Music Theory

Musical Term
Definition
Meaning
Type
Perfect Cadence

"Authentic Cadence", also called "Perfect Cadence", is a musical term used to describe a specific harmonic progression that often signifies the end of a musical phrase. It typically consists of the V and I chords, representing the fifth and first degrees of a scale, respectively. Because of this, it is also known as a "V-I" cadence. This type of cadence creates a sense of closure and finality, providing a natural point of conclusion for a musical segment.

The authentic cadence is a common and stable harmonic progression that holds a sense of resolution and balance. It often occurs at significant points of modulation or at the conclusion of musical phrases, indicating to the listener that a musical section has come to a complete end. In a authentic cadence, the V chord (dominant chord) carries a strong tension, while the I chord (tonic chord) imparts a sense of resolution. This contrast creates an engaging harmonic transition.

For instance, in the key of C major, a authentic cadence would involve a transition from the G chord (V) to the C chord (I). This chord progression is frequently employed to conclude sections of a piece, signaling emotional closure or the completion of a musical idea.

The authentic cadence is an essential concept in music composition and analysis. It serves not only as a technical element but also impacts the emotional and expressive aspects of music. Alongside other harmonic progressions, it contributes to diverse musical structures and provides captivating harmonic changes for the listener.

Music Theory
A chord progression of at least 2 chords that ends a phrase or section of a piece of music

Cadence refers to a musical term that signifies a harmonic or melodic progression that creates a sense of resolution, closure, or finality in a musical phrase, section, or composition. It is often used to mark the end of a musical phrase or phrase group.

Cadences play a crucial role in shaping the overall structure and flow of a piece of music. They provide a sense of punctuation, indicating to the listener that a musical idea or phrase has reached its conclusion or resting point. Cadences can create different moods and emotions depending on the specific harmonic progression and melodic contour used.

There are several types of Cadences commonly found in music, including perfect cadence, plagal cadence, imperfect cadence, and deceptive cadence:

  • Perfect Cadence: An perfect cadence is considered the strongest and most conclusive type of cadence. It involves a progression from the dominant chord (V) to the tonic chord (I). This progression creates a sense of resolution and stability, providing a satisfying and conclusive ending to a musical phrase. The perfect cadence is often characterized by a strong harmonic pull and a feeling of finality.
  • Plagal Cadence: In contrast to the perfect cadence, a plagal cadence creates a more peaceful and calming effect. It typically involves a progression from the subdominant chord (IV) to the tonic chord (I), often referred to as the "Amen" cadence due to its use in hymns. The plagal cadence is commonly associated with a sense of religious or devotional music and is often used to conclude phrases or sections with a gentle and serene resolution.
  • Imperfect Cadence: A imperfect cadence, also known as an imperfect cadence, provides a sense of pause or temporary ending within a musical phrase or section. It typically concludes on the dominant chord (V), creating a momentary sense of expectation or suspension. Unlike the perfect cadence, the imperfect cadence does not provide a strong resolution to the tonic chord and may leave the listener with a feeling of anticipation for the musical phrase to continue or reach a more conclusive cadence.
  • Deceptive Cadence: A deceptive cadence introduces an unexpected twist in the expected harmonic progression. Instead of resolving to the tonic chord (I), the deceptive cadence resolves to a chord other than the expected one, often a chord of relative or parallel key. This creates a moment of surprise and deviation from the listener's expectations. Deceptive cadences are frequently used to add variety, tension, and a sense of musical surprise in compositions.

Cadences can be found in various genres and styles of music, including classical, jazz, pop, and folk. They contribute to the overall structure, balance, and emotional impact of a composition, guiding the listener through the musical journey and providing moments of resolution and release.

Music Theory
A series of chords played in sequence that all work around a key

Chord progression refers to a series of chords played in a specific order, forming the harmonic foundation of a musical piece or section. It is the sequence of chords that creates the harmonic movement and contributes to the overall structure and emotional impact of the music.

Chord progressions are commonly used in various musical genres, including classical, jazz, pop, rock, and many others. They provide a framework for melodies, harmonies, and improvisation, guiding the tonal and harmonic direction of a composition.

Chord progressions are typically described using Roman numerals to represent the scale degrees on which the chords are based. For example, in the key of C major, a common chord progression may be represented as I-IV-V, which corresponds to the chords C major, F major, and G major. This progression is often used in many popular songs due to its pleasing and familiar sound.

