What's the difference between Harmony & Melody?

Today’s lesson comes directly from an email I have recently received from a good friend, John- in California. Firstly, thank you John, it’s great to hear from you and I’m sure there are a lot of people asking a similar question.

“Hi Tom, could you explain to me the difference between harmony and melody? Thanks, John”

Well, that is a great question and not one I knew a definitive answer until a couple of years ago. After 15 years worth of playing, you’d think I knew how to sum it up easily! They are both super important in music and play a prominent role within a lot of pieces; furthermore, the piano uses both treble and bass clef’s allowing pianists to be creative with both!So, I’ve called upon some great internet content to help me explain it in its simplest form.

Harmony (or ‘overall sound’)

“In music, harmony considers the process by which the composition of individual sounds, or superpositions of sounds… Usually, this means simultaneously occurring frequencies, pitches (tones, notes), or chords.”

- source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmony

Most seen? Barber-shop quartets, Pop. music groups, classical (western) music

Melody (or ‘tune’)

“A rhythmically organized sequence of single tones so related to one another as to make up a particular phrase or idea”

- source: www.thefreedictionary.com/melody

Most seen? Treble clef (right hand), solo instrumental segments, children’s nursery rhymes.


The answer to your question John, is that harmonies rely upon multiple melodies to be built together in a complementary way. A really easy analogy for this is that harmonies are "houses" built by complimentary melodies or “bricks” in a structured way to make a beautiful building!


So, why should you know what the difference is? This boils down to improving and transforming your knowledge as a pianist. I have often said that knowledgeable and confident beginner pianists can often present themselves to know more than they let on! This is THE KEY to becoming a seemingly awesome piano player and I guess that is what drives us all. Our “why”, for want of a better phrase.


Ok, so it’s just a short and simple lesson today, but I hope you enjoyed this absolutely FREE tutorial. Please comment below and share the lesson and help spread the knowledge!

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