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Exam Strategies

Compiled by Dr. Terry Eder

Free Response Questions 1 & 2: Melodic Dictation
1. Look at the given key signature, time signature, and first note and be prepared to determine the mode of the melody. 
    One dictation will be in a major key—one will be in a minor key; one will be in treble clef—one will be in bass clef.

2. Be prepared for the melody to be in simple OR compound meter and know what patterns in different meters look like and feel like.

3. Make predictions about what you might expect to hear. The melody will probably end on the tonic so write this in at the end 
    and try to identify the duration (in 4/4 time the final note will probably be a half note; in 6/8 time it will probably be a dotted quarter note).

4. Leave your pencil on your desk during the entire first hearing and try to memorize the melody.

5. On the first hearing try to get the beginning and ending down.

6. Try to divide the melody into phrases and listen to see if anything repeats.

7. Associate the pitches with your system (preferably solfege-movable DO in my opinion) and determine where the melody moves by step and where there are skips.

8. Try to listen in “chunks” and relate the notes to each other by interval.

9. Never give up—if you are having trouble, keep scrapping to write the dictation until your time runs out!

10. In minor—don’t forget to raise the leading tone!

Free Response Questions 3 & 4: Harmonic Dictation
1. Harmonic dictation may seem to be more difficult than melodic dictation.

2. You are required to notate the soprano and bass voices and under each staff provide the Roman and Arabic numerals that indicate the chords and their inversions.

3. Look at the key and know where the notes for tonic, subdominant, and dominant are located on the staves. 
    Listen for basic harmonic functions: I—V—I; I—IV—I; I—IV—V—I; V—I—V.

4. Listen to the bass line FIRST and notate it. The durations in these questions are always straight quarter notes,
    so you can probably get the bass line down on the first two hearings.

5. The last chord will most likely be a I chord, but not always. It could be a vi forming a deceptive cadence or it could end on a V 
    forming a half cadence. But if you go to the last note and enter a I under it, most of the time you won’t have to change it because
    it will be correct when you hear the progression.

6. During the third hearing listen to the soprano line and notate it. Be sure that you have determined what note the melody begins on and mentally note 
    what that note sounds like in the key. If possible begin to listen to the quality of the chords also—they will be major, minor, diminished, augmented or 7th chords.

7. Listen for any altered tones—it may mean there is a secondary dominant happening.

8. When you get the bass and soprano notes written down determine which chords might work with those notes.

9. Know the principles of standard common practice harmonic progression and listen for natural harmonic progression in the dictation. 
    Use good common musical sense—standard cadences at the end of the dictation.

Free Response Questions 5 & 6: (Figured Bass Realization in 4 Parts) & (Writing a Harmonic Progression Prescribed by Roman Numerals)
1. Be certain that you know that figured bass symbols represent intervals above the given bass note. The numbers and symbols will tell you what chord it is.

2. Be sure that you know what all the symbols mean—for example, a # means that the note that is the interval of a 3rd above the bass note is raised a half step.

3. Always begin by writing the Roman numerals designated by the figured bass symbols OR write the bass notes if only the Roman numerals are given.

4. Then write a good soprano line that will work with the bass line. Remember—the soprano normally carries the melody so it can feature both conjunct and disjunct motion,
    but should be more conjunct than disjunct.

5. Try to create a good amount of contrary motion between the bass and soprano (50% or more), but always remember to be aware of general concerns of contour. If the bass
    starts low and moves generally up, then maybe the soprano should start up higher in order to move in contrary motion with the bass.

6. The alto and tenor voices must be mostly conjunct in motion serving different roles from the bass and soprano. They should be limited in range and should be more static in
    nature. A “boring” alto part is a GOOD alto part. And the same goes for the tenor voice—“boring” is GOOD!!

7. Always think in horizontal terms—the vertical is a resultant of the horizontal lines of the voices.

8. Spell chords and get them correct even at the expense of voice leading.

9. Remember to raise the leading tone in minor!

Free Response Question 7: Melodic Harmonization
1. First write the cadences at the end of each phrase of the melody (marked with a fermata on the AP test).
2. Use standard cadences:   6                                          6
                                        I 4 – V (7) – I                       ii (5) –V (7) – I  

                Probably 50% of all common practice cadences will be IV – V (7) – I one of these Authentic cadences
                                Ends on V – approached sensibly: Half cadence
                                                                       IV—I - Plagal cadence
                                                                        V—vi – Deceptive cadence

3. Only three chords a phrase can end on in the common practice period: I, V, or vi.

4. Write the bass line for the cadences using standard bass lines: Fa—Sol—Do; Sol—Sol—Do; Re—Sol—Do.

5. Choose harmonies at the slowest harmonic rhythm possible. Keep it simple!

6. Use basic primary chords: I, IV, V, ii. Don’t use iii or III. Stay away from vii.

7. Decide which notes of the melody are more important: those that are longer; those that are on the beat.

8. Once you have written the cadences, you are over a third finished.

9. Now just connect the dots with standard progressions. A standard common practice progression: I—vi—ii—V—I.

10. Keep contrary motion in mind.

11. An accidental may signal a secondary dominant.

Sight-Singing: Questions 1 & 2
1. Look at the key signature and check the beginning and ending notes to determine whether the example is in a major or minor key.

2. One will be in major—the other will be in minor; one will be in simple meter—the other will be in compound; one will be in treble clef—the other will be in bass clef.

3. Don’t stop once you begin because points are deducted for hesitation.

4. Take a fairly slow tempo in order to give yourself plenty of time from one note to the next.

5. Write syllables or scale degree numbers on the music, especially Do, Mi, and Sol or 1, 3, and 5.

6. During the 75 seconds—PRACTICE—and do it OUT LOUD! Pick an appropriate pitch range for your voice (you do not have the take the pitch that the tape plays, 
    but when the pitch plays the second time for you to begin—be sure to sing the exercise in the key that you have practiced it in).

7. Sing using the system you know best, but in the end, if you begin to stumble with the system—just get it done anyway you can—sing LA, LA, LA 
    if you have to in order to keep from stopping.

8. Breathe anywhere since phrasing is not graded.

9. Hold all notes for their FULL value—and don’t forget about the last note!