Welcome to the St Edmunds Music Department Blog.

Below are a series of posts which contain key information, handouts, revision tips etc all in one place.
You can also search the blog and there are links to helpful websites.
Click on the archived posts on the left hand side if you want to see older posts, or scroll down.

Mrs Briggs

Links to Google Docs Versions of Handouts

Below are the links to the word documents I have uploaded to Google Docs. They are the handouts I give out in class -in case you are missing any.

More links will be added here soon.

GCSE Music Overview Doc


Controlled Assessment Information


Starting to write a Composition/Developing your Ideas


Year 10 Time Planner


Year 11 Time Planner


AoS 1 Rhythm and Metre Handout


AoS 2: Harmony and Tonality


AoS 3: Texture and melody handout


World music


The Western Classical Tradition


Popular Music of the 20TH and 21ST Centuries Part1


Popular Music of the 20TH and 21ST Centuries Part 2


World Music

World Music

  • Music of the Caribbean
  • Music of Africa
  • Music of India

World Music is a term often used to describe musical traditions, styles and genres that are non-Western. This includes the traditional folk music and song of a particular region, non-Western classical music and popular music. Some forms and genres of World Music have been influenced by Western classical and popular music. Some forms and genres of world music have been influenced by Western music, especially popular styles, instruments and rhythms which is called fusion.

Music of the Caribbean

The Caribbean is a group of 7,000 islands and reefs located between the United States and South America and divided into a number of separate countries. Each country has its own particular musical styles and genres but some styles are shared and can be found all over the Caribbean.

Caribbean music has its roots in other musical traditions particularly those of Africa and Europe.


This is a style of music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago at the start of the 20th Century and spread to other Caribbean Islands. It is a form of a solo song that combines story telling with memorable tunes and rhythms. Calypso has always been associated with some form of social comment and is an important feature of carnival. Calypso is often performed by the singer accompanied by guitar, although there can be a larger backing group which might include brass, saxophones, drums and electric guitars. Calypso lyrics are about topics concerning island life and are often highly personal and political so they were used as a means of spreading news and gossip. Calypso became so popular and influential that politicians and public figures often tried to censor the lyrics.


After the Second World War the oil drums left by the Americans on the island of Trinidad were converted into pitched musical drums. Each steel drum or pan can produce several different notes and there are different sizes of pan, so that steelbands can play a wide range of notes like a choir. A steel pan does not sustain so each note is struck repeatedly to produce a characteristic “shimmering” sound.


Salsa means sauce in Spanish and is a type of dance music associated with Cuba. It developed in the 1960s from a mixture of two traditional dances (the son and the rumba) with other kinds of American music such as Jazz.

The rhythm and instruments of son are influenced by Spanish and African music. The guitar is used in son bands to play a simple, harmonic accompaniment and is an example of the Spanish influence, while the rhythms and use of the percussion instruments such as bongo drums, claves and maracas are inspired by African music.

Salsa traditionally uses a 4/4 time signature and is based on a repeated rhythm called clave, around which musicians play repeated rhythmic accompaniments. The clave rhythm is central to all salsa, whether it is performed on the claves or by another instrument. The most common clave rhythm is the son clave which is eight beats long and can be played in a 2-3 or 3-2 style:


Reggae developed in Jamaica at the end of the 1960s, emerging from two forms of Jamaican popular music, ska and rock steady. Ska combined elements of mento, jazz and rhythm ‘n’ blues to create a lively musical style which had an emphasis on the second and fourth beats of the bar. During the mid-1960s the beat of ska was slowed down to produce rock steady, a more vocal style of music which used riffs, a limited number of chords and a strong bass line. Like ska and rock steady, reggae makes use of syncopated rhythms and a characteristic back beat (emphasis on beats which features catchy melodic riffs played by the electric bass guitar.

Music of Africa

Africa is vast continent with many different regions and nations, each with its own traditions and identity. Music plays an important part in African society. It has religious, ritual and ceremonial functions as well as being used at social gatherings. African music has its roots in legends, mythology and folklore and is used to communicate feelings and emotions that express the way the society in which it is produced views the world.

Music is often combined with dance. Traditional African music is an oral tradition and was never written down. Despite Africa’s diverse and different cultures, there are some musical features such as rhythm patterns, structures, textures and the use of improvisation that unite the music of various groups and areas.

African choral music

Many African languages are tonal languages which means that the pitch level at which a word is spoken or often determines its meaning.

This affects the way melodic and rhythmic patterns in vocal music are created. Most African melodies are based on four, five, six or seven note scales. African vocal melodies are usually short and simple often being extended by repetition and improvisation.