Different chord progressions can evoke different emotions or moods in music. For example, a I-V-vi-IV progression (such as C-G-Am-F) is frequently found in pop music and creates a sense of familiarity and catchiness. On the other hand, a ii-V-I progression (such as Dm7-G7-Cmaj7) is commonly used in jazz and creates a more sophisticated and harmonically rich sound.

Chord progressions can be simple or complex, and they can vary in length and structure. They can repeat throughout a song or change in different sections to create tension, release, and variety. Musicians and composers often experiment with different chord progressions to create unique and expressive musical compositions.

Understanding chord progressions is important for musicians, as it helps in composition, improvisation, and understanding the underlying harmonic structure of a piece of music. By analyzing and studying different chord progressions, musicians can gain insight into the principles and techniques used in various musical styles.

Music Theory
A compositional technique interspersing the primary diatonic pitches and chords with other pitches of the chromatic scale

"Chromaticism" is a pivotal concept in music theory and composition that significantly influences the character and depth of musical compositions. At its core, chromaticism involves the inclusion of notes or pitches that deviate from the traditional diatonic scale associated with a particular key. In other words, it introduces tones that don't naturally belong to the standard scale of a given key, which can infuse music with tension, emotion, and expressive potential.

This concept is particularly essential for understanding the richness and complexity of Western classical, jazz, and contemporary music. Chromaticism allows composers and musicians to paint with a broader tonal palette, creating subtle shades of color and emotional nuance within their compositions.

Chromatic notes, often indicated by accidentals such as sharps (♯) or flats (♭), enrich musical phrases by introducing notes that are a half step (one semitone) away from their neighboring diatonic tones. These chromatic notes can be skillfully employed in various ways:

  • Tonal Color and Expression: Chromaticism adds depth to music by creating moments of tension, dissonance, or unexpected harmonic progressions. It allows composers and performers to evoke specific emotions or moods. For example, a chromatic passing tone may convey a sense of yearning or longing in a melody.
  • Chromatic Scales: Chromatic scales consist of consecutive chromatic notes, including all twelve tones within an octave. These scales are often used for melodic or harmonic embellishments, lending a sense of unpredictability and sophistication to compositions.
  • Chromatic Chords: The introduction of chromatic notes can lead to the formation of chromatic chords, which extend beyond the conventional diatonic triads or seventh chords. Examples include augmented chords and diminished seventh chords, which introduce distinctive tonal colors and dissonance.
  • Passing Tones and Non-Harmonic Tones: Chromatic notes frequently serve as passing tones, elegantly connecting two diatonic notes within a musical phrase. They can also function as non-harmonic or non-chord tones, adding ornamentation, tension, or surprise.
  • Harmonic Modulation: Chromaticism plays a vital role in harmonic modulation, allowing composers to shift seamlessly between keys within a composition. The introduction of chromatic chords or notes from different keys facilitates these transitions.
  • Diverse Musical Styles: Chromaticism is not confined to a single musical style. It is evident in classical compositions from the Romantic era, where it was employed to convey intense emotions. In jazz and blues, chromaticism is a cornerstone of improvisation, enabling musicians to explore harmonic variations.

In musical notation, chromatic notes are indicated by the use of accidentals, such as sharps or flats, to signal that a note should be played a half step higher or lower than its standard diatonic pitch. This notation system allows composers and performers to precisely communicate their musical intentions.

Music Theory
A way of organizing the 12 chromatic pitches as a sequence of perfect fifths

The Circle of Fifths is a musical scale circle made up of intervals of fifths. Specifically, starting from any note and moving up or down by a fifth, the next note is reached, and this process continues until returning to the starting note. For example, starting from C, moving up a fifth (to G), and then up another fifth (to D), and so on, until returning to C, produces the Circle of Fifths for the key of C major.

The Circle of Fifths is widely used, especially for analyzing and understanding chord progressions and modulations. On the Circle of Fifths, each note is separated from its adjacent notes by intervals of fifths, so the chords formed by adjacent notes often have similar sound effects and tonal relationships. For example, the G major chord (G, B, D) and the C major chord (C, E, G) formed by the interval of a fifth between C and G on the Circle of Fifths have similar sound effects and tonal relationships. Therefore, in music in the key of C major, these two chords are often used as substitute chords for each other.

