What is a melody? You know many melodies. "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" is a melody. "Yankee Doodle" is another melody. I'm sure that you can think of many more melodies. These melodies are made up of many sounds or pitches that make up a musical line that you can sing or play.
A MELODY is a musical line made up of skips, steps, and repeated notes. A skip is a movement from one note to another note not right next to it. A step is a movement from one note to a note next to it. A repeated note is the same note played more than one time.
hear the William Tell Overture, click here.
The William Tell Overture has four main melodies. Below are the melodies written on staves and pictures of the sound or pitch movement of each melody. Each melody has two pictures. The first picture which is red represents the first part of the melody. The second picture is blue and represents the last part of the melody. If the picture has a straight line, it means that there is a repeated note(s). When there is a diagonal line, it represents a skip from one note to another. A step means that the melody moves from one note to another note that is right next to it. In music, this is called a step. Each melody has an explanation after it. The new concepts or words that you should remember are written in purple.
This melody is in the key of E Major. The way you figure this out is by looking at the key signature. This comes before the time signature. The key signature has four sharps: F sharp, C sharp, G sharp, and D sharp. If there are four sharps in the key signature, the music is in the key of E major.
This melody is made up of notes that are played staccato. Staccato means to play the notes short and detached rather than connected and smooth. Think of jumping from one floor tile to another in the gym. There is a short space or time when your feet are in the air and not on the ground. When your shoe lands on the tile, it makes a sound. This melody is like jumping. There is a space between each note and each note is short. The melody jumps from one note to the next. This melody sounds like a galloping horse and is well-known because of that.
Melodies can be broken down into phrases. This melody has two phrases. A phrase is a section of a musical line or MELODY that is comparable to a sentence (complete thought). The first phrase is called the antecedent phrase. The second phrase is called the consequent phrase because it finishes or answers the antecedent phrase. Think about "Yankee Doodle". The first part of Yankee Doodle: "Yankee Doodle" went to town, riding on a pony, sounds unfinished. This is the antecedent phrase. It states a complete thought but needs something to finish it. "Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni" completes the first phrase. This is the consequent phrase. Go back up to the red and blue pictures of the melody. The red picture is the antecedent phrase. The blue picture is the consequent phrase.
This melody follows melody #1 but has a different tonality. Listen to the recording again, pick out this melody, and focus on how the tonality or key is different.
Click here to hear the William Tell Overture.
Look at the key signature of this melody. It is the same as melody #1. It still has four sharps. However, this melody sounds different and definitely sounds darker than the first melody which was happy sounding. This melody is in the relative minor key which is the key of c# minor. Relative minor means that it has the same key signature as a major key but the tonality or "mood" is different. Minor is not a happy sound. Notice that this melody also has two phrases: an antecedent phrase and a consequent phrase.
This melody only has four notes. It functions as a transition. A transition is a change - in this musical excerpt, a change from melody #2 back to melody #1. This transition is made up of two phrases that are alike. They are called parallel phrases because they are the same. Compare the two pictures of the melody.
This melody is in E major again and has a very triumphant sound. Notice that it has a descending stepwise motion at the end of each phrase. This melody also has an antecedent and a consequent phrase. The only difference between these phrases is the last measure. The consequent phrase ends with a cadence or a conclusion. An example of a cadence would be the "Amen" at the end of a hymn. It is made up of two chords that end a song.
This excerpt from the whole overture represents the approach of the Swiss army (melodies #1 and #2). The Swiss people throw off the burden of their oppressors, regain the freedom of their fatherland, and celebrate their triumph (melody #4). Listen to the overture again and imagine the colorful Swiss army triumphantly riding their horses back home over the Alps.
The William Tell Overture was also used on the "Lone Ranger" TV show. Here is a picture of the Lone Ranger.
Click here to hear the William Tell Overture.
You should now be able to define the following terms. If you cannot do this, please review the information on this web page before continuing.