How Music Works

Why are some melodic shapes common to all cultures across the world? Why do some rhythms make us want to dance, while others make us feel tranquil? How Music Works is a four-part documentary series presented by Howard Goodall, looking at the four basic elements that make music work: melody, rhythm, harmony and bass. Setting out on a journey that spans the globe and moves through the centuries, Howard Goodall uncovers the elements that are shared by all styles of music. Following a trail of diverse musical talents from Mahler to David Bowie; the blues to Bulgarian folk songs; medieval choral music to disco; he reveals the tried and tested tricks of the composer's trade. (from

Episode 1 - Melody

Episode 1 - Melody
This episode looks at melody's basic elements. Why are some melodic shapes common to all cultures across the world? What are the familiar melodic patterns composers of all types of music have fallen back on again and again?

Episode 2 - Rhythm
This episode looks at the common rhythmic patterns that have been used by musicians from all cultures, from Brahms to rappers, from the founders of Cuban son to Philip Glass, from Stevie Wonder to Fats Waller.

Episode 3 - Harmony
This episode looks at how western harmony works, and how, in the present day, it has fused with other forms of music to create new styles.

Episode 4 - Bass
Music is usually broken down into melody, rhythm and harmony. But what about the very lowest notes in music, that can have an impact on all three? This episode looks at the abiding fascination musicians and composers have had with the bass.

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