I was playing four 9th chords in a 4/4 time signature. All whole notes.

Then I shortened some of of the notes of each chord by a quarter or half note by playing them late. For example, in a Cmaj9 chord I would play the pitch 5th (G) 1 quarter note later and the 9th (D) a dotted half note later.

I used this technique for all chords to shorten some notes and play them later than the rest of the chord. I hope you get what I mean. To visualize it (x = rest; – = note):

D xxx–

B ––––

G x–––

E ––––

C ––––

Now, I was wondering if I am creating a melody by doing this.

AFAIK a melody is a pattern of single pitches that can be recognized as a unit. For example, the 9th (D) is only 1 quarter note long and the movement from G to D is distinct. Since I've done this shortening technique for all 4 chords, there seems to be some melodic movement. Or is this still defined as a harmony?

I know it's maybe a hair splitting question but I would like to understand how those things are defined.

Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    If it draws attention as a dominating and identifiable musical element that people will hum or whistle after hearing it, it's certainly melodic at least. The more people do that the more melodic it is. IMO it's possible to construct a line of single individual pitches that's so forgettable and unidentifiable that I wouldn't call it a melody. A copyright court might agree. But what "is" something... Maybe you could ask, would someone call this a melody and would other people agree it's a justifiable labeling. And would a copyright judge agree. :) Jan 11 at 19:58
  • Thank you. I see, so an abstract definition would be maybe "melodic movement within a chord progression"? _ At the end of the progression I have rising notes. Basically a 9th chord that starts with only 2 pitches, then a quarter note later the next pitch is played, quarter note later next pitch and quarter note later last pitch. _ This makes it feel like a melody to me but all pitches are still in 9th chord, so hard for me to tell if the shortening of the note transforms them into a melody. Jan 12 at 6:44
  • A simplified version of this question would be "Can a series of chords, through their voicing and range choices, 'create'/suggest a melody?" The answer is yes. "Do they always? If someone perceives one, would everyone?" Both too vague/subjective to be answerable. "What can I do to help ensure that a melody is heard?" A great question; besides voicing choices, the answer would have to do with execution and bringing out certain notes. Consider asking that one if you want, but mention which instrument you play! Jan 12 at 15:12
  • What I would like to know is, if I shorten that start point of every single note of a chord, so that no note starts at the same time and there's perceivable distance between them, is that still a chord progression? A chord is multiple pitches simultaneously but what about pitches that sound at the same time but started at different times? Jan 13 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


Basically it can be either or both. It can be interpreted as an arpeggio of a Cmaj9 chord or it can be interpreted as a melodic fragment like this:

enter image description here

In the end the context that you place it in will determine whether it sounds more like melody or harmony. If this is all that is happening the top notes will give the impression of melody. If this is done behind a vocal or melodic instrument then it will have more of a harmonic quality to it.

The only potential issue is if you are repeating the B note on beat 2. If you do that it will detract from the feeling of it being a melody because the G will be under the B and will not stand out as much. Are you playing each note only once or are you playing them on every beat? I am under the impression that each note is struck only once.

  • Thanks for your reply. Every chord is only played once for a duration of 1 bar. Currently there are no other instruments. I will add a bass and maybe a melody but this is actually when this question arose because I was wondering I already have "a melody in my chord progression". Jan 12 at 6:37

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