Connect 8

It’s Science, Jim, But Not As We Know It.

There are three elements in music – rhythm, melody and harmony. Like other elements, they combine into the various compounds which constitute music. When tricky moments occur, the problem could be caused by one or more elements and some degree of separation may be required to locate the culprit. This is a process with which pupils may be familiar, through Science. Examing the relationship between component parts in a given scientific field often involves:

  • keeping one constant
  • varying the second
  • measuring the effect of this variation on the third

An example of this includes investigations into temperature, pressure and volume, in Physics. If two or three were varied, one could not say with certainty which had caused the result.

Our equivalent of this in music is to separate the elements and conquer problems one by one. When we feel that the elements present no further problem, we look into any problems caused by their combination:


  • Rhythm only – on a single note (usually an open string – to rest the left hand)
  • Melody only – with all notes being afforded the same long duration i.e. no real rhythm
  • Harmony only – block chords played with no rhythm


  • Melody with correct rhythm – still without harmony
  • Harmony with its correct rhythm – without melody
  • Harmony with melody – without rhythm

All three together

It is easier to identify the individual elements more easily in some scores than others. If necessary, it is worth using software to extract (and resave) each element from the mix so that it can be considered in isolation.