Portrait of S. Savage, age 11, by Eleanor de Ghize


Syllabus for Harmony

by Stephen Savage


Minimum Subjects Covered

This outline summarizes the content of the Theory Level III-2 class now taught at the New England Conservatory's Preparatory School.
  • Review of the basic physics of the harmonic series and derivation of musical scales; "just intonation" and tempered tunings

  • Review of the circle of 5ths and standard key signatures in major and minor

  • Review of standard musical notation

  • Review of three forms of minor scale

  • Systematic study of intervals (melodic, harmonic, diatonic and chromatic)

  • Types of chords (four "triads" and seven "seventh chords," for now)

  • Syntax of consonance and dissonance and rudimentary counterpoint

  • Diatonic triads and seventh chords (primary and secondary); importance of the tonic, dominant and subdominant chords and the special nature of the dominant seventh; historical (contrapuntal) derivation of seventh chords

  • Theory of roots and inversions

  • Writing and recognizing chords in close and open positions

  • Scale degree "functions" and their generic names in major and minor

  • Standard cadences (authentic, plagal, deceptive and half)

  • Uses of "dominant function" Chords (V, V7, vii, and vii7)

  • Classification and study of non-harmonic tones and embellishments; the relationship of "dissonances" in counterpoint to "non-harmonic tones" and 9th, 11th, 13ths in harmony, and the relationship of "counterpoint" to "harmony" in general

  • Harmonization of a melody and "harmonic rhythm"; the distinction between this and rudimentary counterpoint

  • Figured bass and more recent chord symbol nomenclature for chords

  • Doubling guidelines (beyond doubling the root)

  • "Realization" of figured bass; voice leading 1. over given bass and 2. between given soprano and bass

  • Chromaticism, including
    • secondary (or "applied") dominants and secondary "dominant-function" chords
    • mode mixture (modal interchange)
    • the neapolitan chord
    • augmented 6th chords
    • auxiliary (neighbor-note) diminished seventh chords

  • Tonicization and modulation

Handouts (PDF Format)

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