Music Analysis – Musical Components

Elements of Music:

Sounds may be perceived as pleasant or unpleasant. To have a better understanding we need to ask, what is “sound”? What are these sounds that we hear? What causes it, and how do we hear it?

Sound, begins with the vibration of an object, such as a table that is pounded or a string that is plucked. The vibrations are transmitted to our ears by a medium, which is usually air. As a result of the vibrations, our eardrums start vibrating too, and signals are transmitted to the brain. There the signals are selected, organized, and interpreted.

The 11 Musical components I’ll be discussing and explaining are; Arrangement, Structure, Tonality, Harmony, Timbre, Dynamics, Rhythm, Melody, Texture, Tempo, and Instrumentation 


An arrangement is the adaptation of a previously written musical composition for presentation. It may differ from the original form by re-harmonization, paraphrasing or development of the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic structure. Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety.

In popular music an arrangement is a setting of a piece of music, which may have been composed by the arranger or by someone else. Most commonly, this is a matter of providing instrumentation for the songwriter or composer’s basic melody and harmony. It may add details omitted by the composer, or it may replace those originally given and be merely based on the original work.

In classical music an arrangement is a setting of any composition for a different medium other than the one for which it was created: e.g. a piano piece may be arranged for full orchestra, or an orchestral composition may be arranged for solo piano. Often arrangement involves considerable reworking of the original material, in conformance with the resources of the final medium. An arrangement may specify or vary some or all of:

  • Harmonies, including parts
  • Instrumentation
  • Style, dynamics and other instrumentation to the players
  • Sequence, including the order and number of repeats sections such verses and choruses, and provision of sections to be improvised by instrumentalists
  • Introduction, coda, modulations and other variations


Structure is the musical form of a musical composition. The term is used in two senses: to denote a standard type, or genre, and to denote the procedures in a specific work. The terminology for the various musical  types may be determined by the medium of performance, the technique of composition, or by function. The proper perception of a musical work depends on the ability to associate what is happening in the present with what has happened in the past and with what one expects will happen in the future. The fulfilment of such expectations and the resulting tensions and releases are basic to most musical works.
Musical form depends, on the disposition of certain structural units successively in time. The basic principles can be learned from a brief consideration of melody, which may be defined as an organized succession of musical tones. This succession of tones consists of component parts, the principal of which the phrase, a complete musical sequence, roughly corresponding to what can be sung or played in one breath or played with a single stroke of the bow. The relation between these component phrases is important for form. There may, for instance, be a complementary grouping of phrases as antecedent and consequent or “question and answer”. 
Tonality in music, is the principle of organizing musical compositions around a central note, the “tonic”. Generally, any music periodically returning to a central, or focal, tone exhibits tonality. More specifically, tonality refers to the particular system of relationships between notes, chords, and keys, sets of notes and chords, that mostly dominated Western music from 1650 to 1900 and that continues to regulate music heard around the world today. Tonality is sometimes used as a synonym for the related concept of key. Sometimes called major–minor tonality, this system uses the notes of the major and minor scales, which comprise of five whole tones and two semitones. Within each key there is a specific hierarchy of strong and weak relationships of notes and chords both to the keynote, or tonic note, and to the chord built on that note, the tonic chord. Different keys are also closely  related to the principal, or tonic, key. In this system of tonal relations, the notes and chords within a given key can create tension or resolve it as they move away from or toward the tonic note and chord. Likewise, any modulation or movement away from the tonic key creates tensions that may then be resolved by modulation back to the tonic. The potential for contrast and tension seen in the chord and key relationships of tonality became the basis for 18th-century musical forms such as the sonata.
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches, tones, notes, or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the “vertical” aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic line. Counterpoint, which refers to the interweaving of melodic lines, and polyphony, which refers to the relationship of separate independent voices, are sometimes distinguished from harmony.
Most harmony comes from two or more notes sounding simultaneously. However, a piece of work can imply harmony with only one melodic line by using arpeggios. Many pieces from the period for solo string instruments, such as Bach’s Sonatas and partitas for solo violin and cello, convey subtle harmony through interference rather than full chordal structures. These works create a sense of harmonies by using arpeggiated chords and implied basslines. The implied basslines are created with low notes of short duration that many listeners perceive as being the bass note of a chord.
In music, timbre, also known as tone colour or tone quality, is the quality of a musical note or sound or tone that distinguishes different types of sound production, such as voices and musical instruments, string instruments, wind instruments, and percussion instruments. The physical characteristics of sound that determine the perception of timbre include spectrum and envelope.Timbre is what makes a particular musical sound different from another, even when they have the same pitch and loudness. For example, it is the difference between a guitar and a piano playing the same note at the same loudness. Experienced musicians are able to distinguish between different instruments based on their varied timbres, even if those instruments are playing notes at the same pitch and loudness.

