Home » Music Theory » What You Need To Know About Melodic Motion

What You Need To Know About Melodic Motion


Melodic Motion in Music

Melodic motion is basically how successive notes that make up the melody move from one pitch to the other. It has to do with distance, narrower or wider, between two consecutive pitches of the melodic line.

Absolutely, the melody is the most basic element of music that is more memorable to all listeners.

However, every music literally has a melodic line which is the succession of notes in a distinctive sequence that is played or sung together.

Listening to a melody with a single note every time would be a very boring experience. So melody is created with notes that can quickly or slowly rise and fall as the music progresses.

And we use melodic motion to describe the interval between every successive note that makes up the melody of a piece.

With this rise and fall movement of notes within the melody, we can have a visible shape of a melody known as a melodic contour on a music sheet. This shape is formed from different melodic motions that form the melody of a piece.

Before we go further in this article and have more discussion about melodic motion, we will look into different types of steps and movements that we have in music.

Thereafter, we will discuss what is melodic motion and the different types of melodic motion that we have.

Without any further ado, let us quickly discuss step, skip and leap as well as ascending, descending, and repeated motion.

Step, Skip and Leap in Music

There is something called the intervals in music. The interval is simply the pitch difference between two successive notes.

Melodic motion is all about moving from one pitch to the other. The movement has to do with distance lower or higher between two consecutive notes in a melody.  

Basically, the movements of notes in the melody are three types which are step, skip, and leap.


Steps occur in melodic lines when the note moves to the next highest or lowest pitch. The smallest intervals a note can move are minor and major second.

So, when notes of a melody are moving around using only minor and major seconds, we would say we are using step-wise motion. Note that minor and major seconds are just like half steps and whole steps.

The step is like the movement of notes on a scale. For instance, we have step-wise motion when a note moves from pitch C to D or pitch F# to G.

The steps appearances on staff music notation are somehow different. So, if we go from space to the very next line or from a line to the very next space on the staff, that is going to be a step.

The melody of Ode to Joy by Beethoven is a great example of a motion with steps and no skips. Look at the note of the Ode to joy sheet music above and you will observe the dominant of step movement.

The step-wise motion is a very small and easy movement to play or sing.


When pitches in a melody skip over to the next highest or lowest note, we call them skips.

In melody, any note that moves to the next pitch with an interval larger than a major second can be called a skip.

Because we are literally skipping over notes. For instance, when we move from pitch C to pitch E or from D to F, the note movements are skips.

We said the melodic motion is skip-wise because we skip over one step to move to another pitch. So we skipped over D to move from pitch C to E.

Skip happens on staff notation when the note goes from line to the next line or from space to the next space. It is a skip because there is a space that is also a position for a pitch in between the notes on the staff.

Moreover, movement from line to line or space to space is a skip because we are skipping over a line or space that is between.  

The skip is bigger and a little bit more challenging but it adds more meaning to the melody.


When we skip over more than one note to the next pitch the movement is known as a leap. For instance, skipping over pitch D, E, and F to move from pitch C to G in a melody.  

Leaps are like a skip that has gone on strides. So, when we go from pitch C to G that is a leap because we have skipped several notes. When you read these steps on the staff notation, it looks a little bit different

When we see leaps on the staff notation, they look a little bit different. Specifically, anything note movement larger than movement from line to the next line or space to the next space would be a leap.

Now think about the melodies that you really like, chances are that they have a combination of skips and steps.

Ascending, Descending, And Repeated Motion

These three terms are also important in melodic motion to define the direction of the note. Because all these intervals step, skip, and leaps can move in three directions either in ascending, descending or repeated.

The note in melody moves in ascending by going up or descending by going down. The note can also move by remaining on the same pitch which is known as repeated.

Ascending motion occurs when a note moves from lower pitch to higher pitch. On the other hand, descending motion resulted from the movement of a starting note to a lower pitch.

The repeated motion happens when a note moves to the next pitch without a leap or any interval movement. 

Basically, repeated motion occurs in the melody when successive notes maintain the same pitch. Or when the movement of notes on the melodic line remains on the same pitch.

What Is Melodic Motion In Music

Melodic motion is the term used to describe the interval between two consecutive notes in the melody.  

The term melodic motion is also used along with the melodic movement sometimes because it describes the pattern of pitches in a melody.

This pattern of the pitch from one note to the other can be up, down, or continuing on the same pitch. That is what we have as ascending, descending, and repeated motion.  

However, melodic motion is typically based on the size of the intervals between the successive pitches or notes that make up the melody.

The melodic motion can occur at smaller or wider intervals and it can also be in an upward or downward direction.

Specifically, the distance between two successive notes can be step-wise or skip-wise in ascending or descending movement.  

Melodic motion is an important characteristic of a melody in music. And most of the melodies are characterized by the degree of different types of melodic motion they were created with.

Indeed, the interval between two consecutive notes and the direction of their steps contributes greatly to the creation of an interesting melodic line.

Types of Melodic Motion

Melodic motion is one of the interesting characteristics of a melody and basically, we have two types of melodic motion.  The two types of melodic motion are conjunct melodic motion and disjunct melodic motion.

Melody may be characterized by its degree and type of conjunct and disjunct motion if possessed.

Conjunct Melodic Motion

This is a melody that moves by a step. It can move upward or downward a step at a time.

Conjunct melodic motion is characterized by a succession of notes in a stepwise movement.

The distinctive notes sequence in this melodic motion is formed with a semitone or a tone upward or downward movement of the subsequent notes in a melody line.

Conjunct melodic motion can easily identify with a smooth vocal line and it can be ascending or descending.  That is in an upward or downward melodic direction.

So we can have:

Ascending conjunct motion; that is upward movement by step

Descending conjunct motion That is downward movement by step

Disjunct Melodic Motion

Disjunct melodic motion is characterized by skip-wise movement between two consecutive notes.

The melodic motion in disjunct is formed by upwards or downwards leaps of the subsequent notes which is definitely greater than a whole tone.

Basically, the notes in disjunct melodic motion move separately apart from each other and spread out.

Disjunct melodic motion can also move in ascending or descending direction.

So we can have:

Ascending disjunct motion; that is upward movement by leap

Descending disjunct motion That is downward movement by leap

Mixed Melodic Motion

Mixed melodic motion occurs as a result of both conjunct and disjunct movement on a melodic line.

Melodies do not typically comprise all conjunct or all disjunct motion, but rather a mix.

Most melodies are created by combining conjunct and disjunct motion together. This normally creates an interesting melody.

Final Thought

As we can see, the Melodic motion can either be conjunct or disjunct. When the motion is by steps, it is conjunct and disjunct when it moves by leaps.

The combination of melodic motion in ascending and descending motion, as well as repeated motion, helps the melody to form a melodic contour.

Besides, most melodies are created by combining different melodic motions and directions. 

At Phamox Music, we go all out for exactness and honesty. For this purpose, if by any means you found any possible glitch, be it factual, editorial, or something that we need to update, kindly contact us.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *