The three building blocks of music

Music is made up of three building blocks that continuously interact with each other:

  • melody
  • harmony
  • rhythm

On the piano, melody is most often played in the right hand. It is the most recognizable part of a piece: this is the part that people remember and hum along with.

Melody is often played a little louder than the other parts of the arrangement to make it stand out more.

Melody is also flexible. It can be “distorted” in many ways and still be recognizable as a particular song. Jazz improvisers take advantage of this principle all the time.

Harmony is the chords. On the piano, we play harmony mostly in the left hand, but sometimes we put harmony tones in the right hand as well.

Melody is usually the highest tone and harmony tones are filled in below that. The most important harmony tone is the lowest tone: the bass.

Harmony is also fairly flexible: you can harmonize the same melody in many different ways, although certain chords are easier on the ear than others.

Rhythm keeps music from becoming boring. It’s the thing you can dance to. A drummer plays nothing but rhythm but on the piano we have to put the rhythm into the melody and the harmony.

For us, rhythm is the difference between short tones and long tones, and where you put the accents on those tones.

There you have it. Master those three areas of making music and nothing will be able to stop you! :-)

Read more articles on Piano Clues:

Basic Theory

Chords and Harmony

The Circle of Fifths

Arrangement, Improvisation and Composition

Reading Music and Sheet Music

How to Record Piano

Software and Virtual Instruments

Scales and Exercises

Digital Pianos

Links and Other Stuff


  1. Anita says:

    Thanks one of the best sites. so very easy to follow as Ido not have much time for
    myself, Ican take my time.

  2. Kofffy says:

    Thank you very much Piano Clues. You have really made my lessons easier.

  3. Lecia Boyd says:

    Many thanks for your great siteā€¦I find the hints etc extremely helpful indeed.
    Keep up the good work

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