A common way of structuring a choral piece is by using call and response. The solo singer starts with a melody and this is responded to (answered) by the other singers. During a performance it is common for different melodies to be improvised at the same time, producing a rich polyphonic/contrapuntal texture. At other times a harmonic/homophonic texture may be used. In African music this is often created by singing in thirds, fourths or fifths. Unison and parallel octave textures are also common.

Popular Music

African music has been a major influence on the development of popular music, contributing rhythms, structures, melodic features and the use of improvisation to such styles as blues and jazz brought over to America by slaves.

African Drumming

The drum is an important musical instrument in African culture. Drums have been used as a means of communication for hundreds of years, and there are many different varieties found throughout the different regions. For example: tama – talking drums, bougarabou and djembe in West Africa. The djembe is a single-headed drum which comes in a range of sizes in order to produce different pitch ranges.

Drum music may be performed by a solo instrument or in ensembles. Like vocal music, it is not notated so in a drum ensemble the performance is directed by a master drummer who stands in the middle of a circle of drummers. The master drummer often starts a piece by vocalising – making sounds with their voice- and then plays a short solo so to set the mood and tempo. This is a cue to the other drummers, who respond by copying the rhythm or by answering it with a different rhythm. This is another example of the call and response form. The drummers then add improvised rhythms to a rhythmic cycle.

The drummers often cut across the rhythm using accents in different places and on different parts of the beat which produces cross rhythms. The combination of two contrasting rhythms is called a bi-rhythm. When a number of different rhythms are combined the texture is polyrhythmic.

African Instruments

There is a wide variety of African instruments which are chosen for a particular song or instrumental performance depending on the suitability of their timbre. There are many kinds of percussion, wind and string instruments, including different kinds of harp which often have complicated tuning systems. As in African drumming, instrumental music makes use of repetition and ostinato, cyclic structures, improvisation, polyrhythmic and polyphonic/contrapuntal textures.


The xylophone is used in almost all of Africa but there are different types, depending upon the area. The wooden bars are set on a frame that has gourds (hollow dried shells of fruit) underneath them to help amplify the sound.


The Kosika is a percussion instrument which consists of two small gourds or seed pods filled with beans and connected by a string. One gourd is held in the hand and the other is swung from side to side as you shake your hand. The Kosika has two sounds: a ‘shake’ created by the beans and a ‘clack’ when the two gourds or seedpods hit each other.


A kora is built from a large calabrash gourd cut in half and covered with cow skin to create a resonator. It has a notched bridge like a lute or guitar. The sound of a kora resembles a harp. The player uses the thumb and index fingers of both hands to pluck the strings, while the remaining fingers hold the instrument. Traditional koras have 21 strings, 11 played by the left hand and 10 by the right. Strings were traditionally made from thin strips of hide. The kora player moves leather tuning rings up and down the neck to tune the instrument.

Music of India

The history of Indian music stretches back over two thousand years. It is one of the oldest musical traditions in the world and is fundamentally associated with religious and cultural expression. There are two main traditions: the Hindustani tradition of northern India and the Carnatic tradition of Southern India. Indian music is not notated but is taught from master to pupil by listening and playing. Indian classical music can often be very complex but there are three common elements:

Melody – this is usually improvised from a type o scale called a rag. The melody might be sung or played on an instrument.

Drone – Indian classical music focuses on the development of melody; therefore accompaniments are usually simple. The drone is an accompaniment using only two notes a fifth apart.

Rhythm – known as the tala it is organised into repeating cycles.

Indian Instruments

The sitar

This is a plucked instrument. It has seven metal strings on which two are used to play the drone. Below these are a number of loose strings which vibrate when the strings above them are plucked with a wire plectrum. This produces the characteristic ‘twangy’ sound.

The sarangi

Smaller than the sitar with a softer sound makes it an ideal accompaniment to the voice, the sarangi uses a bow to produce its notes.

The tabla

This is a set of two different sized drums played with both hands. They play tala or rhythm cycle.

The bansuri and The shenhai

These produce sounds similar to the flute and oboe but do not have metal keys. The player covers a series of holes with his or her fingers, similar to the way a recorder is played.


A rag is the basic melody which forms the basis for melodic improvisation. It is similar to a Western scales in that it ascends and descends. However unlike a western scale each rag is individual so that the pitches of the notes may vary not only between different rags, but also on the ascending and descending forms. There are also varying numbers of notes in different rags. This is because unlike a Western scale, each Rag has a unique mood which is associated with a different occasion, season, purpose an emotion. There are over 200 different rags. In a performance the rag is used as the basis for improvisation.


