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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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A7. Harmonizing a Melody II

Grade Six Music Theory - Harmony Lesson A7: Harmonising a Melody (2)

(Continued from the previous page)

In this lesson we will walk you through a complete harmonization. We will use the method outlined at the end of the last lesson. Here it is again:

1. Key?

2. List available chords for reference.

3. Harmonize cadences.

4. Harmonize start.

5. Harmonize the rest. CHECK everything.


Here is the melody we are going to harmonize. We've numbered the chords for reference.



1. Key. The D#'s are a clue that the key is E minor. Also, the final note is E, and the beginning fits the chords of I and V in E minor.


2. Available chords:

I: E – G – B

ii°: F# - A – C [diminished!]

iv: A – C – E

V: B – D# – F#

VI: C – E – G

vii°: D# – F# – A [diminished!]


3. Cadences. There are two minims (half notes), which are a longer note value than used elsewhere in the melody, and therefore likely to mark cadences. The cadences are balanced with one at the half-way mark, and the other at the end. (Cadences can also be marked with a pause symbol, or double bar line). We will use root position chords, which make stronger cadences.

The first cadence is on A and B. These note fit an imperfect cadence. The B fits with chord V, but the A could fit with ii or iv, so we will leave this blank for now.

The second cadence is on the notes D# and E. These notes fit with V and i in E minor. Note 12 also fits with chord ic, which means we can use a cadential 6-4.



4. Start. We need to use chords i and V to establish the key of E minor. Note 1 (B), fits with both chords i and V. Note two fits with chord i, and note 3 fits with chord V. We could use V – i – V or i – i – V. Both of them are fine.

I'm going to use i – i – V. The first i falls on a strong beat, so it's fine to repeat the chord on the weak beat, as long as the inversion is changed.




In chord 3, only Va is possible. Vb has a bass note of D#, which would cause consecutive octaves with the melody line.

Vc is not available, because the second inversion chord can only be used in a cadential or passing 6-4. It's not a cadence, and in a passing 6-4 the second inversion has to fall on a weak beat. Beat 3 is a strong beat (in quadruple time), so it won't work here.


5. The rest.

Chord 4 needs to contain an E. The D natural is a passing note and we can ignore it.

E occurs in i, iv and VI. We will choose chord i, because the root movement of a fifth will create a strong first bar. We could use i in root position or first inversion.
Since we've used ia more recently, ib provides more interest.


Chord 5 fits with ii°, iv or VI. Since there are lots of options, let's move on to chord 6, because it may be more restricted.

Chord 6 fits with ii°, iv and vii°.

We can discount vii° for chord 6, because it is a "substitute V". Chord 6 falls on a weak beat, so it should be a completely different chord to chord 7.

We can also discount chord ii°. The F# diminished chord has to be used in first inversion, which means the bass note must be A. This will cause consecutive octaves with the melody. Chord iva also causes consecutive octaves, so ivb is the only option here.

Back to chord 5.

Using ii or vi will produce a root movement by thirds. If ii moves to iv, the two chords share the notes A and C. If VI moves to iv, they share C and E.

Although these chords are not illegal, I'd prefer to use iva. This chord movement also mirrors bar 1, which is nice.



Chord 8 fits with i, iv and VI.

Chord ia is not available, because it will cause consecutive octaves (B-E). Chord ib is ok.

Chords iva and ivb are ok.

VIa is ok, but VIb causes consecutives again.

I will choose the root movement of a 5th for the strongest progression, so chord 8 will be ib.



Chord 9 fits with ii°, V and vii°. Again, there are plenty of options, so we will come back to this one.

Chord 10 can only be V or vii°.

Since vii° is a V substitute, these are basically the same chord. We should, then, pick chord ii° for chord 9, so that the harmony changes. If we chose V or vii° for chord 9, the harmony would be repeated on a strong beat, which is poor.

Chord 9 has to be ii°b (because all diminished chords have to be in first inversion).

Chord 10 can only be Va and not Vb. This is because the leading note is in the melody (D#). You cannot double the leading note (i.e. it cannot be in the melody AND the bass at the same time).



Finally we are left with chord 11. E fits with i, iv and VI.

Chord i is a bad choice, because we already have chord ic on the next strong beat.

V rarely moves to iv, but frequently moves to VI. This is one of the progressions listed in the "common progressions" in the last lesson. We can use VI here.
VIa will make the smoothest bass line, moving by step rather than a leap up to E in VIb.




Don't forget to erase your working out when you've finished, leaving only the Roman numerals and inversions in place.



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