Melodic motion

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Melodic motion: ascending vs. descending X conjunct vs. disjunct

Melodic motion is the quality of movement of a melody, including nearness or farness of successive pitches or notes in a melody. This may be described as conjunct or disjunct, stepwise or skipwise, respectively. See also contrapuntal motion.

Bruno Nettl describes various types of melodic movement or contour (Nettl 1956, 51–53):

  • Ascending
  • Descending
  • Undulating: equal movement in both of the above directions
  • Pendulum: extreme undulation which uses a large range and large intervals
  • Tile, terrace, or cascading: a number of descending phrases in which each phrase begins on a higher pitch than the last ended
  • Arc
  • Rise: may be considered a musical form, a contrasting section of higher pitch, a "musical plateau".

Other examples include:

These all may be modal frames or parts of modal frames.

See also[edit]


  • Nettl, Bruno (1956). Music in Primitive Culture. Harvard University Press.