Teaching and resources for English and Music

This site will look better with stylesheets enabled, and in a standards compliant browser (i.e. not Netscape 3 or 4.x)

Mediant Studies

Before we start to arrange and write variations on a melody, we need to be aware of the structure of the melody:  where do phrases end, and where does the music come to a point of rest?  Which cadences are appropriate for these points of rest?  Which chord progressions do we use to approach those cadences?  Where does the music change key, and how do we make the key changes effective?  Secondly, we need to aware of the sort of texture that might be appropriate.  How do we voice the chords vertically so that the gaps between notes are appropriate?  (Usually the biggest gap will be between the lowest notes.)  How do we create effective accompaniment patterns that will support, rather than fight with, the melody?

It is obvious, then, that students need to be spot key changes, use appropriate cadences, write strong chord progressions (probably using some chromatic chords), and pay attention to the way that the melody is accompanied.  All of this should have been learnt when studying the Piano Solo section at AMusTCL level.  It is then important that students who have not done this begin with the Piano solo section of the Composition Module of the AMusTCL course.

There are however important elements to note.  There were differences of style between the main composers.  Articulation, expression, pedalling and ornamentation are also important.

The notes cover the topics below.  Click on the titles to see samples.

  1. Harmonising melodies.  Students are asked to specify keys and chords for harmonising six melodies.  Hints are given in spotting unusual chords or cadences, harmonising pentatonic melodies, recognising compositional devices such as sequence and hemiola, and keeping to the style of the period.

  2. Piano textures compares contrapuntal and chordal textures, as well as lively and still bass lines, showing the  impact of each.

  3. Arranging melodies for piano describes the development of a keyboard style from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, climaxing in that of Franz Liszt (although using one of his simpler textures as an example).

  4. Styles used in keyboard variations describes the way in which the writing of keyboard variations developed between the late Renaissance and the Romantic Period, from Byrd to Brahms.

  5. Writing Variations shows how to write variations in different styles on a melody, taking as an example the theme given in Section A, question 2b, of the LMusTCL paper C, November 2017.

  6. Setting tunes and writing variations shows gives examples of themes to harmonise and write variations on in the style of the question in Section A, question 2b, of the LMusTCL paper.  There are hints suggesting how to go about answering each question.   Composers whose themes are quoted range from C. P. E. Bach to Sibelius.

With each topic, there are assignments, in which you can learn to put into practice the knowledge and skills taught in the notes.  There is a simple chordal extract to complete, in which you can concentrate on the harmony, without having to worry about imitating or developing ideas.  Then there is a study of the string quartet question from the Sample Paper published by Trinity College, showing step by step how to complete the parts.  Special attention is given to writing in the style of the composer (in this case Mozart).  Finally there are specimen exam questions, offering one or two suggestions as to how to complete the arrangement most effectively, but leaving you to make your own decisions.  The originals are given, so you can see what the composer actually wrote, and learn to imitate his style.

As with all LMusTCL materials, there is a choice of two options:

Return to LMusTCL Outline