The tala is a rhythm pattern that forms the basis for a set of repeating rhythmic cycles. The tala is usually played by the tabla drums. There are different talas but the most common tala used in the music of northern India is tintal. Tintal is a symmetrical rhythmic pattern made up of four individual, main beats, repeated four times (4+4+4+4). Each individual beat is called a matras and the first beat of the cycle is called a sam. During the tala cycle rhythms are improvised by both the tabla player and the instrumentalist or singer but must start and end on the first beat of the cycle (sam). These improvised rhythms or bols, contrast with the main beat of the cycle, often use accents or syncopation.


A raga performance contains all three of the elements used in Indian classical music: melody (based on a rag), the drone and the tala rhythm played by the tabla drums. There is usually a defined structure for a raga performance, with different sections. The first section called alap, starts with a slow exploration of the notes of the rag. It is in free time, often to the accompaniment of a drone. The final section called gat, contains the rhythmic tala cycle introduced on the tabla, solos and improvisation. There are often other sections in between the alap and the gat and can last for several hours.


Bhangra originated in the Punjab district of India and Pakistan and is traditionally a kind of folk song/dance performed during harvest. It is now associated with a fusion between Western popular music and Indian classical music. Bhangra is characterised by the use of Indian instruments such as the dhol drum, repetitive rhythms and the Punjabi language – with shouts of hoi, mixed with Western instruments such as the synthesiser.

The Western Classical Tradition

The Western Classical Tradition

In this unit you will learn about The Western Classical Tradition which is one of the 3 strands. The term is used to refer to music that is not related to pop music and has developed over many centuries in western countries such as Italy, Germany etc

The specific areas and genres are:

  • Baroque orchestral music
  • The concerto
  • Music for voices
  • Chamber music
  • The sonata

Baroque Orchestral Music

The word baroque means music that was composed in a certain time period which is between 1600 and 1750. It ended in 1750 as this was when one of the greatest baroque composers, JS Bach, died. Music written during this period is very ornate and decorated. Polyphonic and contrapuntal textures are very common - texture that consists of two or more equally important melodic lines that are woven together.

The orchestra took shape during the baroque period and many instruments were developed. Violins replaced the weaker sounding viols and flutes gradually replaced recorders. The foundation of a typical baroque orchestra was the strings, particularly the violins. The other sections- woodwind, brass and percussion were not yet standardised and varied from piece to piece.

Brass instruments did not have valves yet so they were limited to the notes that they could play in their natural range – the harmonic series. This meant that trumpeters usually had to play high as the notes in the higher end of their range are close together and was easier to play a melody. To get high notes out of the trumpet the trumpeter has to adjust their embouchure which is the position and pressure of their lips.

Woodwind (apart from clarinets as they hadn’t been invented yet) and percussion instruments were used less often.

A common feature of the baroque orchestra was the continuo. This is where a chord playing instrument such as a harpsichord plays a part based on the bass line and harmonies of the piece.

Important baroque composers:

Monteverdi 1567-1643

Domenico Scarlatti 1685-1757

Vivaldi 1678-1741

Corelli 1653-1713

Purcell c.1659-1695

Couperin 1668-1733

Rameau 1683-1764

Lully 1632-1687

J.S.Bach 1685-1750

Handel 1685-1759

Baroque Genres

The Suite

A suite is a collection of dances, written by baroque composers for the harpsichord or orchestra. The different dances in a suite were usually in the same key and in binary form.

A piece in binary form has two sections of roughly equal length. The first section (A) is answered by the second section (B). Usually each section is repeated.

French composers often included dances in rondo form (A,B,A,C,A,D,A,E,A etc)

A popular dance during the baroque period was the minuet. This is a stately dance in 3/4 time. A minuet is in binary form but often two different minuets, usually in a contrasting key, were played one after the other, with the first minuet repeated at the end to form an overall ABA format – ternary form.

The Concerto

A concerto is an instrumental composition that features a soloist or small group of soloists, contrasted against a larger orchestra. This was popular because it gave the composers a chance to contrast the timbre and dynamics of a soloist with a larger group. The most popular types of concerto were the solo concerto and concerto grosso. The solo concerto has one instrument contrasted against a larger group and the concerto grosso has a small group of solo instruments contrasted against the larger accompanying group called the ripieno. In both types of concerto it is usual to begin with all the instruments, called a tutti, after that there are alternating solo episodes interspersed with the larger accompanying group playing short repeated versions of the opening tutti.

Quite often in baroque pieces a movement in a minor key will end on a final chord in the tonic major this is called a tierce de picardie.

Ground Bass

The use of a ground bass was popular in baroque music. This enables the composer to achieve unity in the music, because the ground bass was repeated throughout the piece – but also variety since new melodies could be added above the ground bass.

Classical Music

The term “classical music” is used to describe any music that has an orchestra playing but in this case it refers to the classical period, which like the baroque period was a period of time.

