Rhythm Melody Harmony And Intervals

178. The four elements commonly attributed to music (in the order of

their development) are: Rhythm, Melody, Harmony, and Timbre (or


179. Rhythm is the regular recurrence of accent. In music it is more

specifically the regular recurrence of groups of accented and

non-accented beats (or pulses)--according to some specified

measure-system. Since rhythm implies continuity, there must usually be<
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at least two such measure groups in order to make musical rhythm

possible. (See p. 44, Sec. 97.)

180. A melody is a succession of single tones of various pitches so

arranged that the effect of the whole will be unified, coherent, and

pleasing to the ear.

The soprano part of hymn-tunes and other simple harmonized

compositions is often referred to as the melody.

181. Harmony is the science of chord construction and combination.

The term harmony refers to tones sounding simultaneously,

i.e., to chords, as differentiated from tones sounding

consecutively, as in melody. The word harmony may therefore

be applied to any group of tones of different pitches sounded

as a chord, although specifically we usually refer to a

succession of such chords when we speak of harmony. It is

possible to use the same combination of tones in either melody

or harmony; in fact these two elements as applied to modern

music have developed together and the style of present-day

melody is directly based upon the development that has

recently taken place in harmonic construction.

Harmony (as contrasted with counterpoint) first began to

be an important factor in music about 1600 A.D., i.e., at

the time when opera and oratorio came into existence, when

form was established, and when our modern major and minor

scales were adopted. Before this practically all music was

composed on a contrapuntal basis.

182. Timbre is that peculiar quality of sound which enables one to

distinguish a tone produced by one instrument (or voice) from a tone

produced by an equal number of vibrations on another instrument.

The word timbre is synonymous with the terms quality of

tone, and tone quality (Ger.--Klang-farbe), the excuse for

using it being that it expresses adequately in one word an

idea that in our language takes at least two: this excuse

would disappear (and incidentally a much-mispronounced word

would be eliminated) if the single word quality were to be

adopted as the equivalent of timbre. Thus, e.g., the

soprano voice singing c' has a quality different from the

contralto voice singing the same tone.

(The remainder of this chapter and all of Chapter XVIII deal

with terms commonly encountered in the study of harmony.

Courses in this subject usually begin with a study of scales,

but since this subject has already been somewhat extensively

treated, this chapter will omit it, and will begin with the

next topic in harmony study, viz.--the interval.)

183. An interval is the relation of two tones with regard to pitch. If

the two tones are sounded simultaneously the result is an harmonic

interval, but if sounded consecutively the result is a melodic

interval. Fig. 62 represents the pitches f' and a' as a harmonic

interval, while Fig. 63 represents the same pitches arranged as a

melodic interval.

184. In classifying intervals two facts should be constantly kept in


(1) The number name of the interval (third, fifth, sixth,

etc.), is derived from the order of letters as found in the

diatonic scale. Thus the interval C--E is a third because E

is the third tone from C (counting C as one) in the diatonic

scale. C--G is a fifth because G is the fifth tone above C

in the diatonic scale.

It should be noted however that the same number-names apply

even though one or both letters of the interval are qualified

by sharps, flats, etc. Thus e.g., C--G[sharp] is still a

fifth, as are also C[sharp]--G[flat] and C[flat]--G[sharp].

(2) In determining the specific name of any interval

(perfect fifth, major third, etc.), the half-step and

whole-step (often referred to respectively as minor second,

and major second) are used as units of measurement.

The half-step is usually defined as the smallest usable

interval between two tones. Thus, C--C[sharp] is a

half-step, as are also B--C, F--G[flat], etc.

A whole-step consists of two half-steps. C--D is a

whole-step, as are also B[flat]--C, E--F[sharp],

F[sharp]--G[sharp], G[flat]--A[flat], etc.

The expressions half-step and whole-step are much to be

preferred to half-tone and whole-tone, as being more clear

and definite. Thus e.g., the sentence The two tones are a

half-step apart is much better than The two tones are a

half-tone apart.

185. A prime is the relation between two tones whose pitches are

properly represented by the same degree of the staff.

A perfect prime is one whose tones have the same pitch.

Middle C sounded by piano and violin at the same time would

offer an example.

An augmented prime is one whose second tone is one half-step

higher than the first. Ex. C--C[sharp].

186. A second is the relation between two tones whose pitches are

properly represented by adjacent degrees of the staff. (The first line

and first space are adjacent degrees, as are also the third line and

fourth space.)

A minor second is one comprising one half-step. Ex. B--C.

A major second is one comprising two half-steps. Ex.


An augmented second is one comprising three half-steps. Ex.


187. A third is an interval comprising two seconds.

A diminished third has two minor seconds (i.e., two

half-steps). C--E[double-flat].

A minor third has one minor and one major second (i.e.,

three half-steps). C--E[flat].

A major third has two major seconds (i.e., four

half-steps). C--E.

188. A fourth is an interval comprising three seconds.

A diminished fourth has two minor and one major second.


A perfect fourth has one minor and two major seconds. C--F.

An augmented fourth (tritone) has three major seconds.


189. A fifth is an interval comprising four seconds.

A diminished fifth has two minor and two major seconds.


A perfect fifth has one minor and three major seconds. C--G.

An augmented fifth has four major seconds. C--G[sharp].

190. A sixth is an interval comprising five seconds.

A minor sixth has two minor and three major seconds.


A major sixth has one minor and four major seconds. C--A.

An augmented sixth has five major seconds. C--A[sharp].

191. A seventh is an interval comprising six seconds.

A diminished seventh has three minor and three major

seconds. C--B[double-flat].

A minor seventh has two minor and four major seconds.


A major seventh has one minor and five major seconds. C--B.

192. An octave is an interval comprising seven seconds.

A diminished octave has three minor and four major seconds.


A perfect octave has two minor and five major seconds. C--C.

An augmented octave has one minor and six major seconds.


193. A ninth is usually treated as a second, a tenth as a third,

etc. The interval of two octaves is often referred to as a fifteenth.

194. If the major diatonic scale be written and the interval between

each tone and the key-tone noted, it will be observed that the intervals

are all either major or perfect. See Fig. 64.

In this connection also it will be noted that the interval next smaller

than major is always minor, while that next smaller than perfect

or minor is always diminished: but that the interval next larger

than both major and perfect is augmented.

195. An interval is said to be inverted when the tone originally the

upper becomes the lower. Thus C--E, a major third, inverted becomes

E--C, a minor sixth.