The Musical Definition of Melody

Piano Sheet Music


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Melody is the main tune of a song; the outcome of a series of notes. Melody is regarded as “horizontal” because its notes are read from left-to-right, while harmony is “vertical” because the notes are played simultaneously (and therefore must be written vertically in notation).

The complexity of a song is observed in its texture. Musical texture can be simple or elaborate - and everything in between - and melody fits into this concept in the following ways:

  • Monophonic:  A single line of melody with no harmony.
  • Biphonic:  Two different, simultaneous melodies (though some overlap of notes may create harmonies).
  • Heterophonic:  A slightly elaborated melody with one or two voices and some intervals. Harmony is sprinkled throughout.
  • Homophonic:  A single line of melody with harmony in the form of chords.
  • Polyphonic:  A composition with many voices and harmonies. Many melodies may appear throughout the composition.

Also Known As:

  • melodia (It)
  • mélodie (Fr)
  • Melodie (Ger)


mell'-oh-dee; mell'-ə-dee