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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Campus Attendance
  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Campus Attendance



Unit rationale, description and aim

Professional musicians need to be able to create, embellish and adapt harmonic progressions in order to engage with diverse repertoire. This unit develops skills and understanding around the modal and tonal languages that surround contemporary music practice. Students examine the fundamentals of chord progression, voice leading and harmonic functionality, and acquire skills to manipulate complex harmonic textures in a range of stylistic contexts. In addition to a consideration of vernacular diatonic harmony, students learn to understand and develop skills in notating horizontal and vertical expressions of harmony, tonicisation and modulation, chord substitution and mixture, and techniques of prolongation including sequential constructs. The aim of this unit is to help students gain an appreciation of the ways in which harmony is used differently across time, style and culture, and develop skills essential to professional practice as a musician in a variety of contexts.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Identify and contextualise harmonic processes in diverse music repertoireGC1
LO2Construct and embellish chord progressions using diatonic resources and supplemented by strategies including tonicisation, mixture, chord extensions and chord substitutionGC2, GC7
LO3Realise progressions in a variety of contexts using effective voice leading strategiesGC3, GC8


Topics will include:

  • The construction and use of all diatonic triads
  • Effective and idiomatic voice-leading procedure
  • The application of chord progressions to a variety of contexts such as SATB harmony, instrumental ensembles and lead sheets
  • Harmonic embellishment through the analysis, construction and use of chord extensions and substitutions drawn from common practice, jazz and contemporary vernacular tonal idioms
  • Modulation and tonicisation in small scale progressions and as a large-scale structural device
  • Chord substitution strategies including mixture
  • Techniques of harmonic prolongation such as sequential progressions
  • How harmony operates differently across different time periods, styles and cultures.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Students encounter the techniques of contemporary harmony by engaging with diverse repertoire. Beginning with simple diatonic progressions, students listen to and analyse music to develop an understanding of harmonic process. Students develop the skills that arise from these encounters via short, simple exercises. Skill development is cumulative across the semester and students ultimately apply these skills in the context of a sustained composition.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In each module students are exposed to ideas and skills associated with harmony. Skills are developed via short exercises and simple music compositions. Skills in harmonisation are developed in a cumulative fashion. As such, continuous assessment, along with continuous formative feedback is a feature of the unit of study. Each successive formative assessment builds on the skills developed in previous assessments. Two tests at points through the unit of study function to take a snapshot of skill development, with feedback provided to help students develop their skills further. The unit culminates in an authentic assessment that provides the opportunity to creatively apply the skills students have developed through the unit.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Exercises in Writing and Analysing Harmony

Students undertake short exercises in the form of harmonisations, analyses, exercises in chord construction and harmonic realisations. Each exercise works to develop skills arising out of unit content, and cumulatively reinforces material throughout the course of the unit.


LO1, LO2, LO3

Short Tests in Harmony

Students undertake two short timed, in-class tests focusing on harmonic analysis and construction/realisation of progressions. The purpose of these tests is to provide additional feedback and reinforce the cumulative development of skills.


LO2, LO3

Original Composition

A harmonic realisation that gives students the opportunity to creatively apply material considered in the unit in the context of a short original piece. The assessment features an authentic, real-world application of harmonic ideas chosen by the student.


LO1, LO3

Representative texts and references

Aldwell, Edward, Carl Schachter, and Allen Cadwallader. Harmony and Voice Leading. 5th ed. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2019.

Benward, Bruce. Music in Theory And Practice. Vol 1 & 2. New York: Mcgraw-Hill Education, 2020.

Brent, Jeff, and Schell Barkley. Modalogy: Scales, Modes & Chords: The Primordial Building Blocks Of Music. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard, 2011.

Cadwallader, Allen, and David GagneÌ. Analysis of Tonal Music: A Schenkerian Approach. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Duckworth, William. A Creative Approach to Music Fundamentals. Boston: Schirmer, 2012.

Hijleh, Mark. Towards a Global Music Theory. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2012.

Kostka, Stefan, Dorothy Payne, and Byron AlmeÌ. Tonal Harmony. 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2017.

McKenry, T. Music Craft Grade 5. Melbourne: All Music Publishing, 2008.

Mullholland, Joe, and Hojnacki, Tom. The Berklee Book of Jazz Harmony. Boston: Berklee Press, 2013.

Roig-FrancoliÌ, Miguel. Harmony in Context. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.

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