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Recently, I posted a lesson where I show students how to compose a theme and variations for piano. Now, most composers today do not compose using this musical form. That's not to say it isn't still used but … it can sound antiquated if certain harmonies and sounds are used.
For example, in the video below, I use the A harmonic minor scale and 3 chords from that scale to create a theme with 3 variations.
This particular sound has been used for quite a while. I chose it because it does sound familiar and some students wanted to learn something using a minor sounding scale.
Notice that the theme itself is quite simple. It consists of two 8-bar phrases that can be called A and B sections.
The two sections are played through and then the first variation begins. It consists of broken chords in the left hand. The second variation is a simple crossover pattern using the same chords - only this time, it's spread out. This gives the necessary contrast without breaking the "mood" of the piece.
The last variation is a play on the melody itself. I think I'm using eigth or sixteenth notes here as I just play around with breaking up the melody.
Finally, we return to the theme and there you have it … a complete piece of music using the theme and variations technique.