The classical period was between 1750 and 1810 and contains the music of Mozart, Haydn and the early compositions of Beethoven. Classical music from this period had homophonic texture, clear melodic lines and balanced expressions and form.

The classical concerto

During the classical period the solo concerto gained in popularity. The concerto grosso wasn’t as popular.

The solo concerto is in three movements (fast-slow-fast). The first movement is usually the longest and is in modified sonata form.

Sonata form consists of three main sections called the exposition, development and recapitulation.


Towards the end of a movement (usually the first movement, although this could occur in either of the quicker movements). This displays the virtuosity or brilliant technique of the soloist. In most classical concertos the cadenza is improvised, or made up on the spot, by the soloist. Later on composers wrote out their own music for the cadenzas. Just before the solo cadenza begins the orchestra pauses on an imperfect cadence. This signals the start of the cadenza. A cadenza usually ends with a trill, a signal to the orchestra that the cadenza is about to end and that they should resume playing.

Romantic Music

The term romantic is applied to music composed between about 1810 and 1910. Classical music aimed to balance expression and form but romantic music placed an emphasis on the expression of emotion and feeling, so that this became the most important aspect of the music. Romantic music is often powerful and intense, expressing the innermost thoughts and feelings of the composers.

Important romantic composers:

The middle and later music of Beethoven 1770-1827

Schubert 1797-1828 Tchaikovsky 1840-1893

Berlioz 1803-1869 Dvorak 1841-1904

Wagner 1813-1883 Verdi 1813-1901

Music for Voices- Choral Music

The mass, motet and cantata are types of vocal music composed for religious occasions and are usually performed by a group of singers called a choir.

A mixed voice choir contains both male and female voices. Female voices are Soprano and Alto – the high and the low. Tenor and Bass are the high and the low of the men’s voices.


A mass is a musical setting of the different parts of the church service known as the Eucharist or Communion. Masses are often sung in Latin, but more modern masses in the Anglican Church may be in English.

A mass usually has 5 sections:

1: Kyrie (Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy)

2: Gloria (Glory to God in the highest)

3: Credo (I believe in God)

4: Sanctus (Holy, Holy Holy) which also includes Osaana and Benedictus

5: Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)

There may be different versions of this plan depending on the occasion or purpose for which a mass has been composed. A requim is a mass for the dead, with extra sections appropriate for this occasion.


During the Renaissance period 1450-1600 a motet was a sacred (religious) piece, composed for voices. The texture of the music was mainly polyphonic/contrapuntal with much use of imitation, where a melodic idea in one voice part would then be copied in turn by each of the other voice parts. Motets are often performed a cappella – by the singers only, without accompanying instruments.

Cantata and oratorio

A cantata is usually for one or two solo voices and choir, accompanied by instruments. Cantatas can be sacred (religious) or secular (non religious). They are often made up of recitatives (half singing half reciting), arias (long vocal solo or duet) and choruses (section sung by the choir). Recitatives and arias are often paired, the aria following the recitative. A recitative is used to tell the story and is accompanied in a simple way and the melody follows the rhythm and rise and fall of the words.

An oratorio is a setting of a religious story. Like a cantata, it has recitatives, arias and choruses and is accompanied by an orchestra. A commentator/narrator sings the recitatives. A famous oratorio is Messiah by Handel.


Madrigals are secular (non-religious) songs that are sung by a group of solo voices and are often about life, love, nature etc. They became popular in Italy during the 16th Century and then later became popular in England when English composers started writing their own.


An opera is a play set to music. Like a play it is acted and has scenery, costumes and characters, but the words are usually sung throughout to the accompaniment of an orchestra. The first operas were written and performed at the beginning of the 17th century and have continued to be popular ever since. Like the cantatas and oratorios discussed earlier, operas use recitatives to tell the story and move the action on, arias to show off a good tune and vocal technique and choruses where the choir can join in the action.

Music for solo voice

Solo songs have always been popular. In much folk music, the singer sings with no accompaniment, performs the music on their own. This is an example of single line melody or monophonic texture, or there may be a drone or harmonic accompaniment.

Strophic and through-composed

In some pieces of vocal music the same music is used for each verse or section of the text (strophic form) but in some vocal compositions the changing mood or nature of the text determines the structure of the music so that the fresh music will be composed to reflect these changes (through-composed).

Both of these forms can be in lieder –which is the German word for songs, it’s a 19th century style of music where the voice and accompaniment are equally as important.

Chamber Music

Chamber music is intended for performance in a room (chamber) rather than in a concert hall or large building. It is written for instruments rather than voices and it is performed by a small group of solo players – one performer per part. Most chamber music is written for 2-9 players.

