Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module MUSI1281: Analysis 1: Elements of Tonal Theory and Practice

Department: Music

MUSI1281: Analysis 1: Elements of Tonal Theory and Practice

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap Location Durham
Tied to


  • A-level Music or equivalent.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The module aims to provide students with foundational knowledge in the disciplines of music theory and analysis, focusing on the elements of harmonic and formal theory as they apply to the common-practice repertoire of the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Beginning with an introduction to the core principles underpinning tonality, it provides a thorough grounding in the analysis of thematic syntax and of baroque and classical forms. The module serves both as an introduction to music theory and analysis, and seeks to secure basic musical literacy, which will reinforce students' learning in technical and historical modules.


  • The module comprises three parts. Part I introduces students to basic concepts in the theory of common-practice tonal harmony, concentrating on voice leading, cadence, prolongation, post-cadential harmony, sequence, and modulation. Part II deals with the construction of baroque and classical themes, with specific focus on motive and formal function. Part III provides an introduction to the analysis of baroque and classical forms, paying close attention to ritornello, fugue, binary and ternary forms, variations, rondo and sonata. Each part of the module is supported by extensive engagement with repertoire from Corelli to Beethoven.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will gain an essential grounding in core concepts of tonal theory, baroque and classical syntax and form, as well as the analytical techniques required to understand tonal musical practice. They will also gain deep knowledge of the baroque and classical repertoire, which supports their learning in Historical Studies I, and contextual knowledge of practices that are applied compositionally in Musical Techniques I.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to conceptualise the core constructive elements of tonal practice.
  • The ability to recognise common harmonic, syntactic and formal characteristics in a broad range of baroque and classical repertoire.
  • The ability to apply theoretical knowledge in the analysis of the specified repertoire.
Key Skills:
  • The application of theoretical knowledge in the analysis of core repertoire.
  • Students learn how to construct analytical essays.
  • Students learn how to write in a manner appropriate to the disciplines of theory and analysis.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module is taught by weekly lectures, small-group seminars, each focusing on a set work, and tutorials. Students submit two summative essays, the first covering the analysis of baroque/classical harmony and syntax, the second testing the formal analysis of eighteenth-century works. The summatives test applied knowledge: they require students to apply theoretical concepts in the analysis of repertoire. They also furnish students with analytical experience that can be applied historically (in Historical Studies 1) and compositionally (in Techniques 1).
  • The weekly lectures introduce students to core concepts, illustrated by examples from the repertoire; they also demonstrate applications of theory in the analysis of repertoire in a wide range of genres. The seminars reinforce learning through small group work on a series of focused case studies. The tutorials offer students the chance to discuss specific worked examples, in tandem with the work proposed for the formative assessments.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly 1 hour 20
Seminars 6 2 in each term 1 hour 6
Tutorials 2 One in Michaelmas Term and one in Epiphany Term 1 hour 2
Reading and Preparation 172

Summative Assessment

Component: Analytical Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Analytical Essay 1,600 words 100% Yes
Component: Analytical Essay Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Analytical Essay 2,400 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Three formative assessments, each of which will test the security of core knowledge in the three parts of the module. Formative 1 will comprise exercises in harmonic and voice-leading analysis. Formative 2 will test students' ability to recognise motivic processes and formal functions in baroque and classical themes. Formative 3 will give students experience of analysing whole-movement forms, using the concepts developed in the module.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University