Giving Your Melody a Shot of Excitement – Can You Say "Appoggiatura"?

Normally, an Italian musical term from the classical music world would send any self-respecting songwriter running for cover. In this case, the daunting word “appoggiatura” can actually become your best friend if you’re trying to find a good way to inject some energy and interest into an otherwise boring melody. Here’s how it works.

An appoggiatura is a musical ornament that amounts to being a non-chord tone. A non-chord tone is exactly what it sounds like: a note that isn’t actually part of the chord it’s being played with. To create an appoggiatura, simply find a place in your melody where the line goes up, either by step or (preferably) by leap. Then, instead of hitting that note, go one note (too high), and then descend down to the note you were aiming for.

Let’s demonstrate first with an example. Here’s a melodic fragment that might form the basis for a verse melody (MIDI file alert ;): [Listen to Excerpt at “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.

On the repeat, you can vary that melody slightly by using an appoggiatura on the high note, maybe something like this: [Listen to Excerpt at “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.

Many singers do this sort of thing quite naturally, but in case you want to know what’s actually going on, that new upper note near the beginning of the melody is an appoggiatura. As you can hear, it sounds like it “misses” the correct note by going one note too high, and then moves down to the note that was intended.

By using appoggiaturas in this way, you inject some energy into your melody line. This is great for creating little variations on a melody that repeats too much, and helps avoid boredom. 


-Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.

Posted in Melody, songwriting and tagged , , , , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.