Main Ideas

This page will continue to be updated after every new lesson to include the bolded concepts in one place. Please let me know if anything is unclear.

Lesson 1:

Form: the large scale way a piece of music is put together. Formal Analysis describes various sections for a piece of music, and how they interrelate.

Cadence: A feeling of breath, hold, or punctuation, caused by various musical parameters including (but not limited to) rhythm, meter, melody, chords, and words.
Closed Cadence: A place where the musical idea feels complete. Period or exclamation mark in the punctuation analogy.
Open Cadence: A place where the musical idea is pausing for breath, but continuing on to a second part of an idea, or another idea entirely. A comma, question mark, or colon.

Lesson 2:

Triad – when three notes make a group and (usually) sound at the same time. Can be played in different registers, orders, and positions. Multiple varieties, but major and minor were discussed today: major triad with a major third on the bottom in a close-packed position, minor triad with a minor third on the bottom in a close-packed position.
Chord – when multiple notes are played simultaneously or make a logical group. Triads are the most common type, but chords with fewer and more notes are possible.

Interval – the distance between notes. Primarily named by the number of letter names spanned.
Third – type of interval. Spans three letter names: A-(B)-C. Minor thirds are slightly smaller than major thirds.
Fifth – interval spanning five letter names A-(BCD)-E. Also called perfect fifth (not major or minor).
Octave – interval after which letter names repeat, also 8 letter names spanned. Point at which the number of cycles per second (Hertz) doubles or halves (110Hz, 220Hz, 440Hz are all different octaves of A).
Second – type of interval, spanning two letter names: A-B, etc.
Half step – also known as minor second. Smallest interval. B-C, ti do.
Whole step – also known as major second. Most of the steps in a scale. A-B, do re, etc.

Major – can refer to some intervals, triads, and keys. Major thirds, major triads, and major keys all share similarities in sound.

Minor – can refer to some intervals, triads, and keys. Minor thirds, minor triads, and minor keys all share similarities in sound.

Sharp – # indicates a half step increase in a letter name: C vs C#

Flat – ♭ indicates a half step decrease in a letter name B vs B ♭

Tonic – the triad that takes on the feeling of resolution/home for a given key/piece of music. do mi so

Dominant – the triad that takes on the feeling of tension/motion for a given key/piece of music. so ti re

Authentic Cadence – a Dominant chord followed by a Tonic chord at a place of rest. Closed cadence.

Half Cadence – a cadence that ends on a dominant. Open cadence.

Scale – seven notes of a key played one after another in stepwise fashion: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C or do re mi fa so la ti do in solfège for major.

Arpeggio – playing a chord with the notes one after another, instead of simultaneously.

Key – a collection of pitches that include a tonic-dominant relationship described above. Comes in major and minor. Often described with a scale, but more than that.

Solfège – the names of notes as related to one another within a scale/key, separate from the absolute letter names. do re mi fa so la ti do are the solfège for major keys, but there are more.
Transposition – the concept of moving a scale or musical idea from one pitch, key, or register to another.

Lesson 3:

minor key – a scale, collection of chords and functions, etc that make a piece sound more sad or dark (stereotypically). Use solfège do re me fa so le/la te/ti do as well as minor tonic and minor predominant chords.

parallel keys – keys that have the same do but different modes or collections. Ex: A major and A minor
natural minor – do re me fa so le te do, the notes in the key signature for minor keys. All white keys from A to A.

harmonic minor – the collection most often used with harmonic thinking in minor keys: do re me fa so le ti do (not really helpful as a scale, but oh well)

melodic minor – the collection used to describe the probability of various minor usages in melody writing, different on the way up and down: do re me fa so la ti do te le so fa me re do

key signature – the collection of sharps or flats that appear on the left of the staff to indicate which are going to be used frequently

leading tone – ti, this week importantly as the raised seventh scale member in minor
augmented second – the interval between ti and le, hard to sing.

predominant – triad based on fa, moves to dominant. P: fa la do, p: fa le do

phrase progression – stereotypical chord motion through a standard phrase T P D T or t p D t in minor

subdominant – the chord based on fa when not moving to the dominant, but moving to tonic instead. S or s.

plagal cadence – S to T (s to t in minor). Also known as “Amen” cadence. frequently occurs after an authentic D T cadence.

cadential extension – repeating a cadence or adding more chords to extend the phrase after it’s already complete. One way is to add a plagal cadence: D T S T

12-bar blues – popular song form, especially in the second half of the 20th century. Repeating chord structure. Common place to find plagal motion.

Lesson 4:

Root: The bottom note in the close-packed version of a triad, the letter name of the chord.

