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<
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.