As far as i understand there are several descriptive concepts to help us analyze the characteristics of a particular melody (such as steps, leaps, melodic contour, disjunct or conjunct motion, for example). In addition, what i gather from cantus firmus there are also several specific prescriptive ideas for writing melodies. Voice leading could perhaps be an another example, but as far as i understand they only apply in the context of chordal harmony.

I use these examples to differentiate from what i'm looking for as i am interested in learning more theories for melodic writing. For instance, a concept (new to me) is the idea that the melodic notes of a single voice carry a specific function similar to the functions of chords in progressions/cadences. If i'm not misunderstanding this idea is a bit different from the other examples above.

Therefore i am interested in additional prescriptive concepts besides cantus firmus for instance. In short, i'd very much appreciate more tips on what to learn.

1 Answer 1


There's a rather old book, Percy Goetschius: "Exercises in Melody Writing," that gives lots of insight into melodic construction. While ancient, the ideas are still useful. It's a free PDF on the Net.


There's a newer but very long book on the subject but it mostly covers Bach's constructions. It's also useful but the ideas take a bit of adaption.


Goetschius' book describes things like rhythmic unity, repetition, sequences. phrases, modulation, various keys, motifs, etc. He shows how to extend a short melody by things like inverting the intervals or modifying the harmonic structure.

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