Within each group there are many different combinations of instruments.

Here are some of the common combinations:

Duet: piano with one other instrument eg flute, violin, horn, cello or clarinet

Trio: string trio, piano trio – piano, violin, cello

Quartet: string quartet ( 2 violins, viola, cello)


The sonata

During the classical period (1750-1810) the term sonata was used to describe a composition for one or two instruments (duet) that was in three or four movements. At least one of the movements, usually the first one, was in sonata form.

The usual plan of a three movement sonata was:

  • First movement – fast
  • Second movement – slow
  • Third movement – fast

In a four movement sonata there is usually a minuet and trio or scherzo and trio between the slow movement and the last movement.

The solo sonata

This is a sonata written for one instrument. The most popular solo sonatas during the first half of the 18th century were composed for violin or harpsichord. The Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) wrote more than 500 sonatas for harpsichord in binary form.

During the second half of the 18th century, the piano replaced the harpsichord as the principal keyboard instrument and the three or four movement piano sonata became the most popular form of solo sonata.

The Duet sonata

A duet is a piece of music written for two players. The most popular type of duet sonatas are those written for a piano in combination with another instrument. The piano’s ability to play a wide dynamic range and sustain a sound make it idea to accompany and interrelate with other instruments. Duet sonatas are often know but the name of the other featured solo instrument – eg violin sonata but the piano if an equal partner.

Pop Music of the C20th and C21st Contd.

Popular music of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Hip Hop

Hip Hop is a genre of music which emerged in New York during the 1970s when DJs began to loop percussion breaks taken from funk or rock songs to create tracks for their audience to dance to. In hip-hop terms the “beat” is everything but the vocals. It is often built up in layers, including the basic audio loop of a drum track or midi drum patterns, a bass line, supporting orchestration such as a synthesiser and a variety of sound samples. The shortest “beats” are usually 8 bars long, but can be looped to produce “beats” of any length.

One feature of the music is the ‘break’, where the drum (or electronic/computer generated sound) plays a short solo.

This was later accompanied by rapping where the performer, which is often the DJ, speaks rhythmically and in rhyme over the beat.

Loops were originally created on tape but are now created digitally and can be created even in a live performance. Other effects are added by using samplers and synthesisers. A sampler is a device that stores recordings of many different sounds (samples) as digital information, which can then be played and modified in many different ways.

Hip Hop musicians have experimented by using different genres of music to create new and exciting beats, and to develop different styles of hip hop. Rhythm n Bass is one of those styles where there is an emphasis on projecting a strong bass line in the music.

Musical Theatre

Music theatre works are generally referred to as musicals. Like opera, a musical is a play which uses music to express emotion. Like a play it has characters, scenery and costumes and tells a story. However like opera it makes use of solo songs, duets, ensembles and choruses to express the emotion of the words and is accompanied by instruments, usually an orchestra. There are some differences between musicals and opera. Spoken dialogue is used more frequently in musicals than in opera, as well as dancing. Musicals are often influenced by popular music styles such as rock, blues or jazz and use electric guitars, keyboards and amplifiers to boost the volume of the singers and instruments. An opera is usually sung in a language in which it was composed by professionally trained singers. However a musical is more often sung in the language of its audience and the singers are actors first, rather than professionally trained singers.

Music theatre is big business. Theatres in major cities such as London and New York, offer a wide range of musicals, ranging from established classics such as The Phantom of the Opera – Andrew Lloyd and Les Miserables – Claude-Michael Schonberg to productions of brand new musicals.

Film Music

Music is often used to accompany a scene in a film. In the early 20th Century when films had no sound, a piano player improvised music to fit what was happening on the screen. Music is powerful and is used in a film to enhance the mood or drama of a particular scene or to create the right mood for music that is about to happen. Like opera, which often starts with an overture films often begin with an opening piece of music set against the titles to help capture the audience’s attention and set the right mood.

Like most music composed for a specific occasion or event, film music often makes use of conventions. These are musical devices and features that listeners associate with something extra-musical (outside of the music) and can be used by composers to create a particular context in the music. For example, music for Western films often includes a harmonica, train whistle sounds, or “galloping” rhythms, because these instruments or musical devices are associated with the “Wild West” and using them helps the composer create the right mood and context.

A leitmotif is a memorable and distinctive theme or musical idea that is used throughout a piece to represent a person, object, idea or emotion. It is a musical “tag” that helps the audience establish a link with a character or object in a film and can even be played when the character or object is not actually on screen, suggesting some link between what is happening and the character. A leitmotif can be changed in some way to create a different mood or situation affecting the character or object. This device is used in opera in much the same way.

