Music Theory - Melody Composition for Grade 7 ABRSM

How to write a composition for the ABRSM grade 7 music theory exam : composing with and without a given accompaniment.
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  • Lectures 32
  • Length 3 hours
  • Skill Level Expert Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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About This Course

Published 10/2015 English

Course Description

You're studying for the ABRSM Grade 7 Music Theory exam. You know that there will be a composition to write, but what is expected of you exactly? How do they judge something which seems to be so subjective? What are you supposed to do with the piano accompaniment, or series of chords printed on the page? And how do you know if your composition is any good?

This course reveals all!

The ABRSM examiners are looking for evidence in your composition, that you have a good knowledge of music theory and can apply that knowledge by creating a piece of music, in a silent exam room, with no access to a piano.

You'll need to demonstrate your skills in crafting a melody which has a strong harmonic foundation - either because it fits the given harmonic framework in the form of a piano accompaniment, or because it's based on a series of given chords, or you have created that framework yourself.

You're also tested on your compositional skills at manipulating melody - adapting ideas to create new music which is fundamentally related to the original ideas and a sound knowledge of the instrument you are writing for is, of course, essential,

You will learn:

  • what the examiners are specifically looking for in your composition
  • how to adapt a given opening to create new material
  • how to fit a melody to a given piano accompaniment
  • how to write in the correct style for the period
  • how to write convincingly for the instrument in question
  • how to create a melody based on a series of chords
  • tips for creating a really great melody, even if you're not good at hearing in your head
  • advice on getting better at hearing in your head
  • about "musical grammar" and what you should avoid doing
  • both question options are covered in detail - 3a and 3b in the exam paper.

How you will learn:

  • Lessons are given in several formats.
  • Demonstrations are shown as edited live recordings, e.g. you can watch me create a composition based on a past exam paper question in real-ish time
  • Instructions are given in animated video format with musical and audio examples. Images are used to highlight the part of the score you need to focus on. E.g. when learning about melodic structure, the animated video will allow you to see the score and hear any relevant music, as I'm explaining.
  • PDFs are provided which contain full lesson notes. It's recommended that you print these off before you start, so you can write your own notes down on them as you follow the course.
  • Text lessons are given as recaps or for quick explanations.
  • You can ask me unlimited questions within the course, either using the course discussion dashboard or via private message.
  • Downloadable practice questions are also included.

About your teacher:

I specialise in music theory exam coaching, in particular for the ABRSM examination board (but not exclusively!) I have taught literally thousands of students via my music theory website, which provides more free resources on music theory exam training than any other site in the world (yes really!) I teach all levels from absolute beginner up to grade 8 ABRSM level, and I love the challenges that the higher grades bring to the table. Grade 7 music theory is a really rewarding exam (and is great on your CV too!): I'm here to help you make the most of it.

I graduated from the University of Leeds (UK) in 1995 with a BA Hons degree in music, specialising in musicology, and I'm also a qualified teacher.

What are the requirements?

  • It's expected that students will have followed courses as far as Grade 6 (ABRSM) music theory.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Get full marks in the ABRSM Grade 7 Music Theory composition question
  • Understand the key ingredients which combine to create a great composition
  • Know what the examiners are looking for when they assess your composition

Who is the target audience?

  • This course is intended for candidates preparing for the ABRSM Grade 7 Music Theory exam.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: ABRSM Grade 7 Composition - An Introduction

Introduction to the course.


In this lecture you'll learn about the two composition types which appear in the ABRSM grade 7 music theory exam paper, what the difference between them is, and how you can choose which one to do.


Important: how to understand the chord notation used in this course.

49 pages

Download the PDF notes for this course here, so that you can add your own notes as you follow the course.

Section 2: General Info about Composing at Grade 7

Find out what the examiners are looking for in your composition, and how marks are allocated.


Your melody needs an excellent shape and direction - find out what that means here.


Instruments: learn the essential facts about instrument ranges, sweet spots and instrument-specific considerations.


Learn about conjunct and disjunct motion, and how to use melodic sequences.


Learn how to create a strong rhythmic structure.


Some concrete tips to follow to help ensure you write a strong melody.

3 pages

How to hear printed music in your head.

Section 3: Question 3a - Specific Info

The ABRSM requires your composition for question 3a to be "grammatically correct". Find out what that means, and how to succeed.


In question 3a you need to write your composition in a Romantic style. Learn about who the Romantic composers were, what the style is like, and how to get really good at knowing what makes a piece Romantic.


Follow the steps in this plan to create a great composition for question 3a.


What you need to notice about the key, time, composer and instrument.

Step 2: Sing it through

How to work out the harmony of the accompaniment for question 3a.

The audio for this piece is provided as a download attached to this video. The extract is taken from Schubert's song "Am Feierabend" from "Die Schöne Müllerin", Op.25.


To make your melody agree with the harmony of the provided accompaniment, you need to think about including chord notes and non-chord notes too. This lecture explains how to do this.


Why it's important to notice similarities and differences within the accompaniment and given opening.


How to look at the melodic and rhythmic aspects of the given opening.


Part of your planning should include a look at how the individual parts combine together to make a whole piece. Then, what should you do with this information?


Decision time - making a checklist.


In this lecture you can watch me go through the first stage of planning in a worked example - taking a look at the given opening and working out the basic harmony.


In the second stage of planning, we look at how the chords are connected to key and modulations, and which aspects of the given opening we can (and should!) incorporate into our own melody.


Watch me work through a real composition, with explanations for each note I choose.

Section 4: Question 3b - Specific Info

A quick introduction to question 3b.


How to understand and use the given chord progression in question 3b.


How to make your own convincing chord progression, when one isn't already provided.


What is "form" and why do you need it?


Why some notes need accidentals, and how you can use accidentals chromatically to make your composition more interesting.

Worked Example: Composing with a Chord Progression
Section 5: Bonus Section
BONUS! Lots more music theory resources!

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Instructor Biography

Victoria Williams AmusTCL BA(Mus), Music Theory Specialist - Founder of My Music Theory

"This course was absolutely first rate in every way. Ms. Williams presented the material clearly, thoughtfully, and with an obvious love of teaching. The only way this could possibly have been any better is to have had the privilege of studying with her in person. I'm amazed by how much information I learned -- and in such an enjoyable way! Ms. Williams is someone who not only has a deep understanding of music theory, but a rare and wonderful creativity that makes her such an effective teacher of it. Bravo and thank you!"

Victoria graduated from the University of Leeds in 1995 with a BA in Music, specialising in Musicology.

Since 2007, Victoria has been teaching music theory online and by email via her acclaimed website MyMusicTheory, offering free music theory tuition following the structured syllabus of the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music).

Victoria teaches all ABRSM levels, from grade 1 (beginner) up to grade 8 (undergraduate level) and has an in depth knowledge of both the syllabus requirements and examiners' marking schemes. As well as teaching the ABRSM syllabus, Victoria is equally at home preparing students for the Trinity Guildhall exams, the Australian AMEB exams and the AP Music Theory exams taken in the USA.

Victoria's lessons break the tricky concepts of music and music theory down into easy-to-understand steps. She approaches teaching from the learner's point of view, building up on existing knowledge little by little, and avoids the “baffling with detail" stance taken by traditional music theory text books. She has an outstanding track-record with her students' exam successes, with the vast majority gaining top rated “merits and distinctions" from the ABRSM.

Victoria is an accomplished pianist and clarinettist, holding ABRSM grade 8 in both, and also composes in her free time. She has three children and two crazy cats.

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