: Chords: When a chord has a chord member other than the root in the lowest voice.

Intervals: to invert an interval, move the bottom note up by octave (or the top note down by octave) and you’ll have the complimentary interval. Seconds become sevenths, thirds become sixths, fourths become fifths. Additionally, major intervals invert to minor intervals and vice versa.

Seventh Chord: Chord with four notes, all stacked in thirds so that the outside interval is a seventh.

Diminished fifthAugmented fourth: also called tritone. Technically, a tritone is the augmented fourth, but due to equal temperament we don’t really differentiate between Augmented fourth and diminished fifth. A diminished fifth is one half step less than a perfect fifth (B up to F) and an augmented fourth is one half step more than a perfect fourth (F up to B). Highly dissonant in classical music. Often used in a symmetrical fashion in more chromatic genres.

How numbers work: Arabic numerals show interval from the root of a chord. Can be used with chord letter names or functional T P D. Numbers in subscript show bass or lowest note, numbers in superscript show upper voices. 1, 3, 5 are assumed unless other numbers show otherwise. Even numbers (2, 4, 6) replace the odd number below (1, 3, 5). Odd numbers (7, 9, 11, 13) add to the triad without replacing. Tho not shown here today, sharps and flats should be added to any number that is outside the key signature or expected triad: for example, the D major triads in mm. 6 and 10 of the Bach example might include a # 3 to show that the F# isn’t in the C major key signature. Or in m. 33 where the B♭ should be indicated with a ♭7. The application of # and ♭ changes when you’re using chord names or symbols that indicate the major- or minor-ness of the third, fifth or seventh.

Lesson 5:

The same notes will function differently in different context!

Prolongation – the idea that a primary function can continue on some level even while other notes that might not belong to the triad are present. We will mainly deal with identifying the pillars (primary functions) and some of the other chords or intervals (numbers from last week) that help prolong the function. However, ideas like non-chord tones play off of this idea, especially when tracking melodic prolongation (vs. harmonic prolongation).

Substitute function – a chord that serves the function of tonic, predominant, or dominant without having the notes of the T P or D triad. Specific types are relative and variant (below). Substitute functions might serve a prolongational purpose or completely replace the primary function for variety, novelty, or subtly. If the primary function is major, the substitute will be minor, and if the primary function is minor, the substitute will be major.

Relative – similar to how relative major and minor keys have the same key signature, a primary function and it’s relative triad share a third root relation, and two notes in common. In major, it’s a diatonic third down from the primary root, in minor it’s a diatonic third up.

Variant – the opposite of the relative substitute. A minor triad with a root a third above the primary function in major, and a major triad with the root a third below in minor.

Deceptive cadence – generally D Tr or D tV. Technically any unexpected resolution of the dominant could be labeled deceptive, but generally the two listed are what is referred to, unless otherwise noted. Often feels like a question.

Lesson 6:

Diminished triad: a triad made up of two minor thirds stacked, diminished fifth on the outside. Most common examples are slash-D37 (ti re fa) and p6 (fa le re)

Diminished seventh chord: chord made up of three minor thirds stacked, diminished seventh on the outside. Usually slash-D379(ti re fa le). Symmetrical and rotational.

Half-diminished seventh chord: also called diminished-minor seventh. Two minor thirds (diminished triad) plus a major third, minor seventh on the outside. Usually slash-D379(ti re fa la).

Lesson 7:

Diatonic Harmony: staying within a given key signature/using only the given 7 pitches. Usually includes using the 2 flexible scale degrees ( le/la, te/ti ) when in minor, but may depend on who you ask.

Chromaticism/Chromatic Harmony: using chromatics/accidentals – flats and sharps outside the key signature.

Modulation: a change of tonic. Usually includes a cadence. Look for scalar leading tones or important chordal sevenths to indicate a change.

Tonicization: a momentary emphasizing of another chord as if it were tonic. Look for scalar leading tones or important chordal sevenths to indicate a change.

Dominant Pedal: type of prolongation changing “chords” or notes not in the dominant chord over a sustained dominant pitch in the bass. Used to create anticipation for coming tonic. Named thusly because of organ pedals being the bass notes. (Other notes can be pedaled/sustained, dominant is just the most common.)

Pivot Chord: a chord that can be named logically in two keys. Used to show how a modulation is happening.

Double Dominant: Dominant of the dominant. In C major, D major. Includes fi, sometimes known as Pr with raised third, but we’re focusing on the resolution to a following dominant.

Closely related keys: Keys with one more or less sharp or flat. Most common keys used for modulation in certain eras of music, and the keys that pivot chords are used for modulation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: