from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A melody ( Greek μελῳδία MELODIA , German , Sangesweise, Melody ' from μέλος mélos , German , manner, song ' , and ᾠδή Ode , German , singing ' ) is in the music , a characteristic overall time (horizontal, sequential) sequence as shape from tones ( tone sequence ). It is determined by the intervals occurring , the direction of their pitches (falling, rising) and their rhythm . Usually it is self-contained (see period ), divided into different sections ( motifs ) and in the vocal music is underlaid by a text. A characteristic of a melody is that it is perceived as an independent, memorable and expressive figure.


The term melody describes in the narrower sense:

  • a usually singable, self-contained sequence of tones ,
  • the way or setting of a song and
  • a theme of a larger piece of music.

The decisive property of the melody is the possibility of its recognition and its reproduction regardless of the pitch in which it was originally.

“We don't call music the production of tones in general, but rather certain arrangements of tones, however simple they may be. And it is a very important characteristic of music in the human sense that these arrangements can be recognized and reproduced independently of the absolute pitch. A melody remains the same, be it bass or soprano, whether it is sung in C or E. This ability of recognizing and transposing melodies is what we find among primitive peoples, as far as we know, in general. "

For this reason, a melody is not a sequence of concrete pitches (although it is notated this way for practical reasons), but rather a sequence of intervals obtained through an abstraction process.

Melodies vary greatly depending on the history, music style and culture. In addition to harmonic aspects and phrasing , the theory of melody examines the formation of the beginning and end as well as the weighting and arrangement of main and secondary tones. Since music occurs in time, a sequence of tones only becomes a melody if they are arranged not only in terms of pitch but also in time periods (which includes pauses ), i.e. if they have a certain rhythmic structure. A tone sequence is the sequence of pitches and their chronological order, but not the length of the tone.

Melodies are often subject to variable or thematic - motivic work. They can be provided with different harmonies, whereby a reharmonization usually leaves the original melody untouched. A slight rhythmic change in the melody is often within the artistic freedom of a performance, at least as long as the original is still clearly recognizable. In jazz , the melody was the starting point for improvisation before the harmonies . Later, jazz musicians abandoned the template of the melody entirely while improvising; the harmony scheme ( changes ) is sufficient for a successful improvisation. However, it is customary to introduce the theme (the melody) before and after the improvisations.


As a differentiation of the term theme, the term melody only developed in the 19th century with the emerging art song , insofar as melody, unlike the theme, can also stand singable on its own. The particularly memorable refrain became very important .

Legal issues

Since the melody is subject to copyright protection , laws and jurisdiction around the world deal with it. The creation of a melody establishes intellectual, i.e. immaterial, property that no one may violate. Legally, a melody must have creative characteristics. It is a self-contained and ordered sequence of tones, which in itself has a creative peculiarity within the meaning of § 2 Paragraph 2 UrhG and at least meets the requirements of the so-called small coin - as a part of a work that is just about protected by copyright. For example, a single sound or sound , a single signal or a mere rhythm - isolated from a melody - are not protected, but sound samples are , if their components are melodies within the meaning of Section 24 (2) UrhG.

The protection of melodies enshrined in this includes the prohibition of using an already protected melody as the basis for another work (objective criterion) and a subjective aspect, according to which the composer of the new work knew the older work and used it in his work. According to the BGH , only random matches between the melodies are not recorded by the melody protection. But in view of the diversity of individual creative possibilities in the artistic field, a broad correspondence between works that are based on independent creation seems almost impossible according to human experience. In principle, this empirical principle can also be used in the field of musical creation. The fact that there can be coincidental matches with already protected melody passages in the composition is legally almost impossible. If there are significant similarities in the melodic area, the prima facie evidence speaks for an inadmissible removal. The double creation is therefore an exception. This so-called melody protection protects a creative tone sequence until the entry into the public domain , and even the unchanged removal of the melody in the sense of free use of the work according to § 24 para. 1 UrhG is not permitted in this special case. If this melody protection is violated, there is plagiarism that can trigger claims for damages. In numerous judgments, the Federal Court of Justice had to decide on plagiarism cases as the last instance, leaving the objective criterion of protecting melodies to musicological experts, because the differences between the musical works were often only marginal.

Melody in Linguistics

The linguistics knows melody figuratively as the intonation , ie the modulation of the pitch during the utterance of a sentence (see also prosody , tonality ).

See also


  • Markus Bandur: Melodia / Melodie [1998, 38 pages], in: Concise dictionary of musical terminology , ed. by HH Eggebrecht [loose-leaf edition], Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden, later Stuttgart, 1971–2006; CD-ROM, Stuttgart 2012 Complete article as pdf
  • Diether de la Motte : Melody. A reading and work book . dtv, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-423-04611-2 .
  • Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. German Publishing House for Music, Leipzig 1977; Paperback edition: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, and music publisher B. Schott's Sons, Mainz 1979, ISBN 3-442-33003-3 , pp. 136–156 ( Von der Melodie ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Melody  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Melody  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Carl Stumpf: The Beginnings of Music , Berlin 1911, p. 10.
  2. Tim Reinfeld, The Protection of Rhythms in Copyright , 2006, p. 24 f.
  4. Jürgen Wölfer : The great lexicon of entertainment music , Berlin 2000, p. 353
  5. BGH NJW 1989, 386
  6. Munich Higher Regional Court TO 2000, 408
  7. BGH GRUR 1971, 266, 268
  8. BGHZ 50, 340, 350 f .; Ruffled hood 1
  9. BGH GRUR 1971, 266, 268; Magdalen aria
  10. BGH NJW 1989, 387, 388