Aside from analyzing chord progressions, the Circle of Fifths can also be utilized to anticipate the next chord progression or modulation. For instance, when working in the key of C major, one can start with the G major chord and proceed down a fifth to reach the D major chord (D, F#, A), then move on to the A major chord (A, C#, E), before finally returning to the E major chord (E, G#, B). These chords can then be employed to predict the upcoming chord progression or modulation.

Music Theory
Interrupted Cadence

"Deceptive cadence", also called "false cadence" or "interrupted cadence", is a musical harmonic progression that occurs unexpectedly, leading the listener in a surprising direction away from the anticipated harmony. It involves altering the expected chord progression (usually V-I or V-i) to a different chord, creating an unexpected musical twist and providing a sense of deception or sudden change.

The deceptive cadence is a clever harmonic technique used to defy listener expectations and create surprising musical effects. It often takes place at the end of a musical phrase, where the audience expects to hear a traditional chord resolution but is redirected to a different chord instead. This alteration can lead to a chord that is related to a different key or involve a chord progression that is less commonly heard within the given context.

For instance, in an anticipated V-I perfect cadence, if the V chord is changed to a vi chord, a deceptive cadence occurs. This shift creates an unexpected effect, abruptly altering the emotional direction of the music. Deceptive cadences can be employed to add drama, humor, or a sense of instability, making the music more engaging.

While a deceptive cadence may disrupt expectations, it simultaneously enriches the emotional expression of the music. By implementing such changes at unexpected moments, musicians can craft a fresh and intriguing listening experience, keeping the audience attuned to the music's unfolding developments.

Music Theory
The first beat of a musical measure

The downbeat refers to the strong beat or the first beat of a rhythmic pattern in music. It is a beat with a strong emphasis and sense of rhythm, often serving as the starting point or foundation of the music.

The downbeat holds a significant position and function in music. It provides a sense of rhythm and structure, allowing listeners to feel the pulse and flow of the music. The downbeat is often used to guide the performance of instruments and musicians, enabling them to coordinate and synchronize within the same rhythm.

In conducting and orchestral performances, conductors typically use the downbeat as a foundation for guiding the rhythm. Their gestures and movements clearly indicate when and how musicians should play, maintaining an overall sense of tempo and ensemble.

Music Theory
Two tones that sound the same but are named differently

In equal temperament (one of the modern musical tunings), enharmonic equivalent refers to "two notes with the same pitch", but they each have "two different names".

For example, in piano, the black key between C and D can be called C♯ or D♭. Although C♯ and D♭ have the same pitch, different names have different functions depending on the harmony and chord progressions.

Music Theory
Fr+6

The "French Sixth" is a chord commonly used in music theory and composition to enrich harmonic progressions and create unique tonal colors within musical compositions. Also referred to as the "French Augmented Sixth" chord, it is an altered dominant chord that adds chromaticism and distinctiveness to classical music works.

The French Sixth chord consists of the root note (fundamental), a major sixth interval, and a major third interval above the root.

One of the notable features of the French Sixth chord is its tendency to resolve outward, usually by the augmented sixth interval resolving to an octave. The root note often descends by a perfect fifth to the dominant chord, contributing to a sense of harmonic closure and resolution.

In harmonic progressions, the French Sixth chord serves as a chromatic passing chord, temporarily altering the tonal center of a musical phrase. It introduces tension and color to the progression before resolving to a more stable chord, often the dominant or tonic.

The French Sixth chord is commonly used in classical music, adding flair and harmonic interest to compositions. Composers deploy this chord to create harmonic tension, introduce chromaticism, and emphasize key moments in their works.

Music Theory
Ger+6

The "German Sixth" is a distinctive chord in music theory and harmony, employed to enhance harmonic progressions and evoke specific emotional qualities in compositions. Also known as the "German Augmented Sixth" chord, it is a type of altered dominant chord commonly found in classical music. The German Sixth chord is used to introduce chromaticism and tension, adding complexity to musical phrases.

The German Sixth chord is constructed using the root note (fundamental), a minor sixth interval, a minor third interval, and a major third interval above the root.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the German Sixth chord is its propensity to resolve outward to an octave. The augmented sixth interval typically resolves to an octave, while the root note often descends