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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Melodic Devices

A melodic device is a way to construct melodies. There are a lot of technical words to learn. We’ll also go into more detail about antiphony (call and response).

Mind The Gap

We touched on this in a previous blog, but it bears revising.

Conjunct - A melody that moves by step with no interval greater than a major second (tone/whole step). There are no big gaps between notes making the music sound smooth.

Disjunct - A melody that jumps around with large gaps. Intervals between notes will be a major second or more.

Range - The distance from the lowest note to the highest note, often used in vocal music (but not limited to it).

Other Melodies

There are other ways a melody can be written:

Triadic Melody - Uses the notes of a triad and will be disjunct.

Scalic Melody - Uses the notes of a scale and will be conjunct.

To make things interesting most music uses more than one melodic device. Next time you listen to a piece of music, see if you can identify some of them.

Call And Response

We touched on this in the texture blog. In this section I want to go into a bit more detail.

We already know that Call And Response (Antiphony or Question & Answer) is usually done between two groups. Group one will call or ask a question, group two will respond or answer it.

Group 1 - Can you feel the spirit?

Group 2 - Oh yeah!

Group 1 - I said can you feel the spirit?

Group 2 - Oh yeah!!

Identifying call and response in a song is fairly straightforward because the words (lyrics) help you to identify the call/question and subsequent response/answer. Pop songs, blues, and religious music use a lot of call and response.

In instrumental music though it can be quite tricky to identify. Often a phrase will end in such a way that it feels (sounds) like a question needing an answer. One way of doing this is to use an imperfect cadence.

Calling (and Responding) Around The World

We’ll go into a lot more detail about world music later on in this blog series (don’t ask me when!) but for now:

Africa - A lot of African songs utilise the Call & Response device. Listen to anything by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and you’ll be able to hear the leader singing and the choir responding. Drummers in Africa do the same thing. The leader with play a call and the others will respond. This video is an excellent example of voice and drums calling and responding!

India - The instrumental music uses the call and response. Musician one will play an opening phrase (call) and musician two will respond with the same phrase or they’ll improvise. This video is a full concert with a violin and tabla, it gives an insight into how call and response can be used and varied.


A final melodic device to consider is the Arch Shape. This is when the melody finishes the same way as it started. The melody is symmetrical. ABA, ABCBA, ABCDCBA etc.

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