Jun 09

More Grade Five Composition Examples


In my previous post I showed you how you can write a decent tune in the grade five music theory composition question by following a set formula. There are rules which you need to bear in mind: read the previous post for more details on what you need to be aware of.

The following questions appeared in the 2006 tests.

Why not have a go for yourself, then compare your answers to ours!

Here is a brief summary of the steps you should follow:

Bar 3 = bar 1 up a note

Bar 4 = bar 2 up a note, plus imperfect cadence

Bars 5-7 = bars 1-3 inverted

Bar 8 = scale and tonic.

Example 1 – Question

composition question



composition answer grade five


In bar 4, we changed the minim to a C# instead of D, in order to make an imperfect cadence (A-C#-E is the dominant chord).

In bar 5, we inverted the chord of D major. If we had used A major in this bar, the melody would be less effective, because A major was the underlying chord in the previous bar. It’s usually better to have a different underlying chord in each bar – it makes the melody more interesting.


Example 2 – Question

example composition question grade five theory




example answer composition


This is in a minor key – C minor.

In bar 4, we sharpen the Bb to B natural because it leads up to the tonic, C.

In bar 4, we make the minim a G instead of an Eb, because we want a note which is part of the dominant chord (G-B-D).

We use the melodic minor scale. In bar 5 we have Bb and Ab because the melody is descending by step, and in bar 8 we use A and B natural because it is ascending.


Example 3 – Question

grade five melody question


example of grade five compositionComments

Another minor piece – G minor this time.

Notice that this time the opening we are given is slightly longer than two complete bars. This means the second phrase has already begun (on the quaver E natural), and it didn’t start on the next scale note up. Instead, it started a third lower. That’s ok though – we just continued the melody a third lower instead.

In bar 6 we inverted the chord of D major.

This composition is the least effective of the three in my opinion. However, it’s still perfectly acceptable.

How did you do? Comments welcomed!



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  1. Mandy

    Hi! In bar 4, why did you have to sharpen the Bb to B natural because it leads up to the tonic?

    1. Victoria

      Yes, that’s right. The B forms part of the B-C-D scale passage which is a sequence of the A-B-C passage in bar 2. It’s a rising scale, and we choose the melodic minor scale when writing melodic fragments like this, because it helps to avoid awkward dissonant intervals.

      1. Mandy

        Ah! of course! thank you 🙂

    2. kennithson m. sangma

      obviously, bar 4 is just repetition of bar 2 by up a note. The 2nd half beat of first note in bar 2 was given A natural; so, up a note must be B natural by Rule. It may also be true that in writing melody, we are taught to use melodic scale , and as such, the 6th and 7th degrees of the scale might be raised by semitone while ascending and lowered by semitone while descending. This is what my idea to follow the rules while composing melodies either for instrument or voice.
      Thank you.

      1. Victoria

        It’s a bit more complicated than that – always sharpen the 6th and 7th if the notes form part of chord V or a part of a cadence. For example, if in A minor, you had the descending notes B-A-G-F-E, the G and F should be sharpened, because the notes fit with chord V in A minor (E major), even though it’s part of a descending minor scale.

  2. Jerry

    Just out of curiosity is it better to have an inverted cadence leading to a cadence or to have a small scale (4 notes) of the key leading to the cadence. THNX!!!!!!!

    1. Victoria

      A cadence is a sequence of chords which ends a section of music – you don’t have a cadence leading to another cadence. A cadence is like a full stop or a comma – you don’t put full stops and commas next to each other, just at the end of a clauses. An inverted cadence is simply a cadence where the last chord is inverted (i.e. “b” or “c” or “d”), rather than in root position (“a”). I advise grade 5 students not to use inverted cadences, because they need careful treatment. If you end a piece with a perfect cadence, use the chords Va-Ia for the best effect.

  3. jerry

    what is an imperfect cadence?can u give me a fast reply by the next day?

    1. Victoria

      Hi Jerry. An imperfect cadence is one which ends on chord V. Common imperfect cadences are I-V, ii-V and vi-V.

  4. jerry

    thanks a lot!

  5. kennithson m. sangma

    This web will help me to score more marks in the ensuing music theory exam.

  6. Taddeo

    Hey everyone,

    I was just passing by to say thank you for all of your lessons. I got my results last week and I got a Distinction. I’m so grateful, thank you thank you thank you.

  7. M.Y.

    I was wondering, for the first example, why did you do F-sharp to G (bar 4) instead of F-sharp to E (Going down, since you’re inverting the phrase)

    Thanks. Also if you have time, could you check out a composition I attempted out of the first example? And hopefully give me some feedback. Send me an email if you’re up to this.

    1. Victoria

      Hi M.Y! An exact inversion would indeed be F#-E not F#-G. I think think was just a slip (I did it a long time ago), but it doesn’t make any difference overall – sequences can be exact or not – it doesn’t matter too much as long as the connection with the given opening is clear. Sorry I’m not taking any free marking at the moment, but paid marking can be done via the main website see http://www.mymusictheory.com/for-students/taught-courses/215-theory-lessons-by-email

  8. anatyaco

    hey, thanks forr this tomorrow i have my exam and i was really worried about this question thanks so much!!!!!! (; <3 <3

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