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Primary and secondary melody in Bach's BWV 1079
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In music, a counter-melody (often countermelody) is a sequence of notes, perceived as a melody, written to be played simultaneously with a more prominent lead melody. In other words, it is a secondary melody played in counterpoint with the primary melody. A counter-melody performs a subordinate role, and it is typically heard in a texture consisting of a melody plus accompaniment.

Music form of art using sound and silence

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.

Musical note Sign used in musical notation, a pitched sound

In music, a note is the pitch and duration of a sound, and also its representation in musical notation. A note can also represent a pitch class. Notes are the building blocks of much written music: discretizations of musical phenomena that facilitate performance, comprehension, and analysis.

Melody linear succession of musical tones in the foreground of a work of music

A melody, also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tonal color. It may be considered the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody.

In marches, the counter-melody is often given to the trombones or horns. American composer David Wallis Reeves is credited with this innovation in 1876. [2]

Trombone Type of brass instrument

The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. As on all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player's vibrating lips (embouchure) cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate. Nearly all trombones have a telescoping slide mechanism that varies the length of the instrument to change the pitch. Many modern trombone models also use a valve attachment to lower the pitch of the instrument. Variants such as the valve trombone and superbone have three valves similar to those on the trumpet.

French horn type of brass instrument

The French horn is a brass instrument made of tubing wrapped into a coil with a flared bell. The double horn in F/B is the horn most often used by players in professional orchestras and bands. A musician who plays a French horn is known as a horn player or hornist.

David Wallis Reeves Bandleader and composer

David Wallis Reeves, also known as D. W. Reeves or Wally Reeves, was an American composer, cornetist, and bandleader. He developed the American march style, later made famous by the likes of John Philip Sousa, and his innovations include adding a countermelody to the American march form in 1876. Sousa called Reeves "The Father of Band Music in America", and stated he wished he himself had written Reeves' "Second Regiment Connecticut National Guard March". Charles Ives also borrowed from the "Second Connecticut" on four occasions.

The more formal term countersubject applies to a secondary or subordinate melodic idea in a fugue. A countermelody differs from a harmony part sung by a backup singer in that whereas the harmony part typically lacks its own independent musical line, a countermelody is a distinct melodic line.

Fugue musical form

In music, a fugue is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and which recurs frequently in the course of the composition. It is not to be confused with a fuguing tune, which is a style of song popularized by and mostly limited to early American music and West Gallery music. A fugue usually has three main sections: an exposition, a development and a final entry that contains the return of the subject in the fugue's tonic key. Some fugues have a recapitulation.

See also

Hauptstimme the contrapuntal or melodic line of primary importance, in opposition to Nebenstimme

In music, Hauptstimme or Hauptsatz is the main voice, chief part; i.e., the contrapuntal or melodic line of primary importance, in opposition to Nebenstimme. Nebenstimme or Seitensatz is the secondary part; i.e., a secondary contrapuntal or melodic part, always occurring simultaneously with, and subsidiary to, the Hauptstimme. The practice of marking the primary voice within the musical score/parts was invented by Arnold Schoenberg.

Parallel harmony in classical music, the parallel movement of two or more lines

In music, parallel harmony, also known as harmonic parallelism, harmonic planing or parallel voice leading, is the parallel movement of two or more lines. Examples may be found in Claude Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (1894), Maurice Ravel's Daphnis and Chloë Suite No. 2 (1913), Richard Strauss's Elektra (1909), Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, "Columbine" (1914), and William Schuman's Three Score Set for Piano (1944). In the last example, the inversions of the chords suggest a bichordal effect.

This article discusses the music theory of Traditional sub-Saharan African harmony.

Related Research Articles

Classical period (music) genre of Western music (c.1730-1820)

The Classical period was an era of classical music between roughly 1730 and 1820.

Jazz guitar

The term jazz guitar may refer to either a type of guitar or to the variety of guitar playing styles used in the various genres which are commonly termed "jazz". The jazz-type guitar was born as a result of using electric amplification to increase the volume of conventional acoustic guitars.

Rhythm guitar guitar technique; part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section

In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.

American march music

American march music is march music written and/or performed in the United States. Its origins are those of European composers borrowing from the military music of the Ottoman Empire in place there from the 16th century. The American genre developed after the British model during the colonial and Revolutionary periods, then later as military ceremonials and for civilian entertainment events.

In music, an ostinato[ostiˈnaːto] is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, frequently in the same pitch. Well-known ostinato-based pieces include both classical compositions such as Ravel's Boléro and the Carol of the Bells, and popular songs such as Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's "I Feel Love" (1977), Henry Mancini's theme from Peter Gunn (1959), The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (1997), and April Ivy's "Be Ok" (1997).

Pipe band class of musical ensembles

A pipe band is a musical ensemble consisting of pipers and drummers. The term used by military pipe bands, pipes and drums, is also common.

