Music theory is an essential aspect of music education, and it involves the study of various elements that make up music. From melody to harmony, rhythm to form, music theory provides the foundation for understanding how music works. In this article, we will discuss the common practice in music theory and explore some of its key elements.

What Is Common Practice?

The Common Practice period refers to a particular era in Western Classical Music from around 1600-1900. During this time, composers used specific techniques and styles that formed the basis of Western Classical Music.


One of the most critical aspects of Common Practice is harmony. Harmony is the use of chords in a piece of music. During this period, composers used specific chords and chord progressions to create tension and release within their compositions.

Chord Progressions: A chord progression is a series of chords played in sequence. The most common chord progression during this period was the I-IV-V progression. This progression can be heard in many pieces from this era, including Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

Chords: There are several types of chords used during this period, including major and minor chords, augmented and diminished chords, as well as seventh chords.


Melody refers to the main tune or theme within a piece of music. During the Common Practice period, melodies were often characterized by a sense of symmetry and balance.

Phrase Structure: Melodies during this period were typically structured into four-bar phrases that followed an A-B-A pattern. This structure helped create a sense of symmetry within the melody.

Cadences: Cadences are musical punctuation marks that signal the end of a phrase or section within a piece. During this period, composers used specific cadences such as perfect cadences to create a sense of resolution and closure.


Rhythm refers to the pattern of notes within a piece of music. During the Common Practice period, rhythm played an important role in creating a sense of movement and momentum within a composition.

Meter: Meter refers to the organization of beats within a piece of music. During this period, composers used specific meters such as 4/4 or 3/4 to create a sense of stability and structure.

Tempo: Tempo refers to the speed at which a piece of music is played. During this period, composers used specific tempo markings such as allegro or adagio to indicate how fast or slow a piece should be played.


Form refers to the overall structure of a piece of music. During the Common Practice period, composers used specific forms such as sonata form or theme and variations to organize their compositions.

Sonata Form: Sonata form is one of the most common forms used during this period. It consists of three main sections: exposition, development, and recapitulation. This form provided composers with a template for creating large-scale works such as symphonies or concertos.

Theme and Variations: Theme and variations is another common form used during this period. It involves taking a simple melody or theme and creating variations on that theme throughout the piece.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding Common Practice in music theory can help us appreciate the rich history and traditions that have shaped Western Classical Music. From harmony to melody, rhythm to form, these elements remain relevant today and continue to inspire new generations of musicians and composers alike.