Teaching and resources for English, Art History and Music

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Mediant Studies

Outline of the Composition Module

This module is divided into five sections, one for each question in Section A of the examination.  The questions ask students to arrange given material - and often to add an ending - in the styles below. 

Click on each title to see a sample of the material provided.

Question 1:  Baroque – Lutheran chorale (choral music for SATB choir)

Question 2:  Classical – Orchestration (instrumentation; ranges, clefs & transpositions; style)

"... thank you so much for your comments. I can see you have spent some real good time with this music.thabks for your valuable time.. your lessons are truly helpful.. And this is a great encouragement for me to write more and more.. coming from an authority like you, i consider this very much special  Thanks again " March 2018

Question 3:  Early Romantic – Piano solo

Question 4:  Twentieth century (light music)  – Arranging popular songs

Question 5:  Late nineteenth century and twentieth century – Non-diatonic melodies

Below are examples of some of the information given in different parts of the course.

In the examination, you must answer:

Either two questions from Section A and three questions from other sections

Or three questions from Section A and two questions from other sections.

All options from Section A are covered, but only one option from Section B is covered. You must then choose four sections from the composition module.  In the examination, very few students answer question 2 (the piano solo), and those who do tend to score low marks.  Question 2 (orchestration) is much easier than it used to be;  most students answer it, and score high marks.  Most students also answer question 1 (the chorale), although not all do well.  Question 4 is now quite popular, and most students who try it do well.

Question 5 is composition only, while question 2 is arrangement only. Questions 1, 2 and 4 are basically arrangements, although you have to write the last phrase in full. 

Questions 1-4 are largely diatonic, with usually including some chromaticism;  however question 5 is never diatonic:  you must compose a melody in another system (e.g. modal, whole-tone or atonal).

To help with questions 1, 3 and 4, there is a section about Harmonising Melodies.  This shows how to identify cadences in a melody, how to create strong chord progressions leading to the cadences, and how to change key so as to fit the melody.

In questions 1, 3, and 4, candidates have to write the last phrase of a melody, and in question 5, candidates have to write a whole melody from a given opening.  In the non-diatonic melodies section, help is given in writing both diatonic (major/minor) and non-diatonic melodies - such as how to use techniques like sequence and isorhythm to build melodies.  If you are not familiar with this, are are not taking the Non-Diatonic Melodies section of the Composition Module, you may want to order the section about Writing Melodies in the Grade 6 Course  This includes how to make the tune fit the chords, how to develop melodies, and how to set or change the mood of a melody.  There is a particular focus on writing melodies in a minor key, and to performance directions. No help is given with word-setting;  it is required only in question 4, where the rhythm is usually obvious.

Since for each of the five questions you need to be familiar with a particular type of score, and to write in the style of a particular historical period, you should complete the Score Analysis and Musical Knowledge modules before beginning the Composition module.  Most students should then complete “Harmonising melodies” (and “Writing Melodies” if necessary) before beginnng the other sections of the Composition module.

The five questions are arranged (in the examination paper) in historical order – from Baroque to Modern.  However you may do the sections of the course that you choose in any order, except that if you choose to do the sections on questions 1 (the chorale) and 3 (the piano solo), you may find it easier to do the chorale (which uses simpler texture and fewer chromatic chords) first.  Both sections are based on Roman numerals.  However question 4 (Arranging popular melodies) uses jazz/guitar chord symbols, which are given in the examination (except for the last phrase).  As in question 3 (piano solo), students have to write music for piano, although the style is different:  in question 3 the style is usually similar to those used in simple pieces by Clementi, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Schumann, while in question 4 the style is of the sort of sheet music companies publish of popular jazz melodies and show songs.

Click here to return to OUTLINE OF THE AMusTCL COURSE

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