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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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Harmony Reconstruction Lesson 6: Reconstructing a Chorale

Grade 7 Music Theory Q2. Lesson 6: Reconstructing a Chorale from a Harmonic Outline

Now that we have covered the necessary types of melodic decoration we can add to a harmonic outline, it’s time to work through a real question. Part “A” is the harmonic outline and part “B” is where we are going to write our reconstruction.



  1. We will write directly onto part A while we are working out the answer. When we’re ready, we’ll copy out the whole thing onto stave B. This means we don’t mess up stave B too much with heaps of erasing!
  2. Count the number of chords in the piece. Don’t count chords with a pause mark, as they won’t need any decoration. There are 15 chords here. Aim to decorate about 75-80% (three-quarters or a bit more). This means we should leave about three chords untouched, in this case.
  3. Start with passing notes. Remember they can go in any part, but don’t put many in the soprano part. Look for places where the melody line moves by a third


Check for consecutives and clashes. Notice the chord at the first pause – the shaded notes are the 3 & 5 of their chords, so we should avoid putting passing notes here. Put the passing notes in. passing-in

  1. Next look for suspension opportunities. We can ignore the chords we’ve already decorated, and simply focus on the undecorated ones. Remember the acronym MUD – Middle parts, Unique note, Downward movement. suspension-places 

    Add the suspensions, and tie them if you want to. 

  2. Now look for places to add auxiliary notes. They can be added between two identical notes. Again, ignore all the chords we’ve already decorated. auxiliary-placesauxiliaries-in
  3. Add auxiliary harmony notes. Look in the bass part for places where a harmony note would create a satisfying bass line. auxiliary-harmony-placesharmonies-in
  4. If you still have too many undecorated chords, add changing notes. Changing notes can be inserted between any two chord notes. In our exercise however, we’ve only got three undecorated chords left, so we can stop already!

 Play through the finished exercise to see how it sounds.


Some Thoughts on Notation

You will be given the outline in full on one stave, with a blank stave directly underneath it, which is where you should now copy out your answer. The ABRSM kindly fills in a few beats for you here and there on the answer stave too.

  • When adding decoration, make sure that all notes which sound at the same time are aligned vertically. For example, the alto F should be aligned with the third soprano G here: 
  • Copy the notes lightly but clearly, so that you can see them well but can also erase them easily.
  • Be sure to copy all accidentals. In four-part harmony, it is good practice to write accidentals as though each line was on an independent stave. For example, the G# in the soprano part here should be given a sharp as well, even though there is one earlier in the bar, because the earlier sharp applies to the alto part.



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