Taken From – (WIKIPEDEA) “Timbre has been called, “…the psychoacoustician’s multidimensional waste-basket category for everything that cannot be labeled pitch or loudness.”  Many commentators have attempted to decompose timbre into component attributes. For example, J. F. Schouten (1968, 42) describes the, “elusive attributes of timbre”, as “determined by at least five major acoustic parameters”, which Robert Erickson (1975) finds, “scaled to the concerns of much contemporary music”:

  1. The range between tonal and noiselike character
  2. The spectral envelope
  3. The time envelope in terms of rise, duration, and decay (ADSR—attack, decay, sustain, release)
  4. The changes both of spectral envelope (formant-glide) and fundamental frequency (micro-intonation)
  5. The prefix, or onset of a sound, quite dissimilar to the ensuing lasting vibration

“Erickson 1975, 6 gives a table of subjective experiences and related physical phenomena based on Schouten’s five attributes:””

Subjective Objective
Tonal character, usually pitched Periodic sound
Noisy, with or without some tonal character, including rustle noise Noise, including random pulses characterized by the rustle time (the mean interval between pulses)
Coloration Spectral envelope
Beginning/ending Physical rise and decay time
Coloration glide or formant glide Change of spectral envelope
Microintonation Small change (one up and down) in frequency
Vibrato Frequency modulation
Tremolo Amplitude modulation
Attack Prefix
Final sound Suffix


In music, dynamics normally refers to the volume of a sound or note, but can also refer to every aspect of the execution of a given piece, either stylistic (staccato, legato etc.) or functional (velocity). The term is also applied to the written or printed musical notation used to indicate dynamics. Dynamics are relative and do not refer to specific volume levels.

The two basic dynamic indications in music are:

  • p or piano, meaning “soft”.
  • f or forte, meaning “loud”.

More subtle degrees of loudness or softness are indicated by:

  • mp, standing for mezzo-piano, meaning “moderately soft”.
  • mf, standing for mezzo-forte, meaning “moderately loud”.

Beyond f and p, there are also

  • pp, standing for “pianissimo” and meaning “very soft”.
  • ff, standing for “fortissimo” and meaning “very loud”.

To indicate an even softer dynamic than pianissimo, ppp is marked, with the reading “piano pianissimo” or pianissimo possibile (“softest possible”). The same is done on the loud side of the scale, with fff being “forte fortissimo” or fortissimo possibile (“loudest possible”).


Rhythm, in music, the placement of sounds in time. In its most general sense rhythm is an ordered alternation of contrasting elements.
Unlike a painting or a piece of sculpture, which are compositions in space, a musical work is a composition dependent upon time. Rhythm is music’s pattern in time. Whatever other elements a given piece of music may have element patterns in pitch or timbre, rhythm is the one indispensable element of all music. Rhythm can exist without melody, as in the drumbeats of primitive music, but melody cannot exist without rhythm. In music that has both harmony and melody, the rhythmic structure cannot be separated from them. Plato’s observation that rhythm is “an order of movement” provides a convenient analytical starting point. 
A melody is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch andrhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tonal color. It may be considered the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody. Melodies often consist of one or more musical phrases or motifs, and are usually repeated throughout a composition in various forms. Melodies may also be described by their melodic motion or the pitches or the intervals between pitches, predominantly conjunct or disjunct or with further restrictions, pitch range, tension and release, continuity and coherence, cadence, and shape.


