Elements of music

characteristic, dimension, or element taken as a part or component of music

The elements of music are the elements (aspects, parts, parameters, elements, variables, constituents) of music which may be considered separately or together, at the moment, and over time. This is related to the definitions of music, as different definitions include or exclude different aspects.


  • There is very little dispute about the principal constituent elements of music, though experts will differ on the precise definitions of each aspect. Most central are 'pitch' (or melody) and 'rhythm'...next in importance only to pitch and rhythm is 'timbre', the characteristic qualities of tone.
    • Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, p.104
  • Just as parameters within a culture are distinguished from one another because they are governed by somewhat different constraints, so it is with the parameters of music: melody, harmony, timbre, etc., are more or less independent variables.
    • Leonard B. Meyer , Style and Music: Theory, History, and Ideology, p.21n44, (1989)
  • Melody, rhythm, timbre, harmony, and the like.
  • Melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, tessitura, timbre, tempo, meter, texture, and perhaps others
    • Eugene Narmour, Explorations in Music, the Arts, and Ideas: Essays in Honor of Leonard B. Meyer, p.326, (1988)
  • Two aspects of each of these parameters should be taken into consideration: the quality of each parameter at any given moment and the way in which each parameter changes as the music progresses
    • Randall McClellan, The Healing Forces of Music: History, Theory, and Practice, p.142, (20-0)
  • Musical research since the late twentieth century has given greater consideration to certain social and embodied aspects of music.
    • Moran, Nikki (2013). "Social Co-Regulation and Communication in North Indian Duo Performances", p.59. In Experience and Meaning in Music Performance, edited by Martin Clayton, Byron Dueck, and Laura Leante, 40–61. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-981131-1; ISBN 978-0-19-981132-8 (ebook).
  • Any element belonging to the total musical fact can be isolated, or taken as a strategic variable of musical production.
    • J Molino, (1975). "Fait musical et sémiologue de la musique", p.43. Musique en Jeu, no. 17:37–62. Cited in Nattiez (1990).
  • Sound is a minimal condition of the musical fact.
    • Jean-Jacques Nattiez, (1990). Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music, p.43, translated by Carolyn Abbate
  • Writing of her own Igbo music, the Nigerian musicologist Chinyere Nwachukwu maintains that the 'concept of music nkwa combines singing, playing musical instruments, and dancing into one act'. Whatever concept of 'music' is held by members of western society, it is highly improbable that, apart from forward-looking scholars and composers, it will contain all three elements. Nkwa in fact is not 'music' but a wider affective channel that is closer to the karimojong mode of expression than to western practice. The point of interest here is that Nwachukwu feels constrained to use the erroneous term 'music': not because she is producing a 'musical dissertation,' but because the 'one act' the Igbos perform has no equivalent in the English language. By forcing the Igbo concept into the Procrustean bed of western conceptualization, she is in effect surrendering to the dominance of western ideas—or at least to the dominance of the English language! How different things would have been if the Igbo tongue had attained the same 'universality' as English!.
    • Gourlay, Kenneth (1984). "The Non-Universality of Music and the Universality of Non-Music", p.35. The World of Music 26, no. 2 (1984): 25–39. Cited in Nattiez (1990) and Nattiez (2012)
    • Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (2012). "Is the Search for Universals Incompatible with the Study of Cultural Specificity?", p.78, Humanities and Social Sciences 1, no. 1: 67–94.
    • nwachukwu, C. (1981). Taxonomy of Musical Instruments in Mbaise, Nigeria, p.59. Unpublished M.A. Thesis. The Queen's University of Belfast, 1981.</ref>

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