Understanding musical scores
Understanding musical scores

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Understanding musical scores

2.2 Melody and harmony

Figure 3

The ‘tema’ or theme of this set of variations gives us a very simple presentation of the tune and an accompaniment. Hopefully, you will have been able to follow the treble clef part quite easily having practised doing this last week. Now, the problem with following two lines of music at once is that usually they are not the same, especially when that music is for piano. So, let’s take a closer look at how this works.

Sometimes when trying to follow a piece of music, with or without a score, we need our ears to tell us which part of the music is the melody and which part is less important or accompanying. The melody is usually in the right hand or upper staff and the accompaniment in the left hand or lower staff. The ‘tema’ uses an accompaniment that is a single line of music that, on its own, is quite simple to follow. Put it together with the melody and you can see that the notes are vertically aligned with the treble clef part, showing that they both move at the same speed – and the pitches of the two lines sound good together, or in other words, they are in harmony. With two lines of music that move at the same speed like this, your eye can keep pace with both together.

Can you think of types of music where the melody and accompaniment move together at exactly the same pace?


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371