How to Write a Musical Analysis

 How to Write a Musical Analysis

Tips for young musicians on how to write a musical analysis.

Tips for young musicians on how to write a musical analysis.

Things to consider when writing a musical analysis

First of all, describe the following elements of music::

  • Key
  • Meter
  • Tempo
  • Instrumentation
  • Form


  • Describe the introduction?
  • Does it move in leaps or steps?
  • Is the melody legato (smooth) or staccato-like (short and detached)?
  • Describe the approximate range – narrow or wide?
  • Is it motivic or lyrical?
  • Identify and describe sequences as ascending or descending, tonal or real.
  • List other composition devices such as arpeggios, leaps, repeated notes, imitation?


  • Name the key or tonal center, i.e. major, minor, modal, atonal or polytonal?
  • Identify all keys used and how they related to each other – if at all?
  • Identify chromatic chords, state where they occur and name them?
  • Does it have treatment and resolution of dissonance, any unresolved dissonance?
  • Specify the cadence points. 
  • Discuss the harmonic rhythm. Is it consistent or does it change?


  • Name and explain the meter
  • Do parts play the same rhythm or different rhythmic patterns?
  • Describe any irregular meters and time changes?
  • Identify and describe rhythmic contrasts or cross-rhythms.
  • Are the note values all very similar or constantly changing?
  • Is there a simple rhythmic pattern such as one note per beat, or is it more complex?
  • Describe if and how rhythm develops – or is there a repeated rhythmic motive


  • Name the instruments and voice types used?
  • At what point do instruments/voices enter?
  • Can you hear one or more solo instruments in the work?
  • What role do the various instruments play? (Are they all playing the same thing or do some play thematic material and others an accompaniment role?)


  • Describe how the sound is built up?
  • Is the use of dynamics unexpected or logical?
  • Explain how the dynamics and timbre contribute to the composer’s intention?


  • Name and describe the predominant texture (polyphonic, homophonic, monophonic) or is it a mixture?
  • Identify the texture as thick and heavy or thin and light. Describe any changes to texture.


  • Describe the form of the piece. e.g. binary, ternary, rondo, theme and variation. 
  • Is it free flowing, episodic, through-composed or cyclical?

How to Write a Musical Analysis


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