I am playing bass for two years, I am very amateur, but I love it.
Sometimes I am trying play melodies from songs, Tom Waits, or Madonna, which I fond of..
I think I have no ear like "exact pitch", or "relative pitch", but I found notes somehow.
A friend of mine who is musician already told me that the notes I found is "modulations",
As I understand, it means varieties of a melody, but not the exact melody.

is there any method to find/analyze notes of a song/melody?
I just wonder. Some pratical ways could be great.


2 Answers 2


I advice you to focus on relative pitch.

You're a bassist, so you catch the bass line easily in songs, I don't doubt about that. There may be methods, but I'm just gonna give you some tricks.

Once you feel the bass you feel what is called in classical music the fundamental tone. (I'm french maybe that's not the correct word in english).

When you play guitar or bass, you know that you can always play the fifth at the same time of your bass tone: the fifth it always sounds good. It's called power chord, in french we say 'la quinte juste'/'the right fifth' because it can not be not right. You play an E on the first string with a B on the second, or a G on first string and a D on the second string, an A on the first string and an E on the second string.

This is the ground of harmony. The theory you call for is Harmony.

With the fundamental and its fifth you can add a third note. It makes a chord. Most of the time it goes major or minor. This note can be played as melody to enrich the bass you play.

Once you can easily find your path between the chords that follow themselves in the circle of fifth , you can add notes as adornments: they achieve the real melody/tune.

So before any theory, I advise you to master the cycle of fifth.

And then you'll learn augmented and diminished chords. There are more exotic tunes to experiment further. But learn this circle. It's the base of western music.

  • Looks quite interesting, I just dive into it, thank you! And sorry I have no enough reputation to up vote your answer!
    – Digerkam
    Feb 8, 2013 at 23:19
  • @Digerkam if you dive in the pieces of music you already know, it will help you 100 times more than text. The rules I told you, have always been under your fingers. Feb 8, 2013 at 23:23
  • just a question, do you listen to industrial music ? I only say this because of your avatar :-) Feb 8, 2013 at 23:31
  • Yes I like, EinstŁrzende Neubauten.. it was symbol of Crass, British band. Mostly I like post-punk, and post-rock.. Also drum&bass bands like Nomeansno, Man Is The Bastard, Death From Above 1979 etc.
    – Digerkam
    Feb 8, 2013 at 23:38
  • 1
    let us continue this discussion in chat
    – Digerkam
    Feb 9, 2013 at 0:00

Old question, but I want to add to the answer...

Assuming the music is tonal or in a key, I suggest analyzing the notes of a melody in four ways:

  1. rhythm - metric placement
  2. harmony - note relative to the chord (if a the melody is accompanied)
  3. tonality - relative to the key (or tonal center if perhaps the music isn't clear cut major/minor key)
  4. interval - the relative change between notes

How to use these four aspects

Rhythm. You might use descriptions like: note is on a strong beat, note on a up-beat, melody starts after the first beat of the measure, etc.

Harmony. The note is a chord tone, note is not a chord tone, note is the third of the chord (ex. F# in a D major chord), note is seventh of the chord, etc.

Tonality. The note is the "tonic" (first note of the scale), note is flat third while the main key is major, other terms like "leading tone" could be used, etc.

Interval. you can say the melody jumps an octave, or the melody alternates back and forth on a minor third, etc.

With this as a starting point I can talk about melody using musical terms. For example: I love the Velvet Underground song I'm Waiting for The Man, because while the band is played a D major chord Lou Reed sang a flat third instead of the normal major third (F natural instead of F#.) You can hear it on the line "I'm waiting for my man" around 0:40 in the recording. In this case I'm describing the note relative to the chord. I can also make observations like most of the melody phrase start after the first beat of the measure. Now I'm speaking in terms of metrical placement. Most importantly all of these points I can make are musical choices with expressive effects.

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