This is something I've noticed that I don't hear anyone really talking about...

Essentially it's the way that separate rhythmic elements of most pop songs interact in a kinetic way with one another. Almost as though they were sparking off of one another(when one is playing the other one often isn't)...and this seems not to fit into any traditional counterpoint style.

One of the best examples of this is Owl City - Fireflies... it's a good example partly because of how distinct and crisp the 3 melodic/rhythmic sections interweave with one another.

Anyway, is there a name for this? I have a hard time coming up with bass lines, not to mention bass lines that spark off the melody this way. Are there any principles I can look up and learn for this?

  • 3
    What do you mean by "kinetic"? This is a physics term that isn't part of the standard musical lexicon.
    – Peter
    Mar 28, 2019 at 16:18
  • Right, I do mean kinetic in the physics sense. There's a strong sense of movement that happens from the nature of the relationship of the two separate lines. They run into each other like billiard balls. One is in motion, and it often stops when the other one is going. There's a sense that the dynamic way the lines interact with one another is very propulsive.
    – SSTEWART85
    Mar 28, 2019 at 17:28
  • 5
    I'm not sure if there is a specific term for what you're talking about, but it may be related to a "hocket," which involves a single melody beginning split up between several interlocking melodic voices. So, we might be able to describe what you're hearing as "rhythmic hocketing."
    – Peter
    Mar 28, 2019 at 17:38
  • 4
    From the example you give, I cannot understand what you are describing. Can you describe it more accurately - perhaps give time stamps for when they happen in that example or another.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Mar 28, 2019 at 18:32
  • You mention bass lines. Do you mean kinetic like Newton's pendulum, i.e. the end of the melody leads into a short bass solo / bridge? I think I would describe it as the melody being passed around, if that helps, but I don't know of any technical term for that. It seems like something that might pop up in counterpoint literature.
    – awe lotta
    Dec 22, 2019 at 5:53

1 Answer 1


(Note that this answer expounds on a comment originally made by Peter.)

One term that may be helpful is hocket. In music of the Middle Ages, hocket describes a single melody that is shared among at least two voices. Often this results in a situation where, as one voice is playing, the other is resting, and vice-versa. This seems exactly in line with your description of voices "sparking off of one another (when one is playing the other one often isn't)."

Even though this concept originated centuries ago, the concept is still alive and well today; we encounter it relatively often in current popular music.

Another related term is composite rhythm; this is the rhythm created by all of the articulations in multiple voices. This is connected to the concept of hocket because, when one considers the multiple voices of the hocket, the composite rhythm of these voices shows how they created a single unified line.

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.