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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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Next UK ABRSM Paper-based Theory Exams Grades 6-8:
Tue 16th November 2021 [Grades 1-5 available online on demand from Aug 2021]
Next UK Trinity Paper-based Theory Exams Grades 1-8:
Sat 6th November 2021

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6. Melody (Keyboard Reconstruction)


By “melody”, I mean the melodic, rather than the harmonic, aspect of the music, and not necessarily the “top part”. In polyphonic music, there is more than one melody taking place. Melody can be found in either of the two hands, and may even exist in the bass, where the accompaniment is provided above.


Sequences and Imitation

Use sequences and imitation whenever possible. These techniques are important to help glue a piece together, so that it makes sense to the listener. Imitation happens when a section of music is repeated in a different octave. Sequences are formed when the melody is transferred to a different scale step.

It is very likely that some of the gaps in the question will be places where imitation or sequences are the best thing to write. While in previous ABRSM grades you may have been encouraged to avoid exact repetition in your composition, at this stage reality comes to the fore! In real life, a great deal of repetition of musical ideas exists in music, especially in larger compositions. If you find a place where an exact copy of previous material will work, write it in!

In this example, taken from a piece called “Élégie” by Eduard Rohde, we could copy the right hand part from bar 1 into bar 3:


Although the left hand is slightly different, the harmony is the same (Gm, Cm), and the melody will sit perfectly.


Repetition of Notes

Be very careful about repeating individual notes. You can repeat a note, if there is a good reason to do so. A good reason could be to maintain a particular rhythmic pattern, or to keep up the rhythmic momentum, or to prepare a dissonance, for example.

If the given material uses pedals, do try to incorporate pedals within the rest of the piece too.


Melodic Contour

Look at the contours of the given material, and work out how the melodies are constructed – do they move by step or leap? Generally, it is good practice to avoid two leaps in the same direction, unless the notes form an arpeggio. So, after a leap, turn back in the opposite direction.

False Relations

Aim to avoid false relations. A false relation is when one part/voice has a note which is a chromatically altered version of the note in the other part, in close proximity. Although false relations can be used to good effect in some cases, in a music theory exam where you cannot listen to what you are writing, it’s safer to avoid using them!

False relations sometimes sneak in unnoticed in minor keys, where the leading note (and sometimes submediant too) are raised by a semitone in one place, but not in another. This bar sounds very awkward, because of the false relation F natural and F sharp.

false relation



Be careful in your use of dissonant melodic intervals – moving by diminished or augmented intervals, or by a leap/fall of a 7th. On the whole it is best to avoid these intervals, but base your decision on what happens in the given material. It is always better to follow the style closely, than apply “rules” unthinkingly.


Crossing Hands

You are writing a relatively simple piano piece. Often, you will see that the title of the piece is connected with children in some way – this is because they are often taken from simple study pieces for little hands. Don’t make things too complicated!

Make sure that the right hand does not cross the left hand (unless this is a feature which already exists in the piece), and avoid writing the exact same note to be played by both hand simultaneously.

In this example, the last three notes are unisons, which means the texture is thinned and only one part will be heard:

unisons between hands



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