Texture is the way the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic materials are combined in a composition, therefore determining the overall quality of the sound in a piece. Texture is often described in regard to the density, or thickness, and range, or width between lowest and highest pitches, in relative terms as well as more specifically distinguished according to the number of voices, or parts, and the relationship between these voices. A piece’s texture may be affected by the number and character of parts playing at once, the timbre of the instruments or voices playing these parts and the harmony, tempo, and rhythms used. In music, some common terms for different types of texture are:

  • Monophonic – Monophonic texture includes a single melodic line with no accompaniment.
  • Biphonic – Two distinct lines, the lower sustaining a drone (constant pitch) while the other line creates a more elaborate melody above it.
  • Polyphonic or Counterpoint – Multiple melodic voices which are to a considerable extent independent from or in imitation with one another.
  • Homophonic – The most common texture in Western music: melody and accompaniment. Multiple voices of which one, the melody, stands out prominently and the others form a background of harmonic accompaniment. If all the parts have much the same rhythm, the homophonic texture can also be described as homorhythmic.
  • Homorhythmic – Multiple voices with similar rhythmic material in all parts. Also known as “chordal”. May be considered a condition of homophony or distinguished from it.
  • Heterophonic – Two or more voices simultaneously performing variations of the same melody.
  • Additive – A texture most commonly found in rock music that starts off mono or homophonic, and gradually changes and builds up to polyphonic. This also refers to the volume of a song.


In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. Tempo is a crucial element of most musical compositions, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece.The tempo of a piece will typically be written at the start of a piece of music, and in modern Western music is usually indicated in beats per minute. This means that a particular note value is specified as the beat, and the marking indicates that a certain number of these beats must be played per minute. The greater the tempo, the larger the number of beats that must be played in a minute, therefore, the faster a piece must be played.Tempo is as crucial in contemporary music as it is in classical. In electronic dance music, accurate knowledge of a tune’s BPM is important to DJs for the purposes of beatmatching.
Instrumentation refers to the particular combination of musical instruments employed in a composition, and to the properties of those instruments individually. Instrumentation is sometimes used as a synonym for orchestration, which more properly refers to an orchestrator’s,composer’s or arranger’s craft of employing instruments in varying combinations. Writing for any instrument requires a composer or arranger to know the instrument’s properties, such as:

  • the instrument’s particular timbre, or range of timbres
  • the range of pitches available on the instrument, as well as its dynamic range
  • the constraints of playing technique, such as length of breath, possible fingerings, or the average player’s stamina
  • the relative difficulty of particular music on that instrument, meaning repeated notes are much easier to play on the violin than on the piano; while trills are relatively easy on the flute, but extremely difficult on the trombone);
  • the availability of special effects or extended techniques, such as col legno playing, flutter tongue, or glissando;
  • the notation conventions for the instrument.

The two songs that I’ve compared musical components are; Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb and Neelix – Expect What. Two completely different types of songs. Pink Floyd is Psychedelic Rock and Neelix is Psychedelic Trance. Both have A psychedelic Influence but still different components to each one.

1st Song: Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb

Arrangement: The instruments are arranged in such a way to create a progressive journey. Starting off slowly with the emotional Pads and slow drums and percussion building up to the loud and moody guitars. The song builds on a 7/8 bar time signature building in energy but a slow melancholic kind of energy, one that keeps the depressive mood throughout the song.

Structure: The structure is based around a 7/8 bar time signature and has a lot of progression throughout building in melancholic energy rising to the main guitar solo. The guitars are structurally well thought creating the feel of being led through this dark journey. The drums are well placed keeping that slow tempo throughout the song but also helping create the progression. The synth sounds and pads are structuraly placed in such a way as to enclose the piece in this emotional atmosphere.

Dynamics: The loudness of the sounds increase ever so progressively giving off that feeling of anticipation of some sort of high energy lead while staying within the melancholic tone.

Tonality: this piece was written in a minor scaled key, giving off that dark emotional atmosphere. the tonality helps to create the mood of the song and the tone of each instrument gives off an indivual dark emotion, helping to contribute to the emotionally progressive piece.

