Myoglobin has been extensively studied as a model system for protein folding in vitro. As part of an ongoing study of myoglobin folding, we have synthesized a series of peptide fragments corresponding to portions of the sequence of the sperm whale protein. The conformational preferences of these peptides have been investigated by circular dichroism and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in aqueous solution. In this paper we describe the folding propensities of two peptides (Mb-G and Mb-H), corresponding to the G- and H-helix segments of the myoglobin sequence. The Mb-G peptide shows evidence of a very small population of helical conformations in aqueous solution, both by CD and NMR. By contrast, the monomeric Mb-H peptide is found by CD to adopt a significant population (ca. 30%) of ordered helix and by NMR to populate helical conformations in rapid dynamic equilibrium with unfolded states. The Mb-H peptide undergoes a well-characterized, concentration-dependent monomer-tetramer equilibrium. At peptide concentrations greater than 1 mM there is an increase in the population of helix, to approximately 85% according to the CD spectrum, through self-association to form a tetramer. Both medium-range NOE connectivities and a CD spectrum characteristic of ordered helix are observed at low peptide concentrations, establishing that helical conformations are present in the monomeric state of Mb-H. The relative helicity at various sites throughout the Mb-H peptide has been estimated using a novel method for assessing the distribution of helical populations based on the relative magnitudes of medium-range d alpha beta (i,i+3) NOE connectivities. The population of ordered helix is seen to be highest in the center of the peptide sequence; the ends of the peptide show evidence of pronounced fraying.