Below are the Write Like Mozart Week 3 Notes that I sent my students last year when we took the Write Like Mozart class together. In this installment, I offer a reference sheet for non-chord tones, thoughts on working with sequential progressions, and a number of hints in completing the assignments and applying what you’ve learned.
This is the third post in this series.
Non-chord Tone Reference Sheet
My wife Maria is a graduate from the Peabody Institute of Music and University of Michigan School of Music. She has been watching the lectures along with me, and she and I think that Professor Edwards’ concise description of non-chord tones is much more understandable than the ways we learned them in school.
I have created a cheat sheet for non-chord tones that you can print and keep handy throughout your studies. It includes all of the non-chord tones Professor Edwards mentioned plus a reference for the suspensions he mentioned. Note that Professor Edwards suggested NOT using the 2-3 suspension in this course, although he has referenced it several times in passing in his videos.
Sequential progressions frequently fall under a category that is called “non-functional” harmony. Functional Harmony is harmony that directly works towards a cadence – eg., I IV V I or some variation/elaboration of that. Non-functional Harmony encompasses just about any other kind of harmony.
The Descending 5-6 Progression and the Parallel 6th Chords Progression are both examples of non-functional harmony. They do not necessarily move towards the cadential V I point, but they are useful for moving the music forward or towards a specific goal point. They can be used to move from one harmony to another somewhere in a functional harmonic sequence, or they could be used to transition from one range to another within an instrument. They are great progressions to use as “filler” and developmental ideas.
The Circle of Fifths progression can be used as functional harmony, since functional harmony is very closely related to the circle of fifths. It can also be used as a mechanism for moving from one place to another, being treated more like other non-functional harmonic sequences.
There are LOTS of other potential sequences available. I suspect that the three that are presented in this course (5-6, Parallel 6th, and Circle of 5ths) are the most common ones in the Classical era. However, you can make just about any two chord progression a sequence by repeating it up or down a second or a third a few times.
For example, try this:
The I to IV is the beginning of a circle of fifths, but instead I repeat the pattern up a second to create the sequence of the first 3 bars shown.
Here’s the same I IV repeated by dropping a 3rd:
Not as pretty when played in this simple texture, but I could imagine it being very nice if some patterns were overlaid on top of the keyboard voicing.
Pay special attention to the Circle of Fifths Elaboration 2 he presented. The 9-8 suspensions he presented here are a very nice way of elaborating this particular progression. You can look for suspension opportunities in any voice which drops a second to the next harmony.
For example, taking Progression 2 presented above, I see that the top voice moves by step, allowing for suspensions to be easily added:
Also look for opportunities to add passing tones and other non chord tones in other voices. Week three has a number of examples of that.
Professor Edwards also talks a little about the pedal tone in this week. Pedal tones are great ways to add interest to just about any harmony. Here I took the first example I offered and added a pedal tone:
I personally think that pedal tones are great in the beginning of a piece or section, where the I chord establishes itself with a pedal tone on the tonic, or near the end of the piece, where the V chord establishes itself with a pedal tone on the dominant.
Non Chord Tones
Make sure you keep non-chord tones reference sheet from above handy so that it is easy to find ways to make voice leading interesting.
Textural Reductions and Adding Patterns
Adding patterns and other decorations to harmonic progressions is one of the crucial ideas of this course.
Also, analyzing a piece down to its textural reduction is a key skill to develop. Remember that textural reduction is all about taking off the patterns and decorations and leaving only the core harmonic progression.
Become facile at both of these skills. They will lay the foundation for many years of successful composition, improvisation, analysis, and even memorization of music.’
Don’t Break Voice Leading Rules
It is easy to think that once you’ve created a successful harmonic progression that doesn’t break any voice leading rules, the patterns will follow easily.
However, once you start to elaborate a progression with patterns or other elaborations, you may accidentally introduce voice leading rule violations. Perhaps all of a sudden, an escape or appogiatura creates parallel octaves between two voices. Keep checking your voice leading as you decorate a piece.
Having said that, keep in mind that you sometimes can fix voice leading problems by adding decorations to the textural reduction lines that have voice leading problems. Decorations offer a double-edged sword that can work towards your advantage, as long as you swing it in the right direction!
Great Review Documents Are Available
When you log into the Write Like Mozart class, you’ll find on the left side a section called Reference Materials. Print these 6 documents out. They summarize just about everything that is taught in the course, and they are very useful to keep handy. Pay attention especially to “Compendium of Progressions,” which gives a nice example at the end of how to extend a basic I IV V I progression into a much longer and more interesting progression.
If you’ve stayed with the course through Week 3, you are halfway done! Don’t get discouraged, use the online forums if you have questions, and know that the more you apply the principles offered, the easier it becomes.