Beginner Primer Guitar course
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Segment 2

Melody, harmony & rhythm

In this lesson, we are going to learn about the main three elements which form music - Melody, harmony and rhythm.
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Contents of the lesson
What is a Melody ?
What is Harmony ?
Understanding Rhythm
Audio Examples
Reference
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What is a Melody ?
A melody is a collection of musical tones that are grouped together as a single entity. Most compositions consist of multiple melodies working in conjunction with one another. In a rock band, the vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist, and bassist are all playing melodies on their respective instruments. Even the drummer is playing one.
The melody in a piece of music consists of two primary components:
Pitch. This refers to the actual audio vibration produced by an instrument. These pitches are arranged as a series of notes with names like C4 or D#5.
Duration. The definition of melody also includes the duration of time that each pitch will sound. These durations are divided into lengths such as whole notes, half notes, quarter-note triplets, and more.
What is Harmony ?
Harmony, in music, the sound of two or more notes heard simultaneously. In practice, this broad definition can also include some instances of notes sounding one after the other. If the consecutively sounded notes call to mind the notes of a familiar chord (a group of notes sounded together), the ear creates its own simultaneity in the same way that the eye perceives movement in a motion picture. In such cases the ear perceives the harmony that would result if the notes had sounded together. In a narrower sense, harmony refers to the extensively developed system of chords and the rules that allow or forbid relations between chords that characterises Western music.
Understanding Rhythm
The term “rhythm” has more than one meaning. It can mean the basic, repetitive pulse of the music, or a rhythmic pattern that is repeated throughout the music (as in “feel the rhythm”). It can also refer to the pattern in time of a single small group of notes (as in “play this rhythm for me”).
The rhythm section of a band is the group of instruments that usually provide the background rhythm and chords. The rhythm section almost always includes a percussionist (usually on a drum set) and a bass player (usually playing a plucked string bass of some kind). It may also include a piano and/or other keyboard players, more percussionists, and one or more guitar players or other strummed or plucked strings. Vocalists, wind instruments, and bowed strings are usually not part of the rhythm section.

Audio Example
Let’s take this song “In my place” by Coldplay as an example and try to segregate it into melody, rhythm and harmony sections.
Coldplay performing live
Here is how the actual song goes:

Let’s split the song into melodic, harmonic and rhythmic layers and analyse how different instruments and playing style add up.
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Melodic layers -
Harmonic layers -
Rhythmic layers -
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Electric guitar lines
Vocal lines
Electric guitar chord voicings & fills
Backing vocal harmonies
String arrangement
Bass guitar lines
Organ lines
Drum grooves & fills
Guitar chord strumming patterns
Bass guitar groove
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Melody
In this song, vocal and guitar lines define the melody throughout
Electric guitar lines - You can hear the guitar melody of the song, that is continued throughout the song and is one of the main signature melodies of this song.
Vocal lines - As the intro guitar melody ends you can hear the vocals coming in the verse and carrying on through the song.
Harmony
You can hear a lot of instruments like Bass, Strings , Keys which altogether are now playing the harmony of the song.
Electric guitar chord voicing & fills - You can hear the guitars shift into a softer chord pattern as the vocals enter and add fills until it goes back to the signature melody line.
Backing vocal harmonies - The backing vocals come in the Chorus to give the song a lift and add to the harmony.
String arrangement - The strings section in this song carry on playing the harmony throughout the intro, verse and chorus. By adding one note to the harmony by each player the strings sound like huge chords when the whole string section plays together.
Bass guitar lines - The Bass can be heard playing steady root notes and occasional fills to support the chords played by the guitar and organ and string section giving a sense of root and grounding the harmony.
Organ lines - The timber of the organ gives the song a particular vibe to it and the organ can also be heard throughout the song playing the harmony most prominently in the verse where it accompanies the vocals through the verse and going into the chorus where the other instruments join in as well.
Rhythm
You can hear the rhythm of the song prominently being played on the drums and other instruments and you can try to tap your foot to keep a beat with the song.
Drum grooves & fills - The drum groove is a key part of this song, as it start’s of the song going into the intro. The groove you hear is a 4/4 groove played on drums with a very simple beat pattern.
Guitar chord strumming patterns - The guitar chords follow the drums groove in 4/4 and add some accents to make the groove more interesting.
Bass guitar groove - The bass has a job here of holding the tight groover through the song with the root notes being prominently highlighted with small bass fills in between to make the song more intricate.

Here you can listen to the same songs but now you can only hear the melody, harmony & rhythm that are being played by the guitar.
At last now all these three sections come together to complete the song. Try to identify the three distinctive parts of the song(Melody , Harmony, Rhythm) while you listen to it.
Activity 1
Now you can try to choose a song that you like and try to dissect the parts of it by yourself,
Try to write down the different components that you hear in the song in the box given below :-
Name of the song -
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Melody
Harmony
Rhythm
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Activity 2
Train your ear by listening to the songs below which have been separated into
3 parts - melody, harmony and rhythm. Instruments mentioned below for each song:-
Name of the songs -
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Melody
Harmony
Rhythm
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Activity 3
Recognise all the instruments present in the audio file
Options are Electric guitar, Drums, Percussion, Piano, Organ, Strings, Violin, Bass guitar, Backing vocals, Lead vocals
Activity 4
Listen to the audio and recognise which drum groove belongs to the following songs mentioned below:-
Options are -
Reference

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