Pop Music of the C20th and C21st

Popular music of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

This strand of music includes the following types of music:

  • Blues
  • Popular music of the 1960s, R ‘n’ B, (Rhythm and Blues) and hip hop
  • Rock music
  • Music theatre
  • Film music

The term popular music (pop music) is used to describe any style of music which is not classical or serious music. It’s music that has been composed to appeal to the wider population who have little or no music training or knowledge.

In order to appeal pop music has catchy melodies, riffs, a strong bass line, a memorable structure that is not too long and a typical combination of instruments. Repetition is a major factor in making the music easy to remember. Popular pieces are usually quite short often lasting less than five minutes. (Some classical pieces can take a few hours to perform!)

The Blues

Blues music started in southern slave areas of America during the 19th Century and was a kind of folk music that expressed the feelings and fears of African-Americans, and the conditions in which they lived. Later blues music spread to the cities and became associated with the poor, unfortunate, homeless and sometimes unfortunate in love. Blues music is raw, full of emotion, typical of its humble roots. Originally blues music was performed by an instrument that could provide simple harmony such as a banjo, guitar or piano.

12 bar blues

The 12 bar blues forms the basic structure upon which blues pieces are composed and performed. It is based on a pattern using three different chords with a steady four beats to each bar. In a major scale chords built on the first, fourth and fifth notes of the scale (I,IV,V) are called primary chords and are all major chords. They are called Primary chords because between them they include the notes of the scale.

In a 12 bar blues structure these chords are played in a set order. Here is a blues in C, the slashes indicate that each chord is played four times in each bar.

C / / / C / / / C / / / C / / /

F / / / F / / / C / / / C / / /

G / / / F / / / C / / / C / / /

Once you know the order of the chords you can work out a 12 bar blues chord scheme in any key. Use the space below to work out a 12 bar blues chord sequence in G major.

_ / / / _ / / / _ / / / _/ / /

_ / / / _ / / / _ / / / _ / / /

_ / / / _ / / / _ / / / _ / / /

The 12 bar blues is repeated for each verse. Repetition is an important feature of popular music because it meant that untrained composers and performers could quickly and easily learn music and then improvise over the basic structure.

Blue Notes:

A melodic feature of blues is its use of blue notes. These are chromatic notes, usually flats (lowered by a semitone).

When added to the melody the blue notes add a biter quality, particularly when they clash, or are dissonant with the harmony.


Blues music has a steady four beat rhythm. However this does not mean every note has to be a crotchet. A characteristic of blues music is the use of syncopation which gives the music a spiky off beat feel to the music.

Instrumental and vocal techniques:

Blues lyrics are expressive and emotional. They tell of hardship and bad luck. To add expression to the music singers and instrumentalists often slide between a blue note and an ordinary note of the scale. They also often added vibrato which gives the notes a trembling more emotional sound.

Blues became the inspiration for many other popular music styles, whether in their use of structure, chords, melodic features, metre and rhythm, or through performers being inspired by the performance techniques of blues singers and players.

Rhythm ‘n’ Blues:

During the 1960s pop musicians developed musical styles that first started in the 1950s. Two important styles that had a major impact on popular music during the 1960s were rhythm ‘n’ blues and rock ‘n’ roll. Rhythm ‘n’ blues had developed in the clubs and dance halls of American cities such as Chicago. It mixed the strong vocal style and harmony of gospel music with city blues instruments such as electric guitars with amplifiers. Although it was based on the 12 bar blues structure, rhythm ‘n’ blues was often faster, louder and had tighter rhythms.

Rock ‘n’ Roll:

Rock ‘n’ Roll was also a mixture or fusion of two popular music styles: rhythm ‘n’ blues and country & western music. Fast, loud and using energetic syncopated rhythms, rock ‘n’ roll was one of the most important popular music styles to emerge during the 1950s. It became a craze amongst teenagers for the way the lyrics challenged adult authority. Many of its performers became pop legends such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard. The songs such as “Jailhouse Rock”, Blue Suede Shoes” and “Tutti Futti” became modern classics.

Rock ‘n’ Roll helped establish the typical pop music instrumental combination of lead and rhythm guitars, bass guitar and drum kit.

Gospel and Soul:

Gospel music has its roots in African-American church services, where it developed from religious songs called spirituals. Performed by choirs or groups of singers, gospel music combines the harmonic style of European hymn tunes with call and response patterns and syncopated rhythms from West African music and melodic features of blue music (blue notes). Gospel can be very energetic but its main features are:

  • A powerful solo singer who often improvises over the choir
  • The use of melisma - this extends certain words to make them more important, or repeating a syllable a number if times with gaps in between (e.g. ‘Swee-ee-ee-eet Jesus’)
  • Sliding into a note from a higher or lower pitch
  • A fervent emotional quality achieved by sobbing or shouting
  • Sophisticated vocal arrangements with strong harmonies

Gospel singing is often accompanied by a keyboard (typically piano or electric organ), drum kit and bass guitar.

