1.5 Melodic boundaries: range
The interval or distance between two pitches may be narrow or wide. In analysing a melody, we might be interested in examining the distance between the very lowest and the very highest pitches of a melody, to discover its range. This may tell us something about the nature of melody: its range may be restricted and described as a narrow range; or the melody may be described as having a wide range with a large distance between the melody’s highest and lowest notes.
Listen to the following audio extracts and follow the melodic contour, trying to pick out the lowest and highest pitches of the melody. Use this to decide whether the melody has a narrow or a wide range. Think about what effect this has on the character of the melody.
Audio 7 featuring rap artist Roots Manuva had a rhythmically chanted vocal delivery with a narrow range. The delivery was forceful, restless and contemplative and the narrow range helped to keep the focus on the lyrics. Audio 15 could also be described contemplative, as an Indian classical courtship song. However, this had a wide range, with the singer Nina Burmi notably marketed as having a wide vocal range. Audio 16 also made use of a wide range, but this time within a piece for violin, written to demonstrate the capabilities of the player and instrument. Finally, Audio 17 had a narrow range which complimented the quiet, almost whispered vocals of singer Stina Nordenstam. As such, a large vocal range would seem out of place in this music, however, it makes an interesting contrast with the impassioned vocals of Roots Manuva which also had a narrow range.
Different genres of music might adopt particular approaches to melodic range depending on various factors. For example, melodies written for an instrument might have a wider range than those in a song because of the limitations of the human voice. The range of vocal music may vary depending on the genre. An operatic song, for example, will have a much wider range than a rap.