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Composing techniques

There are SO MANY:

Chord progressions
The use of pedal notes/drones
Balanced phrases within melodic writing
The use of riffs and ostinatos
The use of dotted rhythms, triplets and syncopation
Tonality: major / minor / modal / pentatonic
Techniques specific to a musical period or style, i.e. Club
Dance, Waltz
Sequence
Imitation
Call and response
Modulation
Use of major, minor and dominant seventh.

Intended Outcomesutcomes
ALL MUST: Understand what the PRIMARY
and SECONDARY chords are
SOME SHOULD: Understand how to
compose a chord progression using
PRIMARY and SECONDARY chords
SOME COULD: Understand how to
harmonise a melody with appropriate
PRIMARY and SECONDARY chords.

Chords & Harmony


You

can either START with a set of


chords and write your melody
afterwards

OR.
Write

your melody and ADD your


chords afterwards

Starting with chords and


adding a melody afterwards.
1.

Decide on a key or scale (notes


you will use in your piece).

Assume we choose C major for this. It


uses all the white notes from C C.

D
C

Starting with chords and


adding a melody afterwards.
2. Work out what the chords are for
each note of the scale.
C
E

D
F

F
G

G
A

BC
B

D
G
E

A
F

Starting with chords and


adding a melody afterwards.
3. Find the PRIMARY chords (chords 1,
4 & 5)
C
E

D
F

F
G

G
A

BC
B

D
G
E

F
These are usually always MAJOR

Starting with chords and


adding a melody afterwards.
4. Find the SECONDARY chords (chords
2, 3 & 6)

C
E

D
F

F
G

G
A

BC
B

D
G
E

F
These are usually always MINOR

Starting with chords and


adding a melody afterwards.
5.

Create a set of chords (4 is a good number)


from these

C D E
E
F

F
G

A
A

C
G

E
C

Dm Em F G Am

Starting with chords and


adding a melody afterwards.
5.

Use the notes in the chords to create a simple


melody which changes with the chords.

C
E
G
C

E F G
G
B

Em F G

B
C

Starting with chords and


adding a melody afterwards.
5.

Create a set of chords (4 is a good number)


from these

C
E
G
C

F G
G
B

Em F G

B
C

Starting with a MELODY and


adding chords afterwards
Make

sure your melody has a key


and you have used notes from the
key to compose your melody

We

will assume you have used C


major for this all the white notes
from C C.

Starting with a MELODY and


adding chords afterwards
1.

Write your melody, making sure it


starts and ends on the tonic (first
note of the key):

C
B

G A F
G
C
C

ABC

E C D

Starting with a MELODY and


adding chords afterwards
2. Check what the PRIMARY and
SECONDARY chords are for your key:

Starting with a MELODY and


adding chords afterwards
3. Look at the notes of your melody
and match them with the notes of
your chords. Play them to check they
fit together.
C
B

G A F
C
C

ABC

E C D

Starting with a MELODY and


adding chords afterwards

C
B

G A F G ABC
C
C

E C D

How To Make
Chords More
Interesting
And Impress The Examiner

Basic Chords
Here are the chords added to the
melody

C chord =
CEG

G chord = F chord =
GBD
FAC

G7 chord =
GBDF

Varying the accompaniment

Instead of chords try creating a single note bassline

This is a good idea to use but on its own it is


very boring
Try using it at the same time as another
accompaniment
Try varying the rhythm

Bass line
Try using the other notes of the chords to vary
your single note bass-line
E.g. C chord is made up of the notes C E and G

G= GBDF

G chord = F chord = G chord =


GBD
FAC
GBD

F= F A C

C chord = notes C E G

C chord =
CEG

Developing the basic


chords
Once you have worked out the basic
chords there are many ways of
changing them to make them more
interesting

Broken Chords
Break up the chords so that the notes are
played one at a time instead of all at
once
Try breaking them up in different
directions- ascending and descending

Ascending

Descending

Chord Inversions
If you like the sound of block chords try
varying the order of the notes to make
them more interesting

G
E
C

E
C
G

C
G
E

E
C
G
C

G
E
C

E
C
G

D
B
G

G
D
B

C
A
F

F
C
A

D
B
G

G
D
B

C
A
F

F
D
B
G

E
C
G
C

Varying the Rhythm


Dotted rhythms make the accompaniment
more interesting

Because the rhythm of the melody is


different to the rhythm of the
accompaniment we call this a crossrhythm

Pedal Note
A long, low, sustained note is called a
pedal note
Try adding a pedal note underneath
the chords

Arranging chords and a pedal


note on one stave
Condensing the pedal note onto the
same stave as the chords look like
this

Altering the rhythm


Try changing the rhythm of the
accompaniment to triplets

This creates more cross-rhythms

Changing the broken chords


If you change the broken chords to semiquaver
(quarter) notes the accompaniment sounds much
busier and more detail can be added to them
Try varying the direction of the notes
(ascending, descending, mixed)
Ascending

Descending

Mixed

Semiquaver
Accompaniment
Here is an example of a semiquaver
accompaniment using ascending,
descending and mixed patterns