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, skipwise or no movement, 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.