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Music Research: Elements of Music

8 elements of music

Elements of Music

DURATION is all about time (long/short). It can refer to:

  • The length of individual notes or even whole songs
  • Beat and pulse
  • Rhythmic patterns:
    • Notes, rests, duplets, triplets,
    • Time signatures like 3/4, 4/4, 6/8 etc
  • Syncopation, polyrhythms
  • Tempo
  • Rhythmic features that belong with particular genres and styles

DYNAMICS is all about volume (loud/soft). It can refer to:

  • The volume of individual notes or even whole songs
  • Changes in volume; sudden (block dynamics) and gradual (crescendo, decrescendo)
  • Accented notes
  • Use of technology to control dynamics (compression, automation)
  • Articulation
  • Dynamic features that belong with particular genres and styles

MELODY is all about the horizontal arrangement of sound. I can refer to:

  • A sequence of single notes (sung or played)
  • The contour of the melody
  • Patterns such as phrases, riffs, sequences, motifs
  • Ornamentation or Embellishment
  • Modulation
  • Pitch bends, slides or electronic pitch adjustment
  • Range and register
  • Intonation
  • Melodic features that belong with particular genres and styles

HARMONY is all about the vertical arrangement of sound. It can refer to:

  • Chords such as triads, 7ths, 9ths, 11ths or 13ths
  • Diatonic tonality such as major, minor and dominant
  • Tension and resolution, consonance and dissonance
  • Atonality
  • Countermelodies
  • Modal harmony
  • Accompaniment styles
  • Modulation
  • Intonation
  • Harmonic features that belong to particular genres and styles

STRUCTURE is all about sections of the music. It could refer to:

  • Intro, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Middle eight, Collision, Instrumental solo, Ad lib, AABA form, Theme and Variation, Compound AABA form (A1, A2, B1, A3 etc..)
  • Repetition, variety, contrast, development or unification
  • Treatment of material such as samples and sequencing
  • Well known forms such as 12 bar blues, verse and chorus, through composed, theme and variation
  • The design of particular musical works such as rock opera or musicals
  • Structural features that belong to particular genres and styles

TEXTURE is all about density. It may refer to:

  • The number of instruments or tracks
  • The way a recording has been mixed using effects such as reverb and delay
  • Musical voicings
  • The way an instrument’s tone affects it’s timbre (distorted vs clean guitar)
  • Musical textures such as monophonic, homophonic, polyphonic,
  • Textural features that belong to a particular genre and style

TIMBRE is all about tone. It may refer to:

  • The way particular instruments or voices sound
  • Different tonal techniques used on an instrument (muting, fingertips, picks, bowing, scratching, tapping)
  • Electronic altering of tone using EQ, effects, pedals etc.
  • Tonal features that belong to particular genres and styles

[source: Music Industry College's Musical Analysis Writing Guide]

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