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Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm

First in a Series on The Difference Between Good Music and Bad Music

Used by Permission: Alan and his wife Ellen Ives have a wonderful music ministry and they travel to many churches presenting this information.  They play a number of instruments and have music cassettes and CD's available.  Perhaps they could be a blessing to your church.  They can be reached at Concord & Harmony, 328 Rosalia Street, Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901.

How does that apply to music? Take melody, one of the parts of music. Melody is for our spirit. It is to enable us to commune with God. If I softly hum "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross," without any particular rhythm or harmony, I make praise to the Lord. That song is a prayer. I can help my spirit by humming a melody. Any piece of music that has a decent melody, though it have no harmony or rhythm, may be used to commune with God. You can think upon the Lord in your spirit. That is what melody is for.

Let's take our soul. That's where our feelings, emotions, and affections are. In our soul we have attitudes and feelings about the things we think about in our spirit. You say, "What is that?" For instance, if I say "Mom," along with that thought that's spiritual, you have a soulish feeling. You go, "Oh, Mom, that fuddy duddy thing," or you go, "Oh, Mom, that's the best thing that ever was," or something in between those two, maybe. If I say, "spinach!" or "barley green," that evokes a feeling, a taste even. "Green peas." "Circus." You have a feeling that goes along with the thought. That's what the soul is. Your ability to like or dislike things is harbored in your soul. That's what gives you your personality, basically--what you like and dislike, and how you react to all those things.

Harmony, on the other hand, is for the soul. A lot of Gospel tunes are written in major keys; they are bright and happy. As young children in grade school we are often taught that major chords are happy, and minor chords are sad. If I play a whole series of minor chords on the piano, you will soon be very weighted down and sorrowful. The minor chords depict sadness. There is nothing wrong with minor chords in and of themselves, but they must be balanced. If we are going to talk about how our Savior was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, we might want to use some minor chords--but not a steady diet of them. You need to mix and balance them with other types of chords.

If I sing "There Is A Land That Is Fairer Than Day" in a major key, Heaven sounds like a wonderful place. But if I change that to a minor key—keeping the same rhythm and melody--all the sudden Heaven doesn't sound like such a happy, wonderful place. The only thing I have to change to effect this different mood is the harmony.