Melodic Rhythm Definition (Why Is Meter Important in Music)


Lets first talk about what is a melody. A melody is a combination of short or long phrases, and those phrases have rhythms as well as melodic pitches. 

Therefore: Melodic rhythm is the rhythm we encounter in a melodic phrase. Moving on, a meter in music is the natural division of rhythms into equal-sized groups. We can play the same amount of notes with a different meter. Therefore meter is the difference in emphasis between two time-signatures.

There are many more elements to explore, such as beat, Pitch, Melody or harmony. Bellow, I will explore all o them and illustrate examples or your better understanding.

Always Keep the Melodic Rhythm Simple

A general rule to follow is to keep the melodic rhythm simple. You must remember that one of the roles of a melodic rhythm is to clarify the meter itself. As an example, complex syncopations could confuse the listener’s sense of following the meter.

However, there are exceptions. A great example is the song: “Can’t feel my face” by The Weeknd. The track starts with a highly syncopated melodic phrase that throws off the listener a bit. 

Can’t feel my face with syncopation Verse

Now, if we take that same phrase and play it without syncopation, it would appear quite boring and dull. 

Can’t feel my face without syncopation Verse

A couple of things to consider about “Can’t feel my face” is that syncopation is used only in the verse and not in the chorus, also the underlying harmony In the verse is very simple, therefore there are no conflicting elements. 

Can’t feel my face Chorus

Let now continue and explore the elements we find in almost every song.

Namely, these are:

  1. Beat
  2. Rhythm
  3. Meter
  4. Pitch
  5. Melody
  6. Harmony

We will now explore all these elements one by one!

What Is a Beat in Music?

Let’s picture for a moment one of those machines that measure heart rate in a hospital. If we take a person who is resting, we should notice that their heart is beating on a consistently steady and regular pulse, this is what we call a heartbeat.

Therefore a beat is a steady and regular pulse we hear in music. An example would be if someone is clapping along with a song, they’re probably clapping in time on the beat.

What Is Rhythm in Music?

Now there is a condition that many people have ( myself included) which is called cardiac arrhythmia, an arrhythmia occurs when the heartbeat is beating at an irregular rate. 

This brings us to rhythm. 

  1. Rhythm is the actual flow of music through time. 
  2. In other words, rhythm is the system that dictates when notes occur and when they are being emphasized. 
  3. Also, rhythm doesn’t have to be equally spaced. 
  4. Usually, rhythm is built upon a beat; you may have heard a 4/4 beat with a slow melodic rhythm or a 4/4 beat with a fast melodic rhythm. 

The actual flow of the melody is the rhythm, and the underlined pulse is the beat.

What Is Meter in Music?

Meter is also found in poetry; actually, the word meter was originally inherited from there, it was used to describe the underlying structure of a poem. A meter shows us how many syllables are in each line, and also it indicates the pattern of long versus short syllables.

In music, a meter is the natural division of rhythms into equal-sized groups.

We can play the same amount of notes with a different meter. Therefore meter is the difference in emphasis between two time-signatures. 

What Is Pitch in Music?

We use peach to describe how high or low sounds are.

You may know that all sounds are created by vibrations, and when repeated vibrations occur at a consistent rate, we interpret them as musical tones.

In music, pitch is affected by the size of the instrument, small instruments tend to have a higher pitch, and bigger instruments tend to have a lower pitch. 

Some may perceive certain instruments having no pitch at all, such as the snare-drum or the kick-drum. This is not true since there is always a degree of pitch in every sound. Music producers are aware of this since many of us tune the kick and snare drum to the root note of the song. 

What Is Melody in Music?

Till now, we talked about the beat, rhythm, meter, and pitch. If we take these four elements and combine them, we will have in our hands the melody!

A melody is produced when we take random pitches and organize them into a rhythm structure. Beat and meter are almost automatically added to the equation when the two first elements (pitch & rhythm) are combined.

It’s interesting to know that most people notice the melodic structure of a song first (compared to the harmony or the beat). This is because humans are melodic creatures; we all have a voice inside of our heads, and we unconsciously recognize melodic speech patterns. Furthermore, these patterns have certain emotions linked that elicit an emotional response, sometimes instantly.

What Is Harmony in Music?

Harmony is a part of what gives music its mood, but the sequence of chords (chord progressions) is what gives interest to music.

Chords are the building blocks of harmony, and chord progressions are how chords work together to set the mood and accompany the melody.

Knowing which chords to use and when is an essential skill for all songwriters and music producers. 

As a songwriter or music producer, you must understand how scales work, how chords are formed, wich chord sequences are suited for your genre, how to use non-chord tones, how to create melodic tension and resolution, how to properly work with energy levels and many more! 

If you are tired of wasting hours writing songs that in the end don’t sound good because of the lack of practical musical knowledge click here to get on my VIP list for the Craft the Perfect Pop Song guide.

In this guide, I show you all the techniques, tips, and tricks you need to craft perfect pop songs! Without boring theory lessons, this IS a guide packed with PRACTICAL tricks you can use even if you know very little about music theory! Get on the VIP list for the Craft the Perfect Pop Song guide right here!

This Is the Harmonic Goal of a Phrase

  • The harmonic goal of a phrase is either to bring us closure or to have us loaning for more. This is achieved when we use a cadence or a closing chord. 

