Alan Belkin, composer

General Principles of Harmony


This book is the final installment in a series of four short works on the teaching of musical composition. Its aim is to provide some general principles of harmony, in concise, practical terms, and to provide guidance for student composers. This will not be a "theory" text, nor an analysis treatise, but rather a guide to some of the basic tools of the trade.

This book is the last in a series. The others are: Form, Counterpoint, and Orchestration.  All are based on my own experience as a composer.

A pdf version of this book is available for download here.

This series is dedicated to the memory of my teacher and friend Marvin Duchow, one of the rare true scholars, a musician of immense depth and sensitivity, and a man of unsurpassed kindness and generosity.

I am looking for a volunteer to translate this book into Italian. Please contact me at: (replace _at_ with @).

A note concerning the musical examples: All the musical examples with audio here are my own, composed especially for this work, and are covered by copyright. Unless indicated otherwise, they are intended for piano or for strings. To hear other examples of my music, please visit the worklist page.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why this book?


Principles of coherence and continuity

Principles of movement, interest and variety

Transitions between various types of harmony

Harmony, texture, and orchestration

Criteria for evaluating harmony; pedagogy

Bibliography, acknowledgements

© Alan Belkin, 2003, 2008. Legal proof of copyright exists. The material may be used free of charge provided that the author's name is included.

website © Alan Belkin, 2008 (replace _at_ with @). I am always glad to hear comments or suggestions concerning the content here. I do get a great deal of email from this website, so I may not reply to you immediately. Since so many have asked, I do offer private lessons, either in person or via the Internet; please inquire for my rates. Please do not send me your music without an invitation; I unfortunately do not have time to respond to everyone who just wants my opinion of their score.