I need to write 12 bar or 16 bar melodies for my Grade 8 Music Theory exam. I know how to write melodies, which didn't require any modulation. I am new to the concept of using modulation in melody writing. It would be great if anyone could help me in providing tips for using modulation in melody writing. Also, is writing 12 or 16 bar melodies any different from writing 8 bar ones? What should be the key points to keep in mind?

  • 1
    To make sure I'm looking at the same syllabus, does this match what you're reading: "Writing a melody of 12 or 16 bars in length using notes from major, minor, pentatonic major, pentatonic minor, blues or whole-tone scales or from the Aeolian, Dorian or Mixolydian modes or a serial tone row. Clef, time signature, instrument and tonality/serial row are prescribed and an optional start is given." I ask because this mentions nothing about modulation.
    – user48353
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 8:26
  • @replete Yes that's right. Oh yeah, it has no mention about modulation, but I thought if it would be interesting to try out a modulation. However, I have no idea of using modulations, so hence, wouldn't try to attempt one. Have you used modulations for melody writing with respect to this question?
    – Grace
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 10:10
  • If for example I have a melody in D major. At the cadence point in my melody, can I have a G# going to A, instead of a G going to A? Would this be considered a chromatic passing note?
    – Grace
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 10:23
  • 1
    @Grace it would be considered a chromatic passing note if after G# to A you continue the melody in D major. Since you decided to use G# as the leading tone to A you can continue your melody in A major Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 10:25
  • @Shevliaskovic Would it be a bad idea to play A, then write the next few notes as G natural and E, and continue to remain in D major?
    – Grace
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 10:27

1 Answer 1


I think with the 12 bar theme they want to see whether you have understood the concept of the blues. You know the chord progression scheme:




V-IV-I-I or (V)

Bars 1-4:

I - I so the first motif is repeated or varied (I-I)

IV then a fourth transposed up (or in minor)

I repetition of the motif in the tonic

Bars 5-8:

IV - IV transposition (or variation) of the motif bars 1-2 a fourth up

I - I may be identical with bars 1-2

Bars 9-12

V - IV this is like a short "bridge" (can contain elements of the motif but not necessarily

I - V motif of bar 1 and preparing the loop by the dominant: e.g. bass solo, guitar lick, drum fillin

The 16 period can have many different chord patterns:


I-IV-V-I (semi final)

I-IV-V-I (final)



as you can see 1-4 and 9-12 are repeated

there are many schemes you should know:

Look up the forms:




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