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Music Lovers - Meet The Four Elements That Make Up Music

Updated on January 9, 2013

Introducing my 4 important friends...

I would like to introduce you to 4 very important friends of mine. Melody, harmony, rythym and timbre. These 4 friends are the basic elements that make up my favorite subject - music. They are also friends to musicians, composers, educators and singers.

Although each of these elements have a specific job and play a different role, each one is necessary in the formation and texture of music.

But only one element can survive all by itself and that is rythym. Allow me to explain my claim.

Melody, harmony and timbre have no beginning and no end without rythym. But rythym can stand alone as "the beat" directs the human heart as well as the human feet, mind and hands.

Therefore, the study and understanding of rythym is crucial to the instrumentalist. I say, it is the "heart beat" of music itself. It is as important to music as the human heart is to life itself.

But after listening to nothing but raw rythym long enough, a little something more is needed to hold our interest.

Melody, Though Art Beautiful...

Allow the word "melody" to melt in your mouth. Soften the "d" sound and do it again. Place your tongue a little further back against the hard palate, behind the teeth. This time, linger on the "m" consonant as though you are humming. Do this several times until the entire word "floats". The very word, melody, is a beautiful word.

Melody, moves up and down, sometimes repeating in pitch variation. I like to think of melody as the dressing on the rythym. Melody's function is to release emotion and support lyrics when necessary. Melody is derived from scales and modes.

The children and off spring of melody are pitch, duration, dynamics and timbre.

Melody will often invite a few friends along to join in the fun of making music.

Hello Harmony...

Harmony is related to a variety of pitches. These pitches usually occur together, at the same time, adding a whole different sound to the melody. When listening to music, we either hear one melody note at a time, or we hear 2 or more notes sounded simultaneously (harmony).

The most significant harmony is a chord. A chord consists of 2 or more musical sounds played together. In choir music, the 4-note chord is used most of the time. The terms bass, tenor, alto and soprano determine which of these 4 notes a person will sing.

The Mormom Tabernacle Choir is one of the most famous Choirs in the world for singing beautiful, resounding chords. I have attended a live concert and I can tell you, it is an experience never to be duplicated.

And who doesn't love a good Barbershop Quartet? The videos below demonstrate 4 part harmony. I have purposefully chosen the following video of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir so that the listener can concentrate on the harmonies of the voices and not be distracted by visual components. Listen and enjoy.

Awe Inspiring

Timbre - Say What?

The quality of musical sound is determined by tone color or timbre, (pronounced tam-bor). Another meaning of timbre is identifying the difference between tones played on a guitar and those same tones played on a piano, or different instrument.

A variety of words are used to describe timbre. To help you get the idea, here is a simple list of words commonly used to describe either timbre or tone quality. There are more words of course, but let's begin with these.

  • Brassy
  • Clear
  • Breathy
  • Rounded
  • Reedy

  • Mellow
  • Warm
  • Flat
  • Bright
  • Dark
  • Rich
  • Resonant
  • Light
  • Heavy
  • Piercing

So, there you have it. I hope this helps.

Amazing Harmony


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    • Reginald Thomas profile image

      Reginald Thomas 

      3 years ago from Connecticut

      Hi Audrey

      Very nice article. I liked how you got into Melody, Harmony and Timbre through Rhythm. And I loved your videos. Great choices. The quartet was fantastic! Nice job.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      8 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hyphenbird - So glad to see you here and love your comments. The very fact that you love music is another way to be musical. You are a treasure!

      Fiddleman - I'm thrilled to find you here and thanks for your comment. I know that you know something about these for elements:)

      mcbirdbks - I thank you so much, my friend for the generous way you support my hubs. You always "find" the passion I write with. I like that. One-in-a-million ~ that's you!

    • CountryCityWoman profile image


      9 years ago from From New York City to North Carolina

      Such great tips. Yet another super hub to bookmark. Yay! And rated way up.

      Thanks a million!

    • Neil Sperling profile image

      Neil Sperling 

      9 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

      great hub -- that lucky old sun has nothing to do but roam around heaven all day.. :-)

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      9 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Will - Nothing better than barbershop for an example of pure harmony. This group I found to be the best after searching you tube for an hour. Really glad you liked this. Always grateful for your support and comments, my good friend. :)

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      9 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Prasetio - Music is the biggest part of me and I love sharing interesting information. Because you are a teacher, you can relate to all the years of study and sacrifice to gain entrance into the mysteries of music.

      Thank you dear friend for your constant support. :)

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      9 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      carcro - As you say - "telling the story" is the biggest responsibility of good musicianship. Thank you for commenting.

    • gracenotes profile image


      9 years ago from North Texas

      The title and opening paragraph of this hub are great. Voted up!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      9 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Dear, vocalcoach. You never cease to amaze me with your talent in music world. I always learn from you. I also love the video above. Well done, my friend. Vote up!


    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      9 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      always exploring - Music can alter a persons mood, heal, inspire and bring peace to a troubled soul. Music can even be heard through nature if we listen close. Thank you for being "music" to me.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      9 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great information for any musician and awesome examples!

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 

      9 years ago from Winnipeg

      Really interesting! I never heard of the term timbre before. Definitely aware of how important tone variations are, the difference between an artist and just your average "joe" is that the artist's music will tell a story in itself. Thanks for sharing this very interesting hub!

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Your love of music is so evident in this wonderful hub. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir are inspirational.

      Thank you for sharing a fabulous hub.

    • Lorne Hemmerling profile image

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      9 years ago from Oshawa

      I stand corrected. Your spelling of rhythm is in the Urban Dictionary. In the words of Johnny Carson: 'I did not know that'. Keep up the great work, my friend!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      9 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Wonderful!! The music thrills my soul. Thank you.....

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      9 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Well you've got rhythm and all that!

      I love how you explained this....especially Melody - I bet everyone tried to say it beautifully at least once:)!!!

    • Cloverleaf profile image


      9 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Vocalcoach, your love of music is very inspiring. Congrats on an excellent hub - voted up!


    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      9 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Love the videos!

    • Chatkath profile image


      9 years ago from California

      Hello my friend - It seems like awhile since I have seen you Audrey so I am pleased that you did this glorious hub! Who better to explain music to our ears and how it fills our hearts with joy, a word synonymous with Audrey.

      I have been busy moving so haven't been doing much writing lately! Forces me to downsize and get rid of many things that are clearly "excess baggage" at this point.

      Great Hub - Up, awesome, useful, beautiful - just like you! Talk soon!

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      9 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      I Quite Thoroughly Enjoyed The Timbre Of This Informative Hub Vocalcoach.;)

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      9 years ago from south Florida

      Your love of music, Audrey, shines through every interesting word you have written. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. And for sharing those videos. Awesome!

    • Ruchira profile image


      9 years ago from United States

      your passion of music speaks volumes here vocalcoach :) loved the indepth information here.

      Voted up!

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      9 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Your passion rings out in this Hub vocal coach. Your presentation is heartwarming. What a treat to be here! Sine Hypen confessed, I will also admit to being musically challenged.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      9 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      This is not a Hub. It is a tutorial on music and is wonderful. The videos are great and even a music challenged person like me can understand and love it. I have always wish I had the gift of music, I love it so much.

    • Lorne Hemmerling profile image

      Lorne Hemmerling 

      9 years ago from Oshawa

      Excellent hub.....but it always surprises me how many musicians spell rhythm wrong. It is tricky. Nonetheless, great work!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub vocalcoach.

    • WillStarr profile image


      9 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      What a quartet! Wow!

      Great, informative Hub.


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