Elements of Music. How can we tell music from other sounds?

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1 Elements of Music How can we tell music from other sounds? Sound begins with the vibration of an object. The vibrations are transmitted to our ears by a medium usually air. As a result of the vibrations, our eardrums start vibrating too and signals are sent to our brain. Sounds may be pleasant or unpleasant. Music is part of the world of sound it is an art based on the organization of sounds through time. The five main properties of musical sounds pitch, dynamics, tone colour, texture and duration - help us distinguish music from other sounds. Pitch is the relative highness or lowness of a sound. The pitch of a sound is determined by the frequency of its vibrations. The faster the vibrations the higher the pitch; the slower the vibrations the lower the pitch. Dynamics are the degrees of loudness or softness in music. A gradual increase in loudness is called a crescendo and often creates excitement in the listener particularly if the pitch rises too. Diminuendo is the gradual decrease in loudness and often is used to convey a sense of calm. Composers have traditionally used Italian words, and their abbreviations, to indicate dynamics. The sound of a trumpet differs from that of a flute even when each of them is playing the same melody at the same dynamic level. This quality of sound, particular to an instrument, is called tone colour or timbre. Composers use tone colours to create variety and contrast. The same melody played by the violins and then repeated on the oboe creates an interesting contrast in the music. Composers often create a melody with a particular instrument tone colour in mind. The weaving of different timbres is called texture. Is the clarinet playing alone? How does the composer weave the theme the violins are playing with woodwinds? Does the theme move around the orchestra from one section to another? Duration is the length of time a musical sound lasts. The six basic elements of music are: rhythm, melody/harmony, expression, form, timbre and texture. Written music contains these elements. Rhythm, melody/harmony, and form are clearly written in the musical score. However, conductors and musicians must often study the music carefully to understand what expression the composer wanted, especially if it is not indicated in the score. Composers consider timbre and texture when they orchestrate their work. What instruments will play the melody? What instruments will play the harmony? What effects does the composer want?

2 RHYTHM Rhythm and Beat rhythm does the talking and the beat does the walking. Beat is the steady pulse in music. Rhythm is the patterns of long and short sounds and silences in music. Rhythm is indicated through the notation of the music. The different notes have different time values. Music is divided into measures (or bars) by lines called bar lines. At the beginning of the piece and sometimes throughout the work, a time signature indicates how many beats in each measure following and what note gets one beat. The top number of the time signature is the number of beats in each measure and the bottom number is the note that gets one beat. A 4/4 time signature means there are 4 beats in a bar and a quarter note gets one beat. Different notes and rests (silences) have different values. Each note and rest has a specific duration. Different combinations of note values create different rhythms. The composer writes the music in notation to indicate what rhythms he wants. Who plays the beat in the orchestra? Does it move around in different families? In a rock band we know that the drums and the rhythm guitar keep the pulse moving. In an orchestra, the percussion section might be doing most of it, but other families contribute too!

3 MELODY/HARMONY Melody is the horizontal element in music and harmony is the vertical arrangement of pitches. The two work together either in a pleasing manner to the ear or to create tension. We usually remember the melody best when we hear a piece of music. Melody is a series of single tones, which add up to a recognizable whole. A melody begins, moves, and ends. It has direction shape and continuity. The up and down movement of the pitches conveys tension and release, expectation and arrival. Harmony is a combination of two or more tones sounded simultaneously. A tone combination that is stable or restful is called a consonance. One that is unstable or tense is called a dissonance. Melody is a sequence of pitches (notes) that are organized in a rhythm. Pitch is the highness or lowness of a tone. Harmony is a combination of two or more tones sounded simultaneously to produce a new sound called chords. Harmony is also the pattern or progression of chords within a musical composition. Melody is often the role of the first violin section and the woodwinds like flute, clarinet and oboe while the other instruments play harmony. Other instruments also make take a turn at the melody while the violins play harmony. Listen to what section is playing the melody. Is it bouncing around the orchestra? FORM Melody is the essence of music. ~ Mozart Form is the shape of the music. The form of the piece helps us to understand where the music is going and predict what might come next. Symphonies, sonatas, and operas are all examples of form. Sonata form consists of an exposition (i.e. presentation of the theme), development (i.e. the theme is developed, elaborated and contrasted), and recapitulation (i.e. return or resolution of the theme). Form is the arrangement of repetition or contrast in music. Common forms: Round Row Row Row Your Boat Canon Pachelbel s Canon in D major

4 ABA Twinkle Twinkle Little Star AB chorus and verse Jingle Bells Finding forms in music is like finding patterns in Math. They can be simple or complex. EXPRESSION In music when we manipulate the dynamics (louds and softs), the tempo (speed), and the articulation (shorts and longs), we are using expression. Expression invites us to experience the emotions the composer wanted us to feel, or what the conductor and musicians have interpreted from their study of the music. Expression adds fire to the notes. Expression is the nuance required to transform a composition into an artistic performance or presentation. Two other elements that composers consider when writing music are timbre and texture. Arrangers and composers like Maurice Ravel studied each instrument of the orchestra carefully noting its colour and timbre in order to determine how he could use it in his work and what effects he could produce. TIMBRE Timbre is the quality of tone an instrument makes. How does a cymbal differ from a violin? Different timbres create different feelings, impressions and images. The composer of programme music is a master of choosing timbres to tell his story. TEXTURE Texture is the weaving of different timbres to create the fabric of the piece. Is the clarinet playing alone? How does the composer weave the theme the violins are playing with woodwinds? Does the theme move around the orchestra from one section to another? You could use the following activity as an evaluation tool for the Elements of Music.

5 Elements of Music Name: Use the words in the box below to complete the sentences. dynamics melody articulation form timbre beat harmony rhythm tempo texture 1. The of a piece is a series of notes arranged in a rhythm. 2. is the pattern of long and short sounds and silences in Music. 3. When different timbres are woven together it is called. 4. When composers use short notes or smoother connected notes in their music, it is called. 5. The shape of a piece is called its. 6. When two melodies are sounding together simultaneously it is called. 7. is the steady pulse in music. 8. Beethoven used in his music when he used louds and softs to make it more expressive. 9. The of a piece is how fast or slow it is to be played. 10. is the quality of tone an instrument makes.

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