We distinguish musical phrases as questions or answers. Questions are open-ended (we loan for more) and answers are close-ended (they give us closure).

Melody with closed ending
Melody with open ending

To achieve the effect of closure, we want to end a musical phrase on the root note (I). And to achieve the effect of an open-end, we want to end a musical phrase on the sub-dominant (IV), the dominant (V), or the leading tone (VII). Depending on which note we choose, we create a feeling of either homecoming or lingering as we achieve a closed or an open ending.

A cadence is a chord progression of two chords or more that ends a phrase or section of a piece of music. Don’t worry if this is new for you, we will talk about cadences later in this article.

Now, let go cack to the harmonic goal of our phrase.

As I mentioned above:

a) If we want to bring a sense of melodic closure, we will end our phrase on the root note (I).

b) And if we want to “let the door open,” we end on a dominant (V), subdominant (IV) or leading tone (VII) note.

When ending a melodic line, choose the root note, and it will feel like home” but use the dominant, and you will create an open ending as if more is yet to come. Ending on a dominant chord/note, in music does not sound final because the phrase ends with unresolved harmonic tension.

Here Is a List of the Note Names Within an Octave

  • 1 Tonic
  • 2 Supertonic
  • 3 Mediant
  • 4 Subdominant
  • 5 Dominant
  • 6 Submediant
  • 7 Subtonic (in the natural minor scale & Leading tone (in the major scale)
  • 1 Tonic (octave)

PRO TIP: Often, the last note of a phrase is usually a chord tone that is found in the closing chord.

Simply put, when composing the last note of our melodic phrase, we usually choose a note that is present in our chord. So if we use the C major chord as our last chord, we can choose between the C, E or G notes to end our melodic phrase.

What Are Cadences in Music?

I promised to talk about cadences, and I always keep my promises. 🙂 

As mentioned before: “A cadence is a chord progression of two chords or more that ends a phrase or section of a piece of music”. Think of a cadence like adding a “dot” or a “comma” to a poem.

There are four main types of cadences, two of them sound finished, and two sound unfinished. 

FINISHED CADENCES

a) Authentic Cadence/Perfect Cadence

A perfect cadence is when we go from the V chord to the I chord (V-I)

Example of a perfect cadence: if we go from the G chord to the C chord in the key of C.

b) Plagal Cadence

A Plagal Cadence is when we go from the IV chord to the I chord (IV-I). 

Example of a plagal cadence: if we go from the F chord to the C chord in the key of C.

UN-FINISHED CADENCES

a) Half Cadence/Imperfect Cadence

A half cadence/imperfect cadence ends on chord V. 

Example of a half cadence: if we end on the G when we are in the key of C.

b) Deceptive Cadence

An interrupted cadence ends on an unexpected chord, such as the IV. We often reach the IV chord through the V chord.

Example of a deceptive cadence: If we end on the F by the G chord. G->F in the key of C.

This Is Why the Strong Beat Is Vital in Music

It’s preferred to start a melody on the strong beat of the meter. In a 4/4 time signature, the strong beats are the 1 and 3 as opposed to beats 2 and 4, which are considered weak beats. When we start our melody on a strong beat, we give a sense of stability to our melody.

Also, when we begin a melody on a weak beat (either the 2 or 4) it can come across as a weak melodic line. This is not a rule, and surely there are many exceptions, especially in POP music. But in general, we expect strong melodic phrases to start on strong beats.

Another popular genre in which the emphasis on the strong beat is very important is BASE-HOUSE music. Very often the melody in the drop falls on the strong beat or on every beat of the drop.

How to Create a Hook in Music

Generally speaking, a hook is the part of the song that stands out, and the part we can remember afterward. Usually, it is a melodic phrase. A great way you can create infectious hooks is with the proper use of rhythmic patterns in melody.

We are going to use again the “Can’t feel my face” example from The Weeknd.

Just listen to the infectious chorus section:

I can’t feel my face when I’m with you

But I love it, but I love it, oh

I can’t feel my face when I’m with you

But I love it, but I love it, oh

The Weeknd

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE CANT FEEL my face score, TAB,lead and midi files for free.

The first thing we notice is the back-to-back repeated melodic phrase “but I love it, but I love it”, we counted this phrase twice in the chorus. And if we zoom out we notice that the phrase “I can feel my face when I’m with you” is also repeated twice.

 Therefore we have two hooks back to back:

Hook 1: “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you” (repeated twice)

Hook 2: “But I love it, but I love it, oh” (repeated four times)

 The result is a highly infectious melody that gets stuck in your head! (at least in mine it does) 🙂

Flow and Variation When Composing Melodies

It is essential to give an overall sense of structure and familiarity to the listener but at the same time, we must keep things interesting. Add too much variation, and your melody won’t make any sense, add too little variation, and you run the risk of being boring.  

Therefore the following is true:

  1. Repeated rhythmic patterns give the overall flow more continuity, 
  2. Also, repeated melodic movement and contour lends continuity as well.
  3. When repeating either melodic or rhythmic patterns try to vary them slightly the third time. This allows the melody to stay fresh to the listener’s ears.

I hope this guide was helpful and brought you closer to your musical goals! Scroll down do read our latest additions! 🙂

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