Meri’s Musical Musings

Hints for Harmony Exams

Posted on: October 30, 2009

Just thought I’d share some hints for the Royal Conservatory of Music/National Music Certificate Program for the harmony exams, as I picked up from my theory teacher.

1) Figure out your cadences first.

2) In chorales, do 1) first, and then figure out the basic I-IV-V-I progression

3) Use the filler chords (especially vi, but I^6 and dim 7th chords according to the rules.)

4) Move the alto and tenor as little as possible, staying on the same note or a neighbour note if possible.

5) Spell out your chords, and circle the third. The third is only doubled in a 7th chord, never in others.

6) Double the root when chords are in root positions, otherwise, double the fifth. (except in a 7th chord)

7) Memorize the different types of non-chord tones. Mark Sarcknecki’s Harmony, Book 1 has a chart of them.

8) Memorize the chord patterns that are sequences.

9) Don’t be afraid to use passing notes to avoid a parallel 5th or 8ve.

10) Use oblique and opposite-direction part writing, this will avoid most disallowed parallels.

11) If the soprano part gets lower than about a first line E, move the next soprano note upward if possible.

12) Figure out your bass line first, then your soprano, then alto and finally the tenor part.

If you have any more hints for harmony exams, please share them and I’ll add them here.

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