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A6 & A7. Harmonising a Melody Exercises

Harmonising a Melody Exercises (A6 & A7)

Move your mouse over the staves (tap on mobile devices) to reveal the answers.


1. Harmonising a Melody - Step by Step


For each melody below;

a) Name the key

b) Write out the available triads for each degree of the scale, and label them with both the Roman numeral system and the letter name (e.g. I/C major)

c) Harmonize the melody using standard cadences and other common progressions where possible.


 Melody 1

melody harmonisation 1

a) Key: answer

b) Triads:


Chord no.
point at table row for answer Point your mouse over each row in the table to reveal the answer.*
Chord 1: ia - tonic chord to establish the key
Chord 2: Vb - to establish the key. Va would also be ok.
Chord 3: ia - be careful not to write B natural to Ab, which is an augmented 2nd.
Chord 4: ivb - The melody has a repeated C, so make sure the bass moves (don't repeat the previous note). Chord iv is a new chord so far - make sure you use a good variety of chords and inversions (a and b).
Chord 5: Va - B natural only harmonizes with Va (Vb isn't allowed because you can't double the leading note) or vii°b. vii°b is no good because Ab can't move to D natural - it's an augmentd 4th.
Chord 6: VIa - The progression V-VI in a minor key is very common. VI is also a chord we haven't used yet, and it also continues the progression of fifths with the next two chords: VI-ii°-V.
Chord 7:

ii°b - Almost any chord can lead to V, but ii°-V is particularly good because the root falls by a fifth (D-G). In a minor key melody, ii° is a diminished chord (D-F-Ab), so it can only be used in first inversion. (This is an unfinished melody, so we are going to use an imperfect cadence here).

Chord 8:

Va - Choose root position chords at a cadence.


Melody 2

melody harmonisation 2

a) Key: answer

b) Triads:


Chord no.
point at table row for answer Point your mouse over each row in the table to reveal the answer.*
Chord 1: Ia - Using the root position tonic helps to establish the key.
Chord 2: IVa - This can't be harmonized with I or V, so we used the third primary chord (IV) here.
Chord 3: Va - We haven't used V yet, so it's important to do so at the first opportunity.
Chord 4: via - The melody notes D and F# need to be harmonized. This gives us the option of vi (B min) or I. We used vi because the secondary chord will make the harmony more interesting than using another tonic chord.
Chord 5: Vb - imperfect cadence.
Chord 6: Ia - V can be followed by I or vi.
Chord 7: iia - We haven't used ii yet.
Chord 8: Ia - We want to avoid vib-Va, as it's a poor-sounding progression (see Va-vib)
Chord 9: Va - We will need a perfect cadence (it's the end of the melody). 
Chord 10: Ia - Use root position chords at a final cadence.


*Not all possible answers are included. Each answer is related to the chord we picked for the chord before - other answers may be possible. We can't give all permutations, as there are too many! 


2. Harmonizing a Melody - Free Practice

The best way to to improve your harmony is to practise as much as you can. Here's an activity you can try which will also improve your ability to "hear" music in your head. Start off with short phrases and try longer ones as you get better.


a) Think of a well known children's song.

b) Sing it through in your head and try to work out which note is the tonic and what time signature it's in.

c) Grab some manuscript paper and try to write out the melody.

d) Play it through on your instrument, to check you got it right. (Correct any mistakes!)

e) Decide which notes need harmony chords, and which notes are passing notes (usually one chord per crotchet or minim is enough, but experiment). Mark the notes you're going to harmonize with a *.

f) Harmonize the melody, using the steps in lessons 6 & 7.

g) Play it through on a keyboard slowly and really listen to what you've written.

h) Harmonize the same melody in a different way. (Try changing minor to major (or vice versa) as well!) 

Here are some well known British children's songs to get you started:

  • My Grandfather's Clock
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
  • Mary had a Little Lamb
  • Sing a Song of Sixpence
  • Ding, Dong, Bell
  • Girls and Boys Come Out to Play
  • Happy Birthday to You
  • Sing a Rainbow
  • Lavender's Blue
  • I Had a Little Nut Tree


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