Harmony: The instruments work in perfect harmony creating the beautifully structured melancholic progression. The synth and guitar sounds create a emotionally moving atmosphere leading up to the high energy electric guitar lead. The male vocal works with all the instruments guiding them through the dark emotions they create.

Melody: There is slow depressing melody evoking a lot of emotion while cleverly using different instruments to give off the dark emotional melody, slow high pitched synth pads used to create that airy atmosphere and at the same time the loud melancholic guitar putting emphasis on the emotional journey.

Timbre: There is a dark kind of timbre to this song, with clear vocals and synth pads creating a quality atmosphere within the song. It gives off the impression of a slow journey of melancholic ideas and emotions. Sounds like it was made in a minor scale

Rhythm: Its got a slow progressive rhythm, with high energy leads, adding to the melancholic feel of the song. Beautiful rhythmic guitar leads and synch sounds

Tempo: The tempo is Slow to progressive. Its used to create a sense of intimacy within the piece of music. The tempo of this song along with the other elements create an emotional atmosphere, it gives an idea of importance.

Instrumentation: There is a guitar, Male vocal, Drums, Bass guitar and synthesis within the piece. The use of these instruments in this song allow the piece to breath with the way they’ve all been arranged. they create progression within the piece of music. Its really clever instruments working together to create a melancholic atmosphere

Texture: To me it sounds like a Homophonic texture, by using one main guitar lead surrounded by dark atmospheric pads and slow drums and percussion to add to the feel of progression throughout the piece of music.

2nd Song: Neelix – Expect What

Arrangement: The arrangement is a typical Trance type arrangement and structure. Lots of psychedelic sounding pads and effects to create atmosphere with a driving lead to create direction and energy. Since its progressive trance there is lack of high intense energy but still has that hands up bouncy feel to it.

Structure: The time signature is a simple 4/4 Trance-dance structure, giving that full on bouncy feel. The structure is typical of a trance track; Intro-Break-Middle-Break-End. it has a smooth intro full of pads that leads up to the first break then a middle part of just pads followed by a build up to the main break following off by a closing break for djs to mix into another track.

Dynamics: The dynamics are loud and spacious creating a spacey or large atmosphere. The leads and effects set the boundaries of this space by giving it direction and movement. Very creative use of colour within the track giving it a light happy kind of feel to it and reducing any dark emotion from the sounds, however still having a very emotionally influenced sound.

Tonality: This track to me sounds like it was produced in a minor scael however it gives off the impression of being in major by being so happy and upliftinh. Its a good sense of understanding of tones to produce sounds like this to give off the specific harmonious tone.

Timbre: There is a very light and melodic timbre to this piece of music. You could say the quality of the sounds are very pure and bright, creating the uplifting sort of feel to the music.

Harmony: The Musical instruments and sounds work nicely to create the light harmonic feel to the song. the sounds and pitches are produced through the same key with variations to each instrument giving it that harmonious feel.

Melody: The melody is bright and uplifting creaing a sense of good feeling and happiness. the melody tells you to get up and dance. real uplifting sounds and driving effects create a beautiful trance melody with progressive elements giving off a relaxed party atmosphere.

Rhythm: It has a nice up beat bouncy rhythm to it. The use of drums and leads makes it so, and creates bouncy sort of energy throughout the song

Instrumentation: This is electronic music so synths and midi inputs have been mainly used, including drums, bass synths, lead synths, guitar sounds and hi hat percussions. These have been used in an interesting way to give off the happy kinda bounce to the song.

Tempo: The tempo is set at 140 BPM and that is to create the driving feel of the bass and lead synths. Trance is generally created at speeds ranging from 128 – 190+ BPM. The tempo gives away the high energy bounce that comes from the drums. The tempo of the synths give that uplifting kinda of feel to the track

Texture: I would say this track is also homophonic as there is a main lead synth surrounded by various effects and pads. this creates beautifu texture as all of the instruments work in harmony together to create a rich colour of sounds that create a great sense of euphoria.