Prosody (music)

In music, prosody is the way the composer sets the text of a vocal composition in the assignment of syllables to notes in the melody to which the text is sung, or to set the music with regard to the ambiance of the lyrics.

However, the relationship between syllables and melodic notes is just one dimension of musical prosody. According to Pat Pattison, prosody is "The appropriate relationship between elements, whatever they may be." [1] In this sense, every element in a song can and should create prosody, because prosody is "support for what is being said."[2] In this sense, even the number of lines in a verse or a verse's rhyme scheme can be used to create or enhance prosody.[3]

For example, a songwriter might align downbeats or accents with stressed syllables or important words, or create musical accompaniment to the meter of the lyrics. Also, prosody can mean how the music supports the connotation, or emotive nature, of a song.

Any musical work with a singer, regardless of the genre, requires its composer or songwriter to examine the interplay between the music and the words. For example, the mood of the music typically matches that of the lyrical content: for example, when the lyrics address a sad topic, the music would sound sad, perhaps using minor chords.

Of course, composers might work differently, setting a textual mood against a contrasting musical mood. One band particularly known for intentional prosodic mismatch is Passion Pit. Their music is typically giddy while the textual content is usually dark and sad. However, the term "prosody" tends to refer not to the matching of music with content, but with the matching of a melody with the language itself, so that the words being sung come across as naturally as possible. According to Mark Altrogge: "Generally when writing songs and poetry, we want to accent a phrase like we'd speak it."[4] Melodies that do not come relatively close to approximating speech make the words hard to understand; melodies that go beyond the point of clarity and come even closer to approximating speech make the singer sound more human and therefore have a stronger emotional impact on the listener.

A melody with good prosody will not assign long notes to relatively insignificant syllables, nor will it put them on the beat or give them any sort of accentuation. The musical phrases will match the grammatical phrases, so that musical pauses happen in places that would be natural for a speaker.

Baa Baa Black Sheep prosody
Simple example of variation in prosody: what if the phrase started on 4 instead of 1 (upbeat vs. downbeat/on-beat vs. off-beat)? Play 

See also


  1. ^ Pattison, Pat (2009). Writing Better Lyrics. Writer's Digest Books. p. 179. ISBN 978-1-58297-577-1.
  2. ^ Pattison, Pat (2009). Writing Better Lyrics. Writer's Digest. p. 180.
  3. ^ "Musical Prosody - The Key to Mastering Songwriting". The Wave Pusher. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  4. ^ Mark Altrogge (2010). "Songwriting Tip: Watch Your Prosody". The Blazing Center. Archived from the original on 2011-07-03.

In poetic and musical meter, and by analogy in publishing, an anacrusis (plural anacruses) is a brief introduction (not to be confused with a literary or musical introduction, foreword, or with a preface). Greek: ἀνάκρουσις (anákrousis), literally, "pushing up".

It is a set of syllables or notes, or a single syllable or note, which precedes what is considered the first foot of a poetic line (or the first syllable of the first foot) in poetry and the first beat (or the first beat of the first measure) in music that is not its own phrase, section, or line and is not considered part of the line, phrase, or section which came before, if any.

Articulation (music)

In music, articulation is the direction or performance technique which affects the transition or continuity on a single note or between multiple notes or sounds. Articulation involves subtle differences within duration, amplitude, meter, and, through techniques such as tremolo and pitch.

Metre (music)

In music, metre (Am. meter) refers to the regularly recurring patterns and accents such as bars and beats. Unlike rhythm, metric onsets are not necessarily sounded, but are nevertheless expected by the listener.

A variety of systems exist throughout the world for organising and playing metrical music, such as the Indian system of tala and similar systems in Arabian and African music.

Western music inherited the concept of metre from poetry (Scholes 1977; Latham 2002b) where it denotes: the number of lines in a verse; the number of syllables in each line; and the arrangement of those syllables as long or short, accented or unaccented (Scholes 1977; Latham 2002b). The first coherent system of rhythmic notation in modern Western music was based on rhythmic modes derived from the basic types of metrical unit in the quantitative meter of classical ancient Greek and Latin poetry (Hoppin 1978, 221).

Later music for dances such as the pavane and galliard consisted of musical phrases to accompany a fixed sequence of basic steps with a defined tempo and time signature. The English word "measure", originally an exact or just amount of time, came to denote either a poetic rhythm, a bar of music, or else an entire melodic verse or dance (Merriam-Webster 2015) involving sequences of notes, words, or movements that may last four, eight or sixteen bars.


Prosody may refer to:

Metre (poetry), the rhythmic structure of versed text

Prosody (Greek), the theory and practice of versification

Prosody (Latin), the study of Latin versification and its laws of meter

Prosody (linguistics), the suprasegmental characteristics of speech

Semantic prosody, the way neutral words can be perceived

Prosody (music), the manner of setting words to music

Prosody (software), a cross-platform XMPP server written in Lua


Rhythm (from Greek ῥυθμός, rhythmos, "any regular recurring motion, symmetry" (Liddell and Scott 1996)) generally means a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions" (Anon. 1971, 2537). This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time can apply to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or frequency of anything from microseconds to several seconds (as with the riff in a rock music song); to several minutes or hours, or, at the most extreme, even over many years.

In the performance arts, rhythm is the timing of events on a human scale; of musical sounds and silences that occur over time, of the steps of a dance, or the meter of spoken language and poetry. In some performing arts, such as hip hop music, the rhythmic delivery of the lyrics is one of the most important elements of the style. Rhythm may also refer to visual presentation, as "timed movement through space" (Jirousek 1995) and a common language of pattern unites rhythm with geometry. In recent years, rhythm and meter have become an important area of research among music scholars. Recent work in these areas includes books by Maury Yeston (1976), Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff (Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983), Jonathan Kramer, Christopher Hasty (1997), Godfried Toussaint (2005), William Rothstein (1989), Joel Lester (Lester 1986), and Guerino Mazzola.

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