Thursday, February 27, 2014

A look at melody writing with our good friend Mozart

We will explore the idea of melodic analysis and theme and variation using a very familiar melody.
While Mozart did not write this melody, he is associated with it because he wrote a series of variations on this original French tune. We will do the same...

Twinkle Twinkle

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Learn the rules so you can find new ways to break them...

We discussed "the rules" of writing a melody (or at least some of the "suggested" rules) in class.

  • Your key should be reflected in your choice of notes
  • The tonic (or naming note of the key) should play a prominent role in your melody (ie. it may begin and/or end the melody)
  • The dominant (the 5th note of the scale) will also be prominently featured throughout the melody
Additional "rules" of melody writing might include:
  • repetition of the tonic and dominant notes help establish the key
  • Placing tonic and dominants on strong beats (like beat one)
Check out this observant blogger and composer as he deconstructs a familiar melody in relationship to some of the "rules" discussed above.

Look back at the 3 melodies you composed in the post about meter. Think about the key signature you chose. Does the melody take advantage of the features of that key? Does it adhere to traditional "rules" of melody writing ("rules" discussed in this class, in this post, and through reading the linked blogger post above)?

Edit your melody(s) to try and bring it in line with these rules.

Do you like the transformed/ edited version?

Composers often agonize over a single note choice or rhythmic element. Take a moment to agonize...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Meter: "No, not all music is written in simple quadruple time."

Please take a moment to read the following explanation of simple and compound meter from

Odd meters contain both simple beats and compound beats. Find out more here.

Using Noteflight, please write one four measure melody for each of the following meter classifications:
  1. Simple Triple
  2. Compound Duple
  3. Any Odd Meter
Be sure to title each example with the meter you are using.

Thank You

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Introducing Noteflight!

We will be using a cloud based notation program in Harmony and Theory. The program is called Noteflight. You have all been added as members of our site. You will need to access the site, add a password and complete a simple introductory assignment. There is a learning curve with any notation program, but I think if you play around with it, you will pick things up quickly.

When you first access the site, your log-in username is your first and last name. You do not need to enter a password. When you hit the log-in button it will prompt you to create a password. I will create a permanent link to Noteflight at the right of these blog posts.

Good Luck!

Access to our Noteflight site!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Basic Rhythm Reading: It All Counts!

Being able to work with, analyze and perform music requires a variety of skills. We have begun to work on our ears through aural training and dictation. The analysis skills are building through the work with key signatures and interval identification. We all have a basic note identification level that will continue to improve in both treble and bass clef. One area that tends to lag for many musicians is rhythmic notation reading.
Please take some time to review basic elements of rhythmic notation.

Note Duration

Measures and Time Signature

Rest Duration

Dots and Ties

If any questions come up while reviewing this material, please be sure to mention it during class time so we can work through it as a group. Keep in mind, "If you are questioning any of the material, chances are someone else is too."

Here are a couple of exercises to help us both see rhythms more accurately and be able to have a method of counting out problem rhythms.

Rhythm Mistakes

Rhythm Counting

Monday, February 10, 2014

Music Dictation: Time to turn those ears on

When we imagine someone taking dictation, it usually involves some administrative assistant eagerly jotting down every word of some high-powered executive. These words are then transformed into the latest memo or executive report. In music, the ability to take dictation is a skill that can greatly enhance your critical listening skills and help you work with music away from an instrument.

Check out this great scene from the film Amadeus in which Mozart is dictating his Requiem Mass to the conniving Salieri. The dying Mozart is trying to dictate the parts to this piece to a fellow composer who is trying desperately to keep up with the genius composer.

Amadeus (1984)

We won't start our dictation journey with the Mozart Requiem, but rather with simple step-wise melodies to get our ears warmed-up. Eventually we will work our way up to more advanced melodies that employ skips and jumps.

Dictation Example #1

Dictation Example #2

Dictation Example #3

To help train your ear, try to listen to the examples no more than three times. Here is a suggested outline of dictation protocol:

  1. Listen and try to absorb the melody. Hum or sing it back.
  2. Sketch out the notes and rhythms
  3. Finalize and check the notation

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Harmony and Theory: Basic Skills Assessment

Intervals III: Inversions

Simply put, the process of inverting in music is just rearranging the order of notes. With intervals, we just flip the notes to get the inverted interval. To get the details on what happens when you invert intervals, please check out this document.

Once you have a grasp on interval inversion, try your hand at the this interval circle. You may need to use some manuscript paper to work your way through the interval circle.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Music Theory Basics: A reference guide to foundational material

The expectation when you walk into the Harmony and Theory class is that you have a basic grasp of fundamental principles such as note reading, key signatures, time signatures and rhythmic notation and durations.
If you feel you may need to get up to speed on this content, here is a collection of reference lessons and exercises from the wonderful site which will help you.


The Staff, Clefs, and Ledger Lines

Note Duration

Measures and Time Signatures

Rest Duration

Dots and Ties

Steps and Accidentals

This information is for your reference and review. You are expected to know this material. You may not be directly assessed on this information, but it will be constantly assessed indirectly while working with other concepts.

Exercises- Practice space for notes and key signatures.

Note Identification

Key Signature Identification