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Music Theory II

Course Overview

This is a second, continuation online course in music theory designed to reinforce foundational music theory concepts and introduce higher-level musical language and grammar insights and skills. Over the course of seven instructional modules and three large creative projects, the instructional, interactive, and creative learning experiences engages students in the following areas of concentration: music literacy, elements of rhythm, pitch collections, intervals, basic and advanced chord structures, diatonic applications of harmony, basic chord progressions, chord analysis, voice leading procedures, cadential structures, non-chord tones, and secondary chord functions. This course is useful for all students of music desiring to grow as an insightful musical consumer, performer, or composer and especially serves as a prerequisite to advanced placement and/or collegiate music theory experiences and training.

Course Content

Module 1: Firm Foundations

Tofoundational music theory concepts. In this module, students will be led through a robust 4-week sequence of instructional resources and assessments designed to help them master pitch notation, rhythm concepts, major and minor pitch collections, intervals, and the basic triads. This module reignites and deepens students’ understanding of the distinctive structures that govern the musical art form and those which serve as the bedrock for all the remaining advanced subsequent concepts studied in this course.

Module 2: Progressing Pitch Collections

The first level of more advanced music theory study is expanding the repertoire of pitch collections. In this module, students will use their recently reinforced knowledge and experience with major and minor scales/keys and triads to study modes and seventh chords. In both of these topics, students begin to discover the subtleties of melodic and harmonic structures in music language, the noticeable nuances that result from a seemingly benign adjustment of pitches or perspective. Generating this initial awareness with modes in the family of scales and the injection of an additional note to triads through seventh chords, students begin to grow sensitive to the more complex structures of music that will continue to be developed in this course.

Creative Connection #1: Soundation

This course is designed in a pattern of two robust instructional modules followed by a week-long project module during which students creatively apply their learning and skills and gain awareness of and experience with powerful online music creation tools. These creative outlets are called Creative Connections. During this first Creative Connection students will be spending the week viewing instructional videos, experimenting and creating songs using an online Digital Audio Workstation called Soundation. Drawing upon their current music theory knowledge and experiences, students will ultimately refine and present one song while also interacting with their peers on their creations.

Module 3: Heightening Harmony

This module is focused on how pitch collections and chords are associated with each other within keys, how chords can create different aural sensations and functions through inversions, and how chords are described, annotated, and analyzed through two systems of chord symbols. Once again, these concepts reinforce the essential interactivity of music elements and begin to develop within students an analytical perspective that is essential to being a mature sensitive listener, accomplished performer, and effective creative composer. As the concepts of scale degrees, diatonic triads, and diatonic seventh chords are developed in this module, creating and reinforcing a critical sensitivity to these musical structures, students are being prepared for the discovery of the true concept of musical harmony in the next module, the basics of musical form in module 6, as well as the effective inclusion of divergent pitches and chords in the final module of the course.

Module 4: Vibrant Voice Leading

In this module, students will make an incredibly critical discovery regarding the concept of harmony: that it is not simply the vertical merging of more than one pitch together to create or imply an isolated chord, but rather true harmony in music is the linear, horizontal evolution of chords over time. The context to best introduce this and related concepts of true harmony is four-part SATB chorale voicing, a texture that will continue deep into students’ music theory training. Along with introducing this voicing, in this module, students will deepen their chord analysis abilities, learn the foundational Circle of Fifths chord progression from which most other progressions in all types and styles of music are derived, and discover the 18th century voice leading principles that still guides how harmony is structured in music today. In the end, this is a robust, collegiate-natured learning module.

Creative Connection #2: Soundtrap

After the former demanding module, students will certainly welcome this opportunity for another Creative Connection. Drawing upon their previous work with Soundation and their growing music theory knowledge and experiences, students will be introduced to an even more powerful and capable online Digital Audio Workstation entitled, Soundtrap. To demonstrate their learning and application of the features of this creative platform from instructional videos and personal experimentation, students will ultimately refine and present one song while also interacting with their peers on their creations.

Module 5: Cool Cadence Clan

In this module, students are now formally introduced to the concept of musical form. Specifically, the primary concept of this module is cadences, the ways in which music phrases are concluded melodically, rhythmically, and harmonically. While interacting with a variety of instructional resources, students will be prompted to take ownership of their learning of this concept by designing and personalizing a learning artifact called the Cool Cadence Clan Chart in which students will document the distinguishing recipes of each of the defined cadences found in all types and styles of music.

Module 6: Keen Key Extensions

After solidifying the firm structures that provide the parameters for the melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, and formal elements of the musical art form, this final module of the course introduces the students to the ways in which the “rules can be broken”. Specifically, the concepts of this module are non-chord tones and non-key chords, called Secondary Functions, the two primary ways by which composers and songwriters add additional and distinctive melodic colors, abbeerations, and effects to chords and chord progressions. Through a variety of instructional resources and learning experiences, students discover the terms and concepts that define these distinctive moments they have noticed, and will now be more sensitive to, when music contains melodic and harmonic outliers, dissonances, and oddities. While this module and course does not address all the aberrations in music that fall outside the norm, students will be able to explain the most common occurrences and will be equipped to even approach, surmise, and reason the nature of those not directly addressed.

Creative Connection #3: Noteflight 4-Part Chorale

In this third and final Creative Connection of the course students will be spending the week composing an original 4-part chorale in Noteflight. Students will be composing within specified parameters such as keys, time signatures, phrase structure, types of chords, cadences, and non-chord tones. A step-by-step process is outlined for the students within which they will be creatively working. Their comprehensive compositions will be presented to class during the week’s synchronous session.