Lesson 4 - The Alberti Bass (7:09)

Course video 57 of 63

This final module starts with an introduction to what I call “progressions within progressions”. Often a composer uses V-I progressions that are in keys related to the original key but not actually in it. So in the key of C major, for instance, it is quite common to see a progression that has a D major chord going to a G major chord. Well, up to now, we haven’t seen this and we wouldn’t have a way to describe it. That D major chord isn’t in the key of C, it’s not a Neapolitan or Augmented 6. It’s not a borrowed chord because neither C major nor c minor has a D major as the chord on the second scale degree. However, this D major is a fifth above the G major chord, which means that there is a dominant-tonic relationship between the D major chord that’s not in the key and the G major chord that is. This sounds more confusing than it is, so I won’t continue to describe it here. Instead, I encourage you to check out the videos on this concept, which I think make it quite clear what these are and how to use them. For those who have studied harmony before, you might be familiar with the much more common term “secondary dominant”. That’s what these progressions within progressions are. We will also look at a technique that is crucial to the musical style under examination in this course: the Alberti bass. This is the familiar arpeggiated chordal pattern that you frequently encounter in music from this era. They are easy to write, but there are a few things that need to be kept in mind when composing them. There are also some videos that aim to bring course concepts together for you. The first is a video on elaborating progressions. While the basic progressions presented in the first week aren’t extensive, we learned how to significantly alter them via chord inversion and diatonic and/or chromatic substitution. But we haven’t looked too much at how to take all of these strategies and put them together to create a unique progression. This video aims to offer that. Finally, we take a close look at a theme from one of Mozart’s very famous theme and variations, part of the K. 331 piano sonata. This is important not simply because it brings together the concepts presented in this class. More importantly, the work can function as a model for you in composing your final project. It is an excellent example of rounded binary form - the form you need to use for the final project composition.

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