Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Music education: What is Music, Anyway?

We all know that music is recognized as the "universal language" -- doesn't matter what the language is, we all sing, we all hum, we all whistle, and many of us play some kind of instrument -- from primitive drums that make just one basic sound (although any drum can be made to create various pitches depending upon the tension of the membrane being used) to sophisticated synthesizers which can create anything from orchestral scores to sound effects and everything in between. (If you could pull back the curtain and look in, you would see that most of the musical backgrounds you hear on TV shows are not created by orchestras, but by one guy at his synthesizer!)

But what are the elements music is created from? There are really only 4:




Tone Color

If you want to add "words" to the list above, be my guest, but words are not part of ALL music, so I'll leave it out, and just focus on the big 4:

Melody is the tune of a piece of music or a song -- the part you whistle or hum or sing or play as a solo.

Harmony is the tonal environment which supports the melody and gives it context. Harmony involves either intervals (the distance between the melody and the supporting tone) or chords (3 or more supporting tones).

Rhythm is the pulse, or beat -- the mathematical pattern that sends music down the road from here to there.

Tone color is the sound you hear -- either the sound of a human voice, or a sax, or a piano, or a drum, or a guitar, or any instrument or combination of instruments -- usually many all mixed together forming a "musical meal" called a song or a piece or a composition or an improvisation or all of the above.

In future editions we will take up each one of these elements separately, then later see how they all blend together.
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