How do you get maximum marks in the harmony question? Well firstly, do as many harmony exercises as you can. Consider there to be a harmony exercise muscle. Build it up and keep it fit. Secondly, it helps to know how they are marked. The marking scheme is slightly different each year depending on the piece but follows the same basic weighting: You get one mark for every chord you put in (that works as part of a progression); half a mark for every bass note that matches your correct chord; 11-14 marks for good chord progressions (for example, cadences); and 9-13 marks for the style of the bass line.

As with all questions in all exams, you should have a technique - your own, personal technique - for each question. Always approach and complete each question the same way. This is the best way to make sure you get the most marks. Here's a suggestion of how to do this:

1. Use a chord chart, even if you're fairly confident. Imagine how stupid you would feel if it turns out you made one silly mistake in your head which messed up your whole harmony question and all you had to do to avoid it was refer to your chord box. Pretty stupid? Damn straight.

2. Make sure you use small case lettering for minor and diminshed chords. It's not that hard - dm not Dm or d; ii not II. As long as you do this in your chord box and then abide by my number one rule then there shouldn't be a problem here.

3. Cadences first. Always do your cadences first. Cadence = goal. You should know what you're aiming for when you start a line. This also completes eight boxes (given there are four cadences which there usually is) straight away which makes the question look less scary.

4. Put in basic bass line as you go along. Plonk in some minims or semibreves of the correct bass note under each box. That way, if you run out of time, at least you have something on your bass line and having a matching bass note under each chord box is worth a significant amount of marks. And, of course, make sure you remember that you're writing in the bass clef!

5. Make sure your bass notes are aligned with your treble notes. Marks will be taken away if you don't do this. It makes it hard for the examiner to read and be sure which bass note goes with which chord if you don't do this and it's simply incorrect.


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Chord chart 

Including small case lettering for minor and diminished chords

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