Melody vs Harmony | Difference Between Harmony and Melody

Melody vs Harmony

Melody and harmony are two words commonly used when referring to music that are generally accepted in similar senses. There are many that equate melody to harmony. There is of course difference between melody and harmony when it comes to their application in the field of music.

 What is Melody?

A melody can be defined as the linear succession of musical notes and tones and is a combination of pitch and rhythm. Melody can be foreground to the background accompaniment and can also include successions of other musical elements such as tonal colour.

 Melodies can be repeated multiple times throughout a single composition in various forms and consist of one or more musical motifs or phrases. Different music styles utilize melodies in different ways. For example, folk or other forms of melodic music tend to pick one of two melodies and stick with them while Classical music often has several melodic layers referred to as polyphony.                                          

What is Harmony?

Harmony as defined in music can be described to as the use of simultaneous tones, notes or chords and is referred to as the ‘vertical’ aspect of music. It includes the construction of chords as well as chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmonization requires a balance between consonant and dissonant sounds, in other words, a fine balance between “tense” and “relaxed” moments in music. The concept of harmony is mostly used in Western or European based music while South Asian art music such as Hindustani or Carnatic music places very little emphasis on the aspect of harmony. 

What is the difference between Melody and Harmony?

• Melody is the linear succession of musical notes and tones and is a combination of pitch and rhythm. Harmony is the use of simultaneous tones, notes or chords.

• When listening to a song, melody is what captures one’s attention first. Harmony complements melody.

• Harmony is defined as the vertical aspect of music whereas the melodic line is described as the horizontal aspect.

• Melody can exist without harmony. However, harmony needs a melody.

• Melody incorporates shape, range, and movement. Harmony, rather than incorporating several aspects, is created by different standards. They are either subordinate or coordinate.

• Harmony is mostly used in Western and European music. South Asian music does not put a lot of important to harmony. However, melody is important to both. 

Judging by these differences, it is easy to see that harmony and melody together indeed create a great piece of music. However, harmony complements melody while melody makes up the main part of a musical piece, giving it meaning and depth. 

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