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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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5. Decoration in Trio Sonatas

Grade 8 Music Theory - Decoration in Trio Sonatas

Patterns of Decoration

There are some typical patterns which are used to add decoration between two notes. The ideas in this chapter are just a small selection, to get you thinking about how you can move from one main melody note to the next in a “fancy” way. For more inspiration, study as many Trio Sonatas as you can and see what sort of patterns were used in each case.

In the following examples, the main melody notes are on the top stave, and possible ways to decorate them are immediately below. Play or sing through them.

Decorating a Unison or Long Note

melodic decoration unisons


Decorating a Rising 2nd

melodic decoration rising 2nds


Decorating a Falling 2nd

melodic decoration falling 2nds


Decorating 3rds

melodic decoration 3rds


Decorating 4ths and 5ths

melodic decoration 4ths 5ths


Melodic Decoration and Harmony

When you decorate any note, pay attention to the harmony which is required at that point. The first note in the decorative part, (in other words, the note after the main melody note), will usually need to either be a chord note belonging to the current harmony, or a step away from the main melody note.

If you choose a note which is neither a step away, nor a chord note, you will most likely write a decoration which clashes with the rest of the harmony.

The following decorations all work properly:

 melodic decoration harmony


In the above examples in the key of C major, the main melody moves from G down to D in each case.

  • Bar 1: Harmony moves from I to V. Main melody note G is followed by chord note E.
  • Bar 2: Harmony is V throughout the bar. G is followed by chord note D.
  • Bar 3: Harmony moves from I to V. G falls by a step.
  • Bar 4: Harmony is V throughout. G falls by a step.


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