Music theory: introduction to composition techniques

Course Dates: 17/01/21 - 28/03/21
Time: 11:00 - 13:00
Location: Online

Apply theoretical knowledge gained from studying up to grade 5 in ABRSM music theory to further understand harmonic writing and chord progression in major and minor tonalities, to write short, typically 8 bar, compositions consisting of melody, harmony and bass, preparing you for the grade 6 theory syllabus. Break week: 21st Feb 2021.

This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.


What is the course about?

This course is an ideal bridge between music theory grade 5 and music theory grade 6. It will help you to feel more confident with notation while encouraging you to be creative and enjoy writing simple, short pieces in major and minor keys. Your melodies will be diatonic and set to chords using common chord progressions and cadences, with the introduction of simple modulations, and working in all keys and clefs. You will also be introduced to stylistic considerations for writing parts for instruments and vocals, including vocal quartet, through score reading and choosing performance directions. We hope to inspire you to explore composition further.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

- writing simple melodies within a harmonic framework
- choosing chords to accompany your melody
- rhythmic pattern and shape within a melody
- antecedent and consequent phrases (question and answer phrases)
- Use rhythm and melody appropriately to set words
- common cadences and simple modulation
- voice leading and suspension
- Instrumental and vocal ranges and technique
- working with motifs, continuing melodies from a given opening
- writing bass lines and introducing figured bass
- score analysis and transposition
- vocal, keyboard and instrumental styles.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

write a simple melody with confidence
- have a deeper understanding of chord progression and cadence in both major and minor keys
- write harmony which supports the voice in an accompaniment
- feel confident to address the harmony and composition elements in grade 6 theory.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

Suitable for anyone with knowledge of music theory at Grade 5 standard (or higher). You will need to be able to read music fluently (treble and bass clef) and have some confidence with the structure of major and minor scales and chords (e.g. do you know what is meant by chord I and chord V in Eb major?).
You must also have at least grade 4 practical standard on your instrument so you can perform parts of your compositions for the class.
- You must write your compositions in staff notation using manuscript paper or software (Sibelius). You may photograph/scan your compositions to upload to Google Classroom for tutor and peer comments/discussion and feedback.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

This is an online course you will need a computer or tablet with a webcam, microphone and reliable internet connection to take this class. We use GOOGLE CLASSROOM to share messages, documents, audio and video files and for you to submit any homework tasks. We use GOOGLE Meets or ZOOM for live classes via webcam.

Your tutor will use a variety of techniques:
- tutor explanation and demonstration via webcam / shared screen
- score reading
- short revision videos and/or audio files (posted in Google Classroom)
- worksheets (posted in Google Classroom)
- weekly composition exercises
- online resources
- group performing and individual demonstration tasks (e.g. clapping rhythms, playing chords or melodies).

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

The ABRSM Music Theory in Practice grades 1-5 books [external website] will be used for exercises, and the accompanying AB guides to Music Theory by Eric Taylor. [external website]
Please bring a pencil and eraser for annotating the scores provided by the tutor, and some manuscript paper.
Many scores will be sourced from and links will be posted on google classroom. So you may print/work with your own laptop/tablet if you prefer or use the handouts from class.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

As well as preparing you for the grade 6 theory syllabus, this course is an excellent introduction to score reading for anyone studying music theory at higher levels (Grade 5 and above). You may wish to progress to Studies in counterpoint, Composition Techniques etc. You may also be interested in City Lit's Music history courses, or one of our wide variety of practical courses in singing or playing an instrument.
For more details about musicianship and music theory please visit our blog: Musicianship and music theory at City lit which lists our full sequence of musicianship and music theory classes.

Tutor Biographies
Sarha Moore

Sarha is an experienced teacher and gigging musician, performing on the saxophone, arranging and composing on the piano, in classical, jazz and world music genres. Her principal band, Bollywood Brass Band, is the UK’s pioneering Indian-style wedding band, performing tunes and compulsively danceable rhythms of Bollywood films. Twice nominated for Songlines World Music Awards, the band has performed across the world in concerts, festivals, and Indian weddings in the UK, Europe, India, Thailand and South Africa. Sarha played with Ghanaian Highlife band Orchestre Jazira, and socialist big band, The Happy End. She also plays in the Charlie Mingus jazz cover band Hog Callin’, The Great Yiddish Parade marching band and Freylekh klezmer band. Sarha’s specialist area is World Music, and she has a PhD on the study of the Flattened Supertonic across different cultures. At CityLit she teaches jazz and classical piano, saxophone, world music styles (practical and academic courses), musicianship and music theory.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.

This course has now started

Course Code: MG446B

Full Sun, day, 17 Jan - 28 Mar '21

Duration: 10 sessions (over 11 weeks)

Full fee: £199.00
Senior fee: £199.00
Concession: £121.00

Call us to check if you can still join the course 020 7492 2630 (depart num)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.