Composition Project #4: a 12-Step Program

Composition Assignment # 4

Free response question #6 on AP Exam.

Using Roman Numerals to generate:

  • melody with motifs and phrases
  • harmony
  • chord progressions
  • non-harmonic tones
  • cadences


CRITICAL: Remember that your focus is on learning the INSTRUCTIONS and the PROCEDURE.

Following the INSTRUCTIONS results in music. You will be applying the principles, skills and techniques on numerous musical and compositional occasions. Knowing HOW is our focus. When you know HOW you can apply them to any “what.”

The process in detail and in order, step-by-step, in order, do not skip steps, do them in order, only do one thing at a time…in order:

  1. Create your 3rds chart starting with the tonic.
  2. Using “boxed text,” build the matrix of stacked chord tones in 3rds with the ROOT on bottom, then the 3rd, the 5th and, if called for, the 7th. (See “over-the-top example”.)
  3. UNDERLINE the BASS note, which may or may NOT be the root of the chord. The ROOT of the chord must be on the bottom of the stack.
  4. The scale degree (in the key) of the ROOT of the chord is the ROMAN NUMERAL. Conversely, the ROMAN NUMERALS on this exercise give you the ROOT (scale degree) of the chord. The inversion symbols give you the BASS note which you will circle.
  5. Label chord symbols above the staff. (See Example.)
  6. Compose the melody from the notes in the matrix. Melody should be mostly conjunct and in contrary or static motion to the bass most of the time (at least 50% of the time) and should stay within the treble clef.
  7. All parts should be written for vocalists, therefore, they should be “singable.” (See example below.*) Do not write in piano/instrumental style. You can do that for fun later, but not for this assignment.
  8. STEM DIRECTIONS! Soprano and Tenor stems go up, Alto and Bass stems go down.
  9. IN SIBELIUS, use the color-coded voices (1,2,3,4) on the key pad:
  • voice 1 (blue) for Soprano
  • voice 2 (green) for Alto
  • voice 3 (orange…or yellow?) for Tenor
  • voice 4 (pink) for Bass
  1. Compose the alto and tenor voices using notes in the matrix following the rules from the “MUSIC THEORY QUICK FACTS SHEET” and from the handouts. Alto and tenor should be “boring.”
  2. Add and LABEL at least two non-harmonic tones in each example, using each type at least twice overall (from “MUSIC THEORY QUICK FACTS SHEET” or Do not use the pedal tone.


Always ON the beat: Appoggiatura, “Accented” anything, Suspensions, Retardations

Always BETWEEN the beats: Escape tones, Anticipations, UNaccented passing tones and UNaccented neighbor tones


  1. Compose and label the type of cadence indicated by the Roman Numerals.
  2. Don’t over-complicate the process! (The example on the first page is way over the top.) You must be able to account for every note. These short compositions should be:
  • musical logical
  • something you will enjoy listening to
  • something you are proud of!
  • a fun way to learn this material


A great way to use non-harmonic tones is found at in the “Sequences” section (about 2/3 down the page).

When you are VERY happy with the sounds you have created, SAVE your project!! Email .sib file to Then export as an audio file (.wav) and email it to yourself.

Print your project.

FINALLY: Turn in the printed copy.

HINTS and REMINDERS: See the handouts.

*Example of linear vocal writing: