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Online Music Theory Lessons

If you would like online music theory lessons please send an email to

Matthew charges £25 per hour for online skype lessons and teach music theory for fun, or for Graded music theory exams (grades 1-6)

Grade 6 Composition Checklist

For first option (completion of a melody, not a piece) for 8-10 with a given modulation:

  • Use a 4 bar antecedent and a 6 bar consequent (these six bars will contain a two bar interpolation).

  • Work out the harmonic rhythm (how often the implied harmony/chords change- you can identify this by working out which notes in the melody are harmony notes and non-harmony notes. It will give you an idea on how quickly the chords should change in the piece.

  • End the antecedent (bar 4) with an imperfect cadence (I/ii/IV to V), end the consequent with a perfect cadence in the new key. Use the leading note before returning to the tonic (going upwards).

  • You must use notes derived from a pivot chord if you are going to modulate. You can introduce the pivot vi (ii in new key) going to V7 in new key in bar 5, resolve to I, then going to vi in bar 6, then interpolation in 7-8, then ii, V7 in bar 9 resolving onto I in bar 10. This will create a balanced melody, as there will be a key for the antecedent and a modulation to another key for the consequent.

  • Bars 7-8 would have normally have been a perfect cadence, instead have an interpolation section; you can continue the rhythm of bars 5-6 but as a melodic sequence.

  • If you a given melody starts on an anacrusis, interpolation could be created as below, creating a balanced melody:

  • Use a sequence from the given opening. Use mostly diatonic sequences- only use a chromatic sequence (an exact copy of the motif beginning on a different note) if you are moving to a new key and want the added accidentals.

  • Use melodic inversions. This is where you reverse the given intervals e.g. if a motif goes up a fourth and down a second, you can go down a fourth an up a second. Choose the most interesting element of the motif to invert such as an interesting rhythm – a dotted note/triplet or an interesting melodic interval.

  • Balance your melody with conjunct movement (notes by step) and disjunct movement (by leap e.g. going through notes of the chord). Sticking to the on or the other would get boring, so use a mixture of the two.

  • Allow you melody to breathe. Don’t have continuous notes. You can have resting moments at cadences where you can have a longer note and maybe a rest. Wind instruments/singers will physically need rests in the melody.

  • Make sure you keep your melody in the range of the instrument you are writing for. For example if you are writing for Flute, you cannot go beneath middle C. You cannot go beneath Bb below middle C on Oboe. There is less to worry about on the upper end, but if you are using lots of ledger lines you might want to think about bringing the melody down.

  • Even though you only have to write a melodic line, you must think of the underlying implied harmony, particularly at cadences. Notes that fall on the beat should form part of the intended chord.

  • Most importantly the melody should be musical, expressive and balanced.

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