Soul music is a mix of rhythm ‘n’ blues and gospel music. The use of saxophones, brass, electric guitars, drums and amplifiers are an influence of rhythm ‘n’ blues, while the vocal style and the addition of an electric organ come from gospel music. In Soul music, the religious words of the gospel are replaced by lyrics about human relationships, heartbreak and love, but the vocal style is the same as Gospel.

Pop Ballads:

Ballads have always been a popular form of son, found quite often in folk music. A ballad is usually a solo song with a fairly slow tempo, a memorable tune with romantic or sentimental lyrics. Ballads often tell a story, so the style is usually simple and direct. Many ballads are in strophic form with the same music accompanying different verses.

Folk influenced music:

Folk music is a term usually associated with the traditional vocal and instrumental music of a particular country. Its composers are often unknown and it is music that was originally created and performed by ordinary people. Folk music often provides some sort of social comment and during the 1960s singers such as Bob Dylan wrote and performed music in a simple folk style which dealt with issues such as the war in Vietnam, civil rights and the nuclear arms race, which concerned many young people at the time. Bob Dylan’s music influenced students to form protest groups and rally to change the issues that he sang about. Bob Dylan usually performed his music in a simple, traditional way with an acoustic guitar and harmonica. He shocked his fans by performing in 1965 on an electric guitar with amplifiers although his fans were horrified and said he’d ‘sold out’ he did start a new style of music- folk rock.

Popular Song Format:
Popular song is usually 32 bars long. The 32 bars are divided into four sections, each of eight bars. The first two sections and the last section all use the same melody. The third section, however, has a different melody and may be in a different key, so that the overall plan is:


The B Sections is sometimes called the middle eight and many pop songs in the 1960s are based on this popular song form.

AoS 3: Texture and Melody

AoS 3: Texture and melody


Texture describes how much is going on in the music at any one time. It is about the different ways instruments and voices are combined in a piece of music.

You will need to recognise the following textures:

Tick below when you are happy with your understanding of these key words:

Harmonic/homophonic, polyphonic/contrapuntal

Broken chords

Imitative, canonic, layered

Unison, octaves, single melody line, melody with accompaniment, antiphonal


These two words mean the same thing - a texture which is essentially chordal. It may also be used to describe a melody with accompaniment. Since the melody line is most important it is usually at the top of the texture.

Broken Chords:

A broken chord is when you play the notes of the chord separately one after another. Broken chord patterns provide a more gentle, flowing accompaniment to a melody than when the chord notes are played together.


These two words also mean the same thing. A polyphonic/contrapuntal texture consists of weaving together two or more equally important melodic lines which fit together harmonically. A polyphonic/contrapuntal texture typically sounds busy.

Imitative, canonic:

To imitate means to copy and this is exactly what happens in the music. One vocal or instrumental part starts off playing a melody, which is immediately copied, or imitated by another voice or instrumental part, though not necessarily at the same pitch. Usually it is only the first few notes of the melody which are imitated and several voices or instrumental parts may take turns to imitate the opening of the original melody.

A canon is a particular type of imitation. It is like a round, where the imitating voice or instrumental part repeats the entire melody, not just the opening. Just as in a round, several voices or instrumental parts might be involved in the canon.

Layered Texture:

This means that the music is made up of different layers of sound which are all important in adding to the rich texture of the music. These could be different rhythmic as well as melodic musical lines. Layered texture is a feature of African music as well as gamelan and modern music.

Unison, octaves, single line melody:

Unison is all the instruments or voices playing or singing notes at the same pitch. If the instruments or parts play or sing notes an octave apart, this is called octaves. To be in unison, the notes must be at the same pitch.

A single line melody is an example of a monophonic texture. As the name suggests, this is a single melody line without any harmonies, although it may be played by more than one instrument or voice.


This is a special kind of imitation where a musical phrase is passed between different groups of voices or instruments. In some antiphonal music the instruments or voices are placed in different parts of the building, or on different sides of a concert platform. This produces a kind of stereo or quadraphonic effect as a musical phrase is passed from one group to another.

AoS 3: Texture and melody


A melody is a rhythmically organised pattern of single note arranged in succession, one after the other. In a melody the notes are arranged horizontally, whereas in harmony they are arranged vertically.

