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Listen to and analyse lots of Classical music to get a feel for how Classical harmony works. It is usually pretty simple – don’t make it too complex.
Here is some help on MODULATION (moving from one key to another)
|Any chord sequence based on these three types of progression usually work well:
- Primary chords (I V I, I IV I, I IV V etc.)
- Circle of fifths-based progressions (e.g. ii-V-I or vi-ii-V-I but also any part of the full circle)
- Falling thirds (e.g. I-vi, vi-IV, IV-ii)
Looking for some simple opening chord sequences to start off your piece? Try some of these:
- I V(6) I
- I VI V
- I ii V I
- I VI IV V
- I vii6 I (or I vii I over a tonic pedal)
- I IV6/4 I
Also you should look at cadential progressions, circle of fifths, parallel motion and progressions over a tonic pedal and dominant pedal. There are other handy things to do on the WCT fingerprints page as well.
DOs and DON’Ts
- Use characteristic progressions at cadences (e.g. II6 V I and cadential 6/4s)
- Root progressions using falling thirds (e.g. VI to IV and I to VI) are much more common than those using rising thirds.
- I and VI are the best approach chords to II in the run up to a cadence
- All other things being equal, it is a good idea to keep a root position I on the first strong beat of a phrase
- Be wary of second inversions. They are rare except for the following:
- cadential 6/4 onto V
- second inversion chord IV alternating with chord I
- Avoid progressions using II other than as an approach chord to V. Chord IIb can also be used as an approach to a cadential 6/4.
- Don’t use III other than 1) as an approach to VI or 2) as part of a sequence between II and IV
- Chord VI in usually in root position
- Don’t use VII other than as VII6 resolving either to I or I6