Composing Music Part 2 – Exploring Melody and Scales


Amongst the most ancient melodies known is the Entrance Hymn for the Emperor (Circa 1000BC) which was part of the time-honoured Chinese course ceremonial. Written in the Pentatonic scale it has a percussion accompaniment.

The Ambrosian Hymn – the highest note is only heard once. A beautifully balanced melodic line.

The First Delphic Hymn – is the earliest known Greek music. A pain to the god Apollo, it probably won a prize not he Pythian festival, which is why it came to be engraved on stones found in Delphi. Largely a pentatonic scale.

St Godric was the earliest known lyrical poet in the English language. He was never officially canonised – here is more information about him Godric of Finchale

Contour, peak points, glancing and reflecting phrases in melodic lines from the distant past can be found in all the best melodies of recent times too. eh Tchaikovsky.

Dynamic play a very important part in the impact and character of a piece. This is the same for melodic lines

A five note scale has been used since antiquity and occurs in traditional music throughout the world.Auld Lang Syne uses this scale. More recent composers and pop musicians have made innovative uses of its tonally indeterminate qualities.

Project 5 – Pentatonic Melody

The composition of three contrasting pentatonic melodic shapes designed as vocal lines for a male or female voice. Use dynamics, tempo and rhythmic interest to make them a contrasting group of solos. As you are exploring a melody there is no need for bar lines

So I found this quite an easyish task, however I couldn’t really work on Sibelius without the bar lines but what I have done I am pleased with. I made two pentatonic scales of their own and then I made a third combining two pentatonics. There is a lovely feel to this scale. I found it pleasant to listen to.

Simple melody using the C Major pentatonic scale
Audio version
Simple melody using A major pentatonic
Audio version
Simple melody using A major and B major pentatonic
Audio version

Introducing Wind Instruments

Wind instruments and their ranges


Range of the Flute

The flute is agile and expressive. The lowest part of the register is warm and rich but can be lost if combined with other instruments. In the higher range it is strong and strident. The higher notes are difficult to produce softly.

  • Agile and expressive
  • Lowest part of the register is warm and rich but can be lost combined with other instruments
  • above this the flute is strong and strident
  • Higher notes are difficult to produce softly


The range of the many different recorders
  • Treble is the most commonly used
  • Higher descant (soprano in the USA) sounds an octave higher
  • Tenor is the same as descant but sounds an octave lower
  • Bass is the same range as the treble but sounds an octave lower
  • Rarely combines well with anything more than a light keyboard or small string ensemble

Range of the Oboe
  • Double reed instrument
  • strong nasal tone penetrating in lower register
  • expressive qualities
  • Can be agile
  • Not an even match for the flute but good players can balance it
Range of the clarinet
  • A range of almost 4 octaves – widest in the section
  • most agile
  • greatest dynamic range
  • Can play most notes in its range from ppp to fff (ppp at the very top)
  • colour difference between upper and lower ranges
  • lower range of 1 1/2 octaves produces a rich, hollow oily colour
  • Transposing instrument
  • Clarinet in Flat is written a tone higher than it sounds
  • Clarinet in A is a major 3rd higher
  • A single reed instrument
Range of the saxophone
  • Shares a similarity with the recorder
  • Several sizes which are all transposing instruments
  • Soprano, Tenor and Bass in Bflat transposes a major second down
  • Alto and Baritone in Eflat transpose a minor 3rd up
  • Tenor and baritone sound an octave lower than the soprano and alto
  • Bass sounds two octaves lower
Range of the Bassoon
  • Shares characterises with the obow
  • Agility gives it an unfair name of “clown of the orchestra”
  • Quiet and expressive side to its personaliy
Project 6: Analysing a Solo Composition

Paul Hindemith -Acht Stücke für Flöte allein

All eight parts in this composition have the following in common things in common

  • No key signature
  • Extensive use of dynamics
  • use of staccato notes
  • use of accented notes
  • different performance directions for each part
  • Considerable use of slurs

Where each part differs is in the time signatures, some have them and some don’t but each time signature is different and some do change mid part. Whilst each part has no key signature, the extensive use of sharps and flats coupled with the performance directions and dynamics make each part unique. There seems to be some freedom for the flautist to play freely here and there (Frei) and the piece as a whole has expression. I feel a sense of warmth listening to this, the eight parts flow into one another and make for a pleasurable overall listening experience.

Igor Stravinsky – Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo

The three pieces all have the following things in common

  • No key signature
  • grace notes
  • minimal dynamic markings
  • strict performance directions on each piece
  • Considerable use of slurs
  • Strict metronome markings for each piece
  • Breath markings that the composer states must be adhered to

In the three parts each has a distinctive look, feel and sound with two pieces played on the A Clarinet and one in Flat. Two pieces have variable metre, but these do not seem to be in any pattern that I can discern. The three pieces sound so different from one another. Piece one is slow and quiet using crotchets and semiquavers, piece two is very very intense. It uses the practically the whole of the clarinet range which makes for an interesting variation but the use of Demi semi quavers, semi quavers and staccato make this piece extremely fast sounding. No time signature means that the clarinetist can play this rapidly but of course they have to adhere to the breath symbols or the piece will not sound right as they lose breath. Putting in a rest would not have the same effect.

Piece three is different again with its variable metre and being played on clarinet B flat. This piece is loud and lets you know about it, as you are indicated to play forte from the beginning and it gradually gets louder with lots of accented and staccato notes which I found very difficult to follow at first and had to have a few listens to get this right.

With all the pieces having no time signature then the combination of sharps, flats and accidentals make for interesting listening.

Overall thoughts

I found the Hindemith piece more interesting to listen to, I enjoyed it much more as it seemed to say more to me. Stravinsky seems too rushed and devoid it seems of some emotion with its limited dynamic markings.

Exploring more scales

This scale like the pentatonic can appear to have no resting place or final note. Melodic lines begin and end on any one of its component notes. This produces a floating, never ending quality to melodic lines built within it.

Rimsky- Korsakov was amongst the first composers in the western classical tradition to explore the so called Middle-Eastern alternation of whole tone and semitone steps, resulting in the 8 note scale.

Might be seen as a combination of a diatonic and pentatonic scale a semitone below

Project 7 Exploring different scales

Whole Tone Scales

Using the D major scale (D E F# G#A# C) on the Treble Recorder

Using the E Flat major scale ( E Flat, F G A B Dflat Eflat)

East European Scales

Using the A major scale ( A, B flat, C#, D, D F G#, A)

Using the G minor scale (G, A, B flat, C#, D, E flat, F#, G)

Middle Eastern 8 note scales

Using Bflat Major (Bflat, C D flat, Eflat, F#, G A Flat)

Using Bminor (B, C, D, Eflat, F, G flat, Aflat, A, B)

Nine Note Scales (Nonatonic)

Using E major (F#, G#, A, B. C Dflat, D. E flat E)

Using A minor (Bflat, B, C#, D Eflat, E, F#, G# A)

Chromatic scale

Using F major (G flat, G, A flat, A, B flat, B, C, D flat, D, Flat, E, F)