Music Stress, Melody and Harmony

Flute World sets standards in the industry and serves thousands of customers world-wide. The professionals at flute world can help you better understand concepts such as stress, melody, and pitch.


Stress gives music its rhythmic feel. There are plenty of slang terms used to describe the feel of music, but the experience is generally very hard to describe and very easy to understand. A 3/4 waltz from the Baroque era, for instance, will have a hard first beat and two less-emphasized beats in every measure. A piece of modern dance music, particularly electronic dance music, will usually have 4 beats in every measure and, most often, those beats will have the same stress, which lends to the music a stomping, driving feel.

In traditional usages, the first beat of a measure is stressed. In 2/4 time, for instance, the traditional method of playing the beat would be strong, weak/strong, weak.

In three quarters time, the beat would traditionally be strong, weak, weak/strong, weak, weak. Syncopation refers to obscuring the beat by emphasizing notes that are normally stressed less. Some music, such as gospel, creates a very energetic feel by emphasizing the second and fourth notes in a 4/4 measure rather than by emphasizing the first and third notes.


Melody and harmony are staple elements of Western music. A series of pitches that are arranged in a deliberate way to get a specific effect is called a melody. There are rules to melody and mathematical notation is used to varying degrees to describe it in more coherent terms when the language of aesthetics is insufficient to quantify a melody. Melodies, like sentences, have coherent structures, use modifiers to clarify statements, reiterate important themes and, on the whole, constitute a form of language that can express what words sometimes cannot.

Understanding Pitch

Pitch is the quality of sound that is described as being high or low. The pitch of any given note can be understood in both scientific terms and in subjective terms. The various notes of the scale are called degrees and are separated by whole or half-step intervals, which refers to the amount of change in pitch between one and the next. The pitch of a tone can also be described as its resonating frequency. The standard, concert A4 pitch, for example, is officially defined in most places as being exactly 440Hz.

Pitches are also relative, however. In practice, following a very low tone with a very high tone has the effect of making both sound more extreme. Most melodies stay within an octave or two and most of them try to avoid jarring shifts in pitch. When there are significant changes in pitch, the jarring nature of it is usually offset by the creative use of rhythmic devices. In some cases, pitch and rhythm can be used quite creatively. Cartoons, for instance, oftentimes use ascending pitches and the appropriate rhythms to create a soundscape for a character ascending stairs.

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