In music, texture is how the tempo, melodic, and harmonic materials are combined in a composition, thus determining the overall quality of the sound in a piece. Texture is often described in regard to the density, or thickness, and range, or width, between lowest and highest pitches, in relative terms as well as more specifically distinguished according to the number of voices, or parts, and the relationship between these voices. For example, a thick texture contains many 'layers' of instruments. One of these layers could be a string section, or another brass. The thickness also is changed by the amount and the richness of the instruments playing the piece. The thickness varies from light to thick. A piece's texture may be changed by the number and character of parts playing at once, the timbre of the instruments or voices playing these parts and the harmony, tempo, and rhythms used. The types categorized by number and relationship of parts are analyzed and determined through the labeling of primary textural elements: primary melody (PM), secondary melody (SM), parallel supporting melody (PSM), static support (SS), harmonic support (HS), rhythmic support (RS), and harmonic and rhythmic support (HRS).

Accompaniment musical parts which provide the rhythmic and/or harmonic support for the melody or main themes of a song or instrumental piece

Accompaniment is the musical part which provides the rhythmic and/or harmonic support for the melody or main themes of a song or instrumental piece. There are many different styles and types of accompaniment in different genres and styles of music. In homophonic music, the main accompaniment approach used in popular music, a clear vocal melody is supported by subordinate chords. In popular music and traditional music, the accompaniment parts typically provide the "beat" for the music and outline the chord progression of the song or instrumental piece.

Comping is the chords, rhythms, and countermelodies that keyboard players, guitar players, or drummers use to support a jazz musician's improvised solo or melody lines. It is also the action of accompanying, and the left-hand part of a solo pianist.

Rhythm section group of musicians within a music ensemble or band who provide the underlying rhythm, harmony and beat for the rest of the band

A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band who provide the underlying rhythm, harmony and pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest of the band.

Song structure is the arrangement of a song, and is a part of the songwriting process. It is typically sectional, which uses repeating forms in songs. Common forms include bar form, thirty-two-bar form, verse-chorus form, ternary form, strophic form, and the twelve-bar blues. Popular music songs traditionally use the same music for each verse or stanza of lyrics. Pop and traditional forms can be used even with songs that have structural differences in melodies. The most common format in modern popular music is introduction (intro), verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus and outro. In rock music styles, notably heavy metal music, there is usually a guitar solo in the song. In pop music, there may be a guitar solo, or the solo may be performed by a synthesizer player or sax player.

A modal frame in music is "a number of types permeating and unifying African, European, and American song" and melody. It may also be called a melodic mode. "Mode" and "frame" are used interchangeably in this context without reference to scalar or rhythmic modes. Melodic modes define and generate melodies that are not determined by harmony, but purely by melody. A note frame, is a melodic mode that is atonic, or has an unstable tonic.

Jazz harmony Harmonic theories used in jazz

Jazz harmony is the theory and practice of how chords are used in jazz music. Jazz bears certain similarities to other practices in the tradition of Western harmony, such as many chord progressions, and the incorporation of the major and minor scales as a basis for chordal construction. In jazz, chords are often arranged vertically in major or minor thirds, although stacked fourths are also quite common. Also, jazz music tends to favor certain harmonic progressions and includes the addition of tensions, intervals such as 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths to chords. Additionally, scales unique to style are used as the basis of many harmonic elements found in jazz. Jazz harmony is notable for the use of seventh chords as the basic harmonic unit more often than triads, as in classical music. In the words of Robert Rawlins and Nor Eddine Bahha, "7th chords provide the building blocks of jazz harmony."

Homophony texture in music

In music, homophony is a texture in which a primary part is supported by one or more additional strands that flesh out the harmony and often provide rhythmic contrast. This differentiation of roles contrasts with equal-voice polyphony and monophony. Historically, homophony and its differentiated roles for parts emerged in tandem with tonality, which gave distinct harmonic functions to the soprano, bass and inner voices.

Jazz improvisation is the spontaneous invention of melodic solo lines or accompaniment parts. It is one of the defining elements of jazz. Improvisation is composing on the spot, when a singer or instrumentalist invents melodies and lines over a chord progression played by rhythm section instruments and accompanied by drums. Although blues, rock, and other genres use improvisation, it is done over relatively simple chord progressions which often remain in one key.

In music, harmonization is the chordal accompaniment to a line or melody: "Using chords and melodies together, making harmony by stacking scale tones as triads".

The term "four-part harmony" refers to music written for four voices, or for some other musical medium—four musical instruments or a single keyboard instrument, for example—where the various musical parts can give a different note for each chord of the music.


  1. Benward, Bruce, and Marilyn Nadine Saker (2009). Music in Theory and Practice Vol. 1, p.138. Seventh edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill. ISBN   978-0-07-310188-0.
  2. "U.S. Army Bands in History: Civilian Bands Replace Military Bands". Archived from the original on July 21, 2007.