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Theme and Variations. Hinchingbrooke School Music Department. Spot the difference. My dog Rex is friendly. My pet dog called Rex is friendly. My dog’s name is Rex. He’s friendly. Rex is my dog. He is a friendly dog.

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Theme and variations l.jpg

Theme and Variations

Hinchingbrooke School

Music Department


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Spot the difference

  • My dog Rex is friendly.

  • My pet dog called Rex is friendly.

  • My dog’s name is Rex. He’s friendly.

  • Rex is my dog. He is a friendly dog.

  • My canine companion goes by the name Rex. His behaviour is friendly, but he slobbers sometimes!


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So what is Theme and Variations?

  • The theme is the original melody.

  • Variations are different versions of the theme.

  • Composers can change the theme in many ways.

  • In this module we will learn how to develop a theme melody into variations.

  • We will also learn about different ways of combining melody and harmony.


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Listening exercise

  • What is the name of this well known melody?

  • How many different parts can you hear playing?

  • What happens to the music the second time we hear it?

  • Can you still hear the melody? In which part?


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Writing your theme

  • In each bar there is a chord.

  • In each chord there is 3 notes.

  • Choose 2 notes for your melody in each bar.

  • In the last bar of each line just choose 1 note.


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Does your theme flow?

  • Are there big jumps? Adjust your theme to get rid of these!

  • Does the leading note rise to the tonic? If it doesn’t, then adjust this too.



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Listening 2

  • What instrument is playing?

  • What happens to the music each time the ground bass is heard?

  • How many beats are there in a bar?

  • How does the piece end? (2.53)





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Extension ideas

  • Do you have to have 4 beats in each bar? How would you handle this? What would need to change?

  • Do you have to use the key of C major? Could you change it to a minor key? Could you transpose a section into another key?


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Listening 3

  • Name 2 ways in which the melody differs each time it is heard.

  • Name 5 instruments you can hear playing

  • What is the name for a group of instruments like this?


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Changing the texture – a more adventurous lower part!

  • To begin with we only used chords in the lower part, these work well, but can be boring after a while.

  • By breaking these chords up into a repeating pattern, called an ostinato, we can create different textures.


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The original chords

  • In this version, the chords are held for 4 beats.


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The chords are broken into minims.

  • In this version, the root note of each chord is held for 2 beats and the others are held for 2 beats.


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The chords are broken into crotchets

  • In this version, the notes of the chord are played one at a time. The root is always played first, and one note must be repeated.


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The chords are broken into quavers

  • This version is similar to the crotchets version, except that quavers are used instead.


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The possibilities are endless!

  • This version mixes up different note lengths. Did you notice that there are still repeating patters?


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