More thoughts on Vertical Melodic Analysis

After last weeks post on Horizontal melodic analysis – here are a few thoughts I am discussing with students regarding the vertical dimension. Although there any many ways I have considered this through the years – I have condensed it down to the following

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 – although what ‘long’ means depends on the tempo of the music we are listening to. For example a quarter note could be considered ‘long’ if the tempo is slow enough.

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

Like last week’s horizontal techniques – all of this provides tension and release. It is not suggested that any songwriter composes their music from ‘rules’ – but that techniques such as these are a useful starting point for understanding what established songwriters do – in addition to fine tuning music we have written which may not sound very ‘balanced’. Regarding these vertical techniques – it is apparent that Colour tones and to a lesser extent accented/unaccented passing notes provide Tension, Chord tones provide the Release. If a song has too much release it has the potential to sound boring –  and if it has too much tension it has the capacity to sound ‘uncommercial’ (notice I use the word potential).

Phillip Tagg recently hosted a conference that calls for more ‘music’ to be placed popular music studies – so the question I am asking – in what ways can we use relatively formulistic ideas such as these – to cross over to the ways in which music links to culture and society?? I am interested in any ideas.

About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
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