Alan Belkin, composer
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
I am looking for a volunteer to translate this book into Italian.
Please contact me at: belkina_at_yahoo.com (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?
- Discussion of other approaches
- Limits of our discussion
- A new approach to understanding harmony
- A definition of harmony
Principles of coherence and continuity
- Pitch and interval limitations
- Linear aspects: melody and bass lines; voice leading
- An aside: open vs. closed harmonic systems
- Hierarchy, landmarks, cadences
Principles of movement, interest and variety
- General aspects of harmonic accent
- Creating momentum and renewing interest on various structural levels
- Harmonic rhythm
- Modulation and harmonic transition
Transitions between various types of harmony
Harmony, texture, and orchestration
- Spacing and register
- Harmony with multiple planes of tone
Criteria for evaluating harmony; pedagogy
© Alan Belkin, 2003, 2008. Legal proof of copyright
exists. The material may be used free of charge provided that the author's name
website © Alan Belkin, 2008
email: belkina_at_yahoo.com (replace _at_
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.