Ch 9: AP Music Theory: Harmonic Composition

About This Chapter

Study harmonic composition with these simple and comprehensive music theory lessons. The chapter outlines several musical rules and concepts related to harmonic composition so you can correctly answer questions on this topic on the AP Music Theory test.

AP Music Theory: Harmonic Composition - Chapter Summary

If you need to prepare for the AP Music Theory exam, study the harmonic composition lessons in this chapter to develop your understanding of tonal harmony, chord families, scale patterns and more. These convenient harmony lessons cover the following concepts to help you answer questions on the exam related to:

  • Understanding the rules for writing four-part harmonies
  • Analyzing diatonic scale patterns
  • Recognizing the use of arpeggios in music
  • Identifying instruments that perform basso continuo
  • Developing tonal harmony
  • Notating and realizing figured bass
  • Assessing Roman numeral notation in music
  • Contextualizing tonic, subdominant and dominant chord families
  • Naming different types of musical cadences
  • Defining the tonic in music
  • Analyzing methods of motivic transformation

Each lesson outlines definitions and theoretical rules related to harmonic composition so you can be fully prepared for the test. These lessons explain these concepts using musical notation and examples of their applications throughout classical music. Use the lesson quizzes to assess your understanding of these musical concepts and use the quiz results to see if there are any topics that need additional review before test day.

12 Lessons in Chapter 9: AP Music Theory: Harmonic Composition
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
The Rules for Writing Four-Part Music

1. The Rules for Writing Four-Part Music

Four-part writing can be difficult, but you don't have to reinvent the wheel. In this lesson, we'll look over some common rules to make four-part writing a little easier.

Diatonic Scale: Definition & Patterns

2. Diatonic Scale: Definition & Patterns

Did you know that you can play an example of every type of diatonic scale just by using the white keys on the piano? Learn about diatonic scales, including major scales, natural minor scales, and modes.

Arpeggio in Music: Definition & Patterns

3. Arpeggio in Music: Definition & Patterns

In this lesson you will learn about arpeggios in music. You will learn how chords can be performed as arpeggios, and how arpeggios can be written out in music.

Basso Continuo: Definition & Instruments

4. Basso Continuo: Definition & Instruments

In Baroque music, most performances were held together by the basso continuo: a couple of instruments playing a bass line and harmonies. In this lesson, you'll learn how the basso continuo worked and which instruments played it.

Common Practice Style & Developing Tonal Harmony

5. Common Practice Style & Developing Tonal Harmony

In this lesson, you will get to explore the details of music from the Common Practice Period including the subcategories of the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic Periods. Learn about tonal harmony and how it evolved through the Common Practice Period.

Figured Bass Notation: Principle & Examples

6. Figured Bass Notation: Principle & Examples

Do you like to listen to music? What's your favorite part? How about the bass? Some music has strong bass lines. In this lesson, you'll learn about figured bass notation.

Figured Bass Realization: Methods, Rules & Examples

7. Figured Bass Realization: Methods, Rules & Examples

In this lesson, find out when figured bass was introduced, what it is, and how it is used in music. We will also discuss realizing a figured bass and its impact on four-part vocal harmony.

Roman Numeral Notation in Music Theory

8. Roman Numeral Notation in Music Theory

Ever seen Roman numerals in sheet music? Why are those there? In this lesson, we'll examine this notation system and see how it helps us understand the chord structure of a composition.

Chord Families: Tonic, Subdominant & Dominant

9. Chord Families: Tonic, Subdominant & Dominant

How do you make music sound good? That question is at the heart of nearly every composition, and one key is knowing how chords fit in the key. We'll see what that means, and look at the three most important chord families.

Cadence in Music: Definition & Types

10. Cadence in Music: Definition & Types

How do composers ensure that the endings of their pieces sound right? In this lesson, we'll look at that question and see what role the cadence has in ending a musical composition.

Tonic in Music: Definition & Overview

11. Tonic in Music: Definition & Overview

The tonic pitch in music is what we refer to as the beginning and ending note of the scale used to compose a piece of music. In this lesson, we'll learn more about tonic pitch and what relationship the tonic pitch has to the key of the piece.

Motivic Transformation: Definition, Methods & Examples

12. Motivic Transformation: Definition, Methods & Examples

How can you keep a musical theme integrally tied to a composition without making it boring or redundant? Let's take a look at motivic transformations and see how they can be used to do just this.

Chapter Practice Exam
Test your knowledge of this chapter with a 30 question practice chapter exam.
Not Taken
Practice Final Exam
Test your knowledge of the entire course with a 50 question practice final exam.
Not Taken

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Support