Writing a minuet requires an understanding of the style and rhythmic elements involved in the form. For composers who are learning to write using prescribed musical forms, the minuet is a great place to start. There are specific rhythms, tempos and time signatures that correspond to a minuet-style piece. A minuet must be composed in a style that makes dancing possible. The minuet is one of the older musical forms, which started in 18th century France and spread throughout the European aristocracy. One famous minuet that most readers will recognize is Bach's Minuet in G from "A Little Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach."
Write the piece with a 3/4 time signature. Minuets regularly use this time signature as it lends itself well to dance movements.
Create a suitable minuet rhythm. An extremely common rhythm used in minuets involves an antecedent phrase in 3/4 time, consisting of a half note followed by two quarter notes and four eighth notes. The consequent phrase consists of a half note, two quarter notes, two eighth notes and one quarter note to end the phrase. Antecedents consist of the beginning of the phrase, usually four measures long. The consequent phrase will appear at the end of the phrase, while the antecedent phrase appears at the beginning. These two phrases combined make one complete phrase.
Use the correct musical form for the minuet. The modern minuet uses a rounded binary form, which consist of two sections with the second section expanded. The first section will consist of two eight-bar phrases known as the A section. The second section, known as the B section, starts with a contrasting idea and usually starts in a new key such as the dominant, the fifth of the original key. The B section consists of two eight-bar phrases followed by a slight variation on the A section to end the form.
Change the orchestration in the B section of the minuet. Orchestration deals with the type and number of instruments used. In this case, you might consider using a woodwind choir in the first A section and then change to a brass choir or woodwind choir with strings to introduce the B section. The B section needs both musical and timbral differences.
Consider the chord progression. Start on a tonic chord and then move from one chord to the next by using common tones. As long as each chord has a common tone, the chord progression will work. If you would like to use advanced chord progressions, study music theory. The creation of chord progressions is a complex subject that requires serious study.
The chords you use for the minuet are personal choice. If you wish to use a classical structure, start with a tonic chord in the A section and move to the dominant chord in the B section. The tonic is the first note of a key; the dominant is the fifth note.
Steven Miller graduated with a master's degree in 2010. He writes for several companies including Lowe's and IBM. He also works with local schools to create community gardens and learn environmentally responsible gardening. An avid gardener for 15 years, his experience includes organic gardening, ornamental plants and do-it-yourself home projects.