How to Write a Melody: Augmentation and Diminution

Augmentation and diminution are two widely used compositional techniques that can be applied to almost any melody. In this blog post, I will show you how to use these techniques to generate a plethora of new material for your next composition.

There are two types of augmentation, rhythmic and intervallic. Rhythmic augmentation means that all of the note values in a given melody are increased by an equal amount. In most cases, rhythmic values are doubled, but they can be increased by almost any amount. Example No. 1 is an original melody used in my first blog post to demonstrate retrograde, inversion, and retrograde inversion. Example No. 2 shows this melody with its note values doubled.

Example No. 1

original melody

Example No. 2


Intervallic augmentation means that all of the intervals increase, see Example No. 3. This changes where notes fall in relationship to the underlying harmony, so the accompaniment usually needs to be adjusted to compensate.

Example No. 3

intervallic aug

Diminution is the opposite of augmentation. All of the note values and/or intervals are shortened by an equal amount, see Example No 4.

Example No. 4

Rhythmic dim

Example No. 5 is an augmented version of the original melody with sixteenth-note accompaniment. The accompaniment pattern is also a good example of diminution in action. Counts one and two in measure 1 are the original melody in diminution, see Example No. 1. Notice it’s the same melodic contour in sixteenth notes. Essentially, Example No. 5 is derived from a single motive which is subjected to both augmentation and diminution. See what you can do with just a few ideas and an arsenal of composition techniques in your tool chest?

Example No. 5

aug and dim example

4 thoughts on “How to Write a Melody: Augmentation and Diminution

  1. Good job, so this is written by a good teacher.

  2. Is there much use for intervallic diminution?

    • Good question. I don’t use intervallic diminution very much. But it could be used to create a tight scalar passage which has a similar shape to the original theme creating continuity without exact repetition.

  3. Regarding your statement, “Notice it’s the same melodic contour in sixteenth notes”. about Example 5, Please explain how this is so when the original melody is FAC| BAGA F C|FAC .. and the diminutized version is |FACA|BAEA|FACA|CBCD ? I don’t see how the melodic contour is being conserved; only the “FAC” and the BA is the same in both. Please clarify what you mean.

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