Writing Melody by Ear
using Consonance as it's
Framework - Part II

In Part I, we learned to grasp the Major Scale as the combination of two Major Tetrachords. Tetrachords are like elements that make up a compound in science. Stacking two four note tetrachords make an eight note scale. In a Major scale both tetrachords are Major. We will learn other modifications later, in Part III.

Before expanding our vocabulary of scales, we must firmly set the Major elements of scales as a pattern or template for understanding any slight modifications.

Consonance is important to understanding how melody works. Moving in and out of consonance gives life to a melodic line.



Notes that sound good together when played at the same time are called consonant. Chords built only of consonances sound pleasant and “stable”. Notes that are stable do not have a need to resolve upwards or downwards to relieve tension.

In music, consonance and dissonance are categorizations of  Frequency ratios: with ratios of lower simple numbers being more consonant than those that are higher in ratio (Pythagoras).

An Unison’s ratio is 1:1 (Do to Do) regardless of the note we claim to be the the key note. The Octave is just double the frequency 1:2 (Do to the next higher Do).

The Perfect 5th has a 2:3 ratio and the Major 3rd has a 4:5 ratio. These intervals are considered to be most consonant in a Major scale even though there are others that may qualify.  You can hear singers reinforcing these pitches when developing their ears to stay in key.

The consonant notes are easy to hear as stable ‘ruts’ in the scale that I refer to as ‘anchors’. Sing these notes as an exercise:   DoMiSoDo


The other notes in the scale that are not as consonant have a need to resolve to an anchor note. These notes are called dissonant. Some dissonant notes have magnetic like qualities. They are drawn to resolve to an consonant note.

Unless a song purposely moves to another key center, the origional key will flaunt its gravety and as they say, “what goes up, must come down” and we will end up back at at ‘Do’.



Re and Ti have strong tendencies to resolve to the consonant note Do. Sing the Major 2nd (Re) first and feel it resolve to Do.

I use an isometric hand tension while singing the dissonant note (Re) and release that tension on Do.

Now drop down a half step (minor 2nd) to Ti (tension) and up to Do (relax).  Do this as part of your 5 minute ear training time. Take time to go over your Level One exercises too. These exercises did nothing for my ears until I did them. Try singing the same notes an octave higher or lower. These are the same pitches, just in a higher or lower register.


Resolving the Perfect 4th (Fa) to the Major 3rd (Mi) is successful by focusing on the ‘Anchor note’ Mi while thinking up a half step to ‘Fa‘ and resolving it back down to ‘Mi‘. The half step resolution is an easy one to hear, as is, the half step upward from ‘Ti‘ to ‘Do‘.

I practice the ‘FaMi‘ resolution and then the ‘TiDo‘ resolution. Also practice the isometric ‘tension – relaxation’ movement along side of singing those half step exercises.

It is a good time to realize that there are only two half step intervals in most scales and all the rest are whole steps. In the 4 note tetrachord element, the location of the half step interval is the ‘tell’ (by location) of which label the tetrachord is named.  Again, the Major scale has two half steps and ‘Fa^Mi‘ and ”Ti^Do‘ are them.


Resolving the Major 6th is difficult to nail at first, but if you can set the sound of the anchor note ‘So‘ (the Perfect 5th) in your mind first and sing a whole step higher (La) you have it !  Sing ‘La‘ and resolve it back to the ‘anchor note’ (So).  Sing it all the way down to ‘Do‘ to make sure you were singing in scale. Never give up, just go over the consonant scale notes then practice resolving the 4 dissonant pitches to their respective anchor.

Make up some flash cards to test your skills if you find that you get in a predictable pattern. I do build off of patterns and shuffle short dissonant – consonant resolves to keep my mind sharp.

The Minor, Dimminished & Augmented

The ability to recall melodies from your head will put you ahead of other students in choir, band, ochestra, jazz band and all theory or orchestral classes.  I wrote my first orchestration as a junior in High School, but If I developed my ear, It would have been a lot sooner.

Look out for the advanced post coming soon; Part III


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