Theory: Music Composition Assignments for 1.25.2019

You did a great job at the film music assignment this week. This was probably my favorite unit so far this year. If you have not yet sent me a PDF copy of your score and an .mp3, please do that as soon as you can.
This week we talked about secondary dominants as a way to add some harmonic interest to your compositions. Essentially, this means that a chord becomes the temporary tonic by using accidentals, and the V chord of the temporary key leads to a cadence on the temporary tonic. Very often it’s the V chord that becomes the temporary tonic, as that’s the easiest to pull off with the least amount of difficulty. This is a way to slide into another key without changing the key signature, and it’s usually for a short time, as short as a couple of chords. Here’s where knowing the circle of fifths comes in very, very handy. It’s easiest to go to the relative minor, or one key to the left or right on the circle of fifths. The further away from your original key on the circle of fifths, the harder it is to pull of well, and the more jarring it is to the listener. For example, if you are in the key of F major, it’s pretty easy to temporarily slide into C major, Bb major, or d minor. Let’s say you wanted to make C the temporary tonic. You would highlight that by throwing in a G major chord (V of C major) that resolves to C (temporary tonic). If you wanted to make d minor the temporary tonic, you would throw in an A major chord (V of d minor) and resolved to d minor. A tougher sell would be to e minor (vii of F major). You’d have to somehow get to a B major chord and then resolve to e minor. Not impossible, but way harder. You’d have to prep multiple chords ahead of time to wind your way to that chord progression. I mean, Bach did stuff like that, but most of us aren’t on his level, so mad props to him. We’re starting out very basic, and that’s totally fine!
When reading a score, a big clue to finding the secondary dominants is the use of accidentals (though, of course, not all accidentals are secondary dominants). Most of the examples listed below have the score as a part of the video so you can follow along and find them (and thus aren’t ncessarily the best “musical” examples out there). I also mentioned that secondary dominants are a bit of auditory interest thrown in a song, so you may find it easier to discover them simply through hearing.
Some examples are:
Your challenge is to write at least 8 measures of a melody with harmony that employs a secondary dominant somewhere. Please send me your PDF scores by next Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. Because I expect your compositions to be rather short, you don’t necessarily need to send me an .mp3, though I wouldn’t turn it down. If, by Thursday, your brains are still hurting over this assignment, we can do a lab day next Friday. However, we’ve still got a few fun things coming at us that I would rather not spend too much time on this one.
My musical happy moment this week is one that never fails to make me giggle. Enjoy the Bad Lip Reading original song sung by Yoda, “Sea Gulls.” Have a great week!

Heather R. Nelson, PhD

Singing Voice Specialist

Voice Teacher