Junior Certificate Music – Backing Chords

Hi guys,

With the Junior Cert exams approaching I have decided to do a daily blog on some tips for the big exam. If you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will do my best to answer everyone. One of the biggest questions I have been asked lately is on Backing Chords. Below I have put together a few helpful notes for you. Hope they help. 🙂

  1. Do question C only, do not attempt question A or B


  1. This question is worth 45 marks or 25% of your junior cert.


  1. You are required to insert Chord symbols above a given melody line. Usually there are never more than nine chords to insert. There is no music writing involved.


  1. The first chord is given and indicates what key the music is in. The minor key is not used in this question.



  1. Getting Started. Decide what key you are in and quickly draw up a chord chart in the rough work section E.g. D Major



A B C# D E F# G A
F# G A B C# D E F#
D Em F G A Bm C D
Doh Ray Me  Fah Soh La Ti Doh


  1. Never use chords based on Me and Ti, draw lines through to ensure that you don’t use them accidentally. The main chords are remembered by the ‘Three Chord trick’ i.e. Doh, Fah and Soh. These are the main chords that you will be using. To a lesser extent you are also expected to use the two minor sounding chords based on Ray and La in this question.


  1. Pick out cadence points in the given melody. In the vast majority of cases the music end with a perfect cadence i.e. 5 – 1 (Soh –Doh). Pencil this in. The Dominant Seventh is very effective when used in the final perfect cadence. (Example in key of D is G,B,D with 7th added f# i.e.      GBDF#) Next look out for cadence points in the middle of the given piece of music. There are often cadences ending on the Soh chord (imperfect cadence i.e.    1 / 2 / 4 going to 5.) Or cadences ending on Chord Lah (interrupted i.e. V – V . ). Pencil these in.


  1. Now to putting in chord symbols around the cadences that you have spotted. Examine the melody for unessential notes i.e. passing notes that fall on unaccented beats. These are not part of the chord, they are just used for effect. Put in the chords using the three primary chords where possible.


  1. Finally, Never use the same chord twice in succession and Never use roman numerals instead of chord symbols.

Finally take a deep breath and don’t panic over the exam. You will do better than you think.

Again I am available on info@musicavenue.ie if you have any questions.





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