Exploring ways to develop Musical Ideas

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This unit explores how musical ideas, in the form of a theme or melody, can be developed using variation form.

The unit provides a good opportunity for pupils to revise the Elements of Music as basic forms of variation technique before looking at more technical ways of varying a theme or melody such as augmentation, diminution, inversion, retrograde and retrograde inversion.  The techniques of “adding” to an existing theme or melody is explored in terms of counter-melodies, ostinato, drone, pedal, melodic decoration and passing notes.  Pupils also explore the concept of Ground Bass and Canon/Round as a type of variation form and learn about tonality in terms of major and minor scales and how the tonality of a theme or melody can be changed (major to minor and minor to major) as a variation technique.

Existing themes and melodies form the basis of musical material for pupils to explore and vary through musical means, from simple well-known melodies such as Frère Jacques, to The Simpsons TV theme and the Go Compare adverts, although pupils can compose and create their own themes or melodies for the basis of a set of musical variations. 

Throughout the unit pupils explore how composers have used variation form in a selection of music from different times and places. 

Key Words, Concepts and Musical Knowledge

Melody, Theme, Variation, Variation Form, Augmentation, Diminution, Canon/Round, Ground Bass, Inversion, Retrograde, Retrograde Inversion, Pedal (Pedal Note, Pedal Point), Drone, Melodic Decoration, Ostinato, Tonality, Major, Minor.

Music Theory

Note Values - Duration

Variations from Major to Minor and Minor to Major

Links to GCSE Music

Western Classical Tradition 1650-1910

Instrumental Music 1700-1820

Musical Forms and Devices