Is there a musical term for melodic density? By density i simply mean the amount of melodic (as opposed to harmonic) notes within a given time measure.

Example: 40 notes within a bar has higher melodic density than 10 notes within a bar.

(I realize tempo is also a factor for perceived density).

  • It feels like the definition misses harmony vs melody, it could be a single 40 note chord.
    – Emil
    Jun 5, 2021 at 7:45
  • I see your point, but i did write melodic density. Edited for clarity.
    – Erik
    Jun 5, 2021 at 7:46
  • 2
    Compulsory YouTube link youtube.com/watch?v=AUFwk1Ibwkc
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 5, 2021 at 9:01
  • @Tetsujin There can never be too many notes
    – Erik
    Jun 5, 2021 at 9:29
  • I'd suggest starting with a comparison to digital communications. Bandwidth = number of notes per second, maybe? Similar concept to data rate such as kbps. Jun 10, 2021 at 20:04

1 Answer 1


Melodic density, while not a "term of art", would be generally understood to mean as you intend.

In 1962, Milton Babbitt coined the term time-point interval, which can be used to describe the linear density of pitch onsets. A time point is the instantaneous moment at which a note begins (its onset). The time-point interval is the distance between onsets. It can be measured according to note-values rather than absolute time, and thus is tempo-independent.

For example, in 4/4 time, a quarter note followed by a quarter rest and then a half note would have a time-point interval (also called interonset interval) of a half note — the time from the initiation of the first quarter note to the initiation of the half note. An eighth note followed by a dotted quarter rest and then a half note would also have a time-point interval of a half note.

Thus, a measure with 40 linear (melodic) onsets would have a higher average interonset interval (call it interonset density) than a measure with 10 linear onsets.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.