Music Theory III

Composition Project

Option 1: Compose a waltz using the musical dice game attributed to Mozart

Image of two diceUsing the musical dice game attributed to Mozart (Simrock 1792), compose a German waltz for piano in the classical style. The algorithm generates a German waltz in C major in 3/8 time. Links to detailed instructions for creating the waltz, an example of a finished waltz (titled "Sample Waltz"), formatted blank manuscript paper (pdf), and the required table of 176 musical figures are available below.

Optionally, you might choose to modify the algorithm's output – e.g., change the key, change the mode, change the musical figures to your liking, transcribe it for instruments, freely recompose it, etc. Be sure to discuss any changes you make in your self-reflection paper.

Deliverables: Self-reflection paper and a carefully notated dice-game waltz (with Roman numeral analysis)

Dice Game Project Materials:

  • Detailed instructions for Option 1 {pdf}
  • A completed "Sample Waltz" , so you can see/hear a finished project looks/sounds like
  • Formatted blank manuscript paper for your hand-written waltz {pdf}; or MuseScore template file {.mscz}
  • Table of 176 Musical Figures (Simrock 1792) {IMSLP}

Option 2: Compose a 32-bar minuet in the classical style

After reading Burstein/Straus Ch. 38 Ternary and Rondo Forms, compose a 32-bar minuet in the classical style (or another style with the permission of your instructor). If you like, you may use Burstein/Straus Workbook Ex. 38-B 1-2 (pp. 419-21) as the starting point for your project. In addition to the compositional models in the book, click here to see four other possible models for your minuet from the Baroque, Classical and early Romantic eras.

Deliverables: Self-reflection paper and carefully notated minuet (with Roman numeral analysis)

Option 3: Create a brief tonal composition for any group of instruments or voices

With the permission of your instructor (required), create a brief tonal composition for any group of instruments or voices. Your composition must employ functional chromatic harmony within a traditional metrical framework as presented in Burstein and Straus 2015.

Deliverables: Self-reflection paper and carefully notated composition (with Roman numeral analysis)

Option 4: Create a transcription or arrangement for an ensemble you play in

With the permission of your instructor (required), create a transcription or arrangment of a tonal composition for an ensemble you play in. You must discuss your project with your instructor at length (well in advance of the project deadline) and provide regular updates regarding the progress of your work.

Deliverables: Self-reflection paper and corrected notated transcription/arrangement (no RNA required, no parts required)

Be sure to discuss ideas for your project, and drafts of your work in progress, with your instructor.

Self-Reflection Paper

The format of the required self-reflection paper is: 2-3 pages, typed, double spaced. Use this paper as a vehicle to reflect onthe experience. Your paper may take an informal tone, but it must clearly describe what you created and how you created it. Be sure to discuss any artistic and technical challenges you encountered during the project. Also be sure to describe your creative approach/process.


In-class performances will take place on the last day of the class. The in-class performance is optional and will not be factored into your grade for the project. It is your resonsibility to make the necessary arrangements with the performer(s) for the in-class performance.


The composition project is worth 5% of your MUSC 215 grade. Your work will assessed in the following manner:

50% - Self-reflection paper

30% - Followed project option guidelines/effort/creativity

20% - Notated score
The score:


Burstein, L. Poundie and Joseph N. Straus. 2015. A Concise Introduction to Tonal Harmony. New York: Norton.

Cope, David. 1996. Experiments in Musical Intelligence. Madison, WI: A–R Editions, Inc.

Gardner, Martin. 2001. "Melody-Making Machines." In The Colossal Book of Mathematics: Classic Puzzles, Paradoxes, and Problems. New York: Norton, 627–639.

Hedges, Stephen A. 1978. "Dice Music in the Eighteenth Century," Music and Letters 59: 180–187.

Peterson, Ivars. 2001. "Mozart's Melody Machine." Science News (August 23, 2001) {}

Ratner, Leonard. 1970. “Ars combinatoria: Chance and Choice in Eighteenth-Century Music.” In Studies in Eighteenth-Century Music, ed. H. C. Robbins Landon and Roger E. Chapman (New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 343–363.

Rogers, Nancy. 2013. "Modernizing the Minuet Composition Project." Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy Volume 27 (2013). {JMPT}

Shaffer, Kris, Bryn Hughes, and Brian Moseley. 2014. "Minuet Form." In OpenMusicTheory (OMT). Hybrid Pedagogy Publishing. {OMT}

Simrock, N. 1792. Musikalisches Würfelspiel par W.A. Mozart (Musical Dice Game by W. A. Mozart). {IMSLP}

Zbikowski, Lawrence M. 2002. Conceptualizing Music: Cognitive Structure, Theory, and Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 140-54.

Image Credit

Dice -

Updated: November 10, 2021

Reginald Bain | University of South Carolina | School of Music