘un accented’ in the ‘classical’ sense – not in the way we would deal with them as ‘popular music musicians’. Will give a more suitable name some thought – any suggestions welcome. I also take your point about considering a rhythmic dimension – will think about this too. Paul.


  3. James Biss says:

    From this analysis it would appear that there are only two phrases (AP1 and QP5) that are not resolved at the end of the bar, the held colour tones create tension. The main tension is created through the increasing use of passing notes and colour tones throughout phrases such as AP3 and AP4. This may be disguised by the release of chord tones which always appear at the end of the phrase.

    In conclusion you can map out tension and release purely through this vertical analysis. Tension is hinted at through the unresolved AP1, then developed through AP3 and AP4 in the B section, this then comes to a head in the unresolved QP5 before ending with release on a chord tone (AP5). Michael resolves all bar 2 of the melodic phrases on chord tones, disguising his build of tension throughout the piece with regular release points.


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