You will need to learn the following key words:

Tick below when you are happy with your understanding of these key words:

Intervals within the octave

Conjunct, disjunct, triadic, scalic, arpeggio

Passing notes, acciaccaturas, appoggiaturas

Blue notes

Diatonic, chromatic, pentatonic, whole tone, modal

Augmentation, diminution, sequence, inversion

Slide/glissando/portamento, ornamentation

Ostinato, Riff

Phrasing, articulation

Pitch bend


Intervals within the octave

We know already that names are given to the different notes, called the degrees of a scale (harmony notes).

The distance in pitch between two different notes in a scale is called an interval. The two notes may be sounded together, or one after the other. An interval is identified by counting the distance in pitch between the two notes. This includes counting the bottom and top notes, and the number of lines and spaces between them. For example, the distance between the notes C and G is a 5th, as the interval covers the notes C,D,E,F and G.

Intervals within the Octave:

Conjunct, disjunct, triadic, scalic, arpeggio:

These are all different kinds of melodic note patterns. Conjunct means that the notes in the melody move mainly by step: in other words they are mostly next to each other in pitch. A disjunct melody moves mainly by leaps – wide intervals between the notes. A triadic melody begins by using notes that belong to a triad – three note chord, which is usually the tonic chord which helps us work out what key we are in. A scalic melody is made up of notes that follow the order of a particular scale.

An arpeggio is a type of broken chord, where the notes are played one after the other either going up (ascending) or going down (descending. Arpeggios can be both a melodic and harmonic feature.

Passing notes, acciaccaturas, appoggiaturas:

A passing note is a note in a melody that connects two notes that are part of the harmony. For example, in a melody you might have the C followed by the E: these two notes re recognisable as part of the chord of C major. To smooth out the melodic line between these notes, the note D might be added in between them. This note does not belong to the chord of C major but is a passing note, since it ‘passes’ between the two ‘harmony’ notes. Passing notes usually, but not always, occur on weak beats. For example:

The acciaccatura and appoggiatura are ornaments and they are used to decorate or embellish a note in some way. They are often written as very small notes in the printed music- see below. It is played a tone or a semitone above or below the melody note is it decorating. It is sometimes called a ‘crushed’ note because it is played very quickly before the melody note. An appoggiatura looks similar to an acciaccatura but without the line through it.

Blue notes:

These are special notes which are used in blues music. In the melody some notes are played a semitone lower. For example: is a melody is based on the notes of the chord of C major –C,E,G- the melody might change the note E to Eb. The scale of C major, with blue notes is like this:

When blue notes appear in the melody, blues performers often ‘slide’ from one to the other.

Diatonic, chromatic, pentatonic, whole tone, modal:

These terms can be all used to describe a melody. Remember that we have looked already at Diatonic, chromatic and modal in the harmony section.

Pentatonic scales have five different pitches within the octave. Their characteristic sound is often heard in Celtic folk melodies, and those of Africa and East Asia.

A whole tone scale consists of exactly what it describes – whole tones. Unlike a major or minor scale, there are no semitones. Here is a whole tone scale starting on C:

Augmentation, diminution, sequence, inversion:

Augmentation and diminution were covered in the notes on rhythm and metre.

A sequence is where a melodic phrase is immediately repeated at a different pitch, often by step. If the sequence gets higher in pitch it is called an ascending sequence. Alternatively the pitch may get progressively lower, in which case it is a ‘descending sequence’.

An inversion is where a tune is turned ‘upside down’ so that the intervals between the notes which rise in the original version now fall, and vice versa.


These terms describe the same melodic device: sliding from on note to another. On some instruments, for instance piano or harp, it means playing all the notes in between, by sliding the fingers quickly over the keys or strings.


Ornamentation is the decoration or embellishment of the melodic line. As well as the acciaccatura and appoggiatura discussed earlier, some of the most common ornaments are the trill, the turn, and the mordent.

Ostinato, riff:

An ostinato is a short rhythmic or melodic phrase or pattern that is repeated. Riff means the same thing but is usually used when describing pop music.

Phrasing, Articulation:

These concern the way music is performed:

Legato: the notes of the melody should be played smoothly.

Staccato: the notes should be played short and detached. This is indicated by dots above or below the note heads.

Slur: a curved line over a passage of music indicates that it should be played in a smooth, unbroken legato style.

Sfozando: a sudden strong accent in the music. It is shown by the sign sfz.

Pitch bend:

This is when a note is raised or lowered in pitch slightly. This is often used in guitar technique, although it can be produced on any string instrument, vocally or on a synthesiser, for example.


This is where a musician invents new musical ideas on the spot during a performance. It is a feature of Jazz and Indian classical music. When improvising, performers often develop features of the music such as chord patterns, rhythms and melodic phrases. Improvisations display the performer’s virtuoso skills by being fast or technically difficult.