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Peak Melody

Not much info on the web about this and the implicit assumption of what is there is that all combinations of notes are melodies which is similar to saying all combinations of letters make words, or all combinations of words make sentences.

The number of possible melodies is vast if you assume that a melody doesn't need to be melodic. But  of course it does.

An example is that the majority of motion from note to note must be stepwise otherwise it is impossible to sing and becomes unmelodic (and probably won't make musical sense in the same way random words won't make grammatical sense very often). This severely constrains the number of combinations possible.

Another is the number of note durations available. I'd say 3 or 4 would be a probable average for the number of distinct note durations in a melody.

Anyone able to figure out how many "musical" melodies are possible for say an average pop song melody of 10 notes, given the two constraints above (ie at least 60% stepwise motion, using 3 or 4 note durations).

I'm wondering is songwriting becoming harder and harder because of a lack of melodic resources?

Would be interesting to hear other peoples views on this.

Peak Melody

Reply #1
Different point of view and different criteria - I've read that there are only five possible melodies, every piece is just a variation on those five. Another expert opinion was a slightly higher number (I've forgotten but possibly something like 12). Sorry, can't provide references.

e.g. without too much imagination, Hatikva, Israel's national anthem can be seen as a minor key variation of "I had a little nut tree".

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