Basic Music Series

Lesson I.4 Prosody


Review I.4

There are seven natural notes that we use to represent music. After the seventh not the pattern repeats, this we call an octave.

We use 5 lines and 4 spaces to graph the notes we wish to sound. Without a clef these lines have no meaning.

Clefs signify an orientation note, given meaning to the 5 lines and 4 spaces of the music staff.

The orientation note is a specific pitch in a specific octave. Once this orientation note is shown the values of the other lines and spaces are established.

The clefs were developed for the ranges of the human voice.




Latin prosōdia, from Ancient Greek προσῳδία (prosōidía), from πρός (prós, “to”) + ᾠδή (ōidḗ, “song”).


προσῳδῐ́ᾱ (prosōidíā, “a song with an accompaniment”)

Prosody is the rules of ancient poetry. It refers to the use of rhythmic patterns based on syllable length.

In ancient Greek and Latin, each word was pronounced syllabicly and each syllable was either long or short.

Using a pattern such as

short syllable - long syllable

a sense of tension and expectation is created which is not found in everyday speech.

The art of the poet was to use these patterns of long and short syllables to create an affect in addition to the meaning and sound of the words.

The western music tradition evolved from the singing of medieval Latin, and thus inherited its prosody.

The rhythms of the short-long syllable patterns would be learned by the medieval musicians accompanying singers and serve as the foundation for the rhythmic vocabulary of classical music.


Metre Poetica

Poetic Meter

Poetic Meres refers to the standard patterns used by poets and musicians for centuries. These patterns are based on the natural pattern of speech.

There are two parts to the pattern: a) the type of "foot", and B) how many feet.

Iambic is an example of a type of poetic foot and refers to the short - long syllable pattern.

Thus any string of words or notes that repeat the pattern short - long, is said to be in Iambic rhythm.

Next, we would choose how many feet make up one line of verse. Only one foot would be two syllables and not enough to write full sentences, thus 5 or 6 feet was the common choice resulting in 10 or 12 syllables per line of poetry.

Iambic Pentameter means 5 iambs, or the pattern short - long 5 times per line.

Other patterns such as long - short, long - short - short, et cetera complete the poetic feet.




Languages such as English do not use syllable length to differentiate poetic metre, they use unstressed - stressed.

And so the iambic pattern would be

unstressed - stressed

A stress or accent is a physical emphasis given to a word or music note. Usually it is slightly increased volume and intention.

one 2 3 4 one 2 3 4 one 2 ...

In 4/4 time, the down-beat is stressed, and thus should be slightly emphasized over the other three beats.

Down-Beat refers to a stressed beat and Up-Beat to an unstressed.



G Clef Alto Clef Bass Clef Orientation.p
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