C7b. Melodic Decoration and Pedals
Grade Six Music Theory, Lesson 7b. Melodic Decoration & Pedals
Apart from ornaments, melodies can also be “decorated” in other ways. Basically this means using notes which don’t exist as part of the supporting chord at that moment in time. If the harmony has a chord of G major, for example, and the melody has an A, the A is a “non-chord” tone and is there for decorative purposes.
Think of it like this: if the A wasn’t there, the underlying harmony would be unchanged. If composers didn’t decorate their melodies with non-chord tones, music would be rather boring.
Melodic decoration is covered in depth in the Harmony section of this course. Here is a list of the types of melodic decoration that you might have to spot in a score:
- Passing note – accented or unaccented, harmonic or chromatic
- Auxiliary note – accented or unaccented, harmonic or chromatic
- Changing note
A pedal is a note which is repeated or held for some time, while the chord above changes. For example, a tonic pedal might be found in the bass, while the chords in the higher parts change from tonic to supertonic to dominant:
The C in the bass clef is the pedal:
- Pedals are also often found on the dominant.
- Pedals can be inverted. Usually a pedal is found in the bass, but sometimes it can be found in a higher part, in which case it is an “inverted pedal”.
- Pedals can be sustained. A sustained pedal is a long held note. An unsustained pedal is a repeated note. In the example above, the pedal is not sustained. If we replaced the four crotchets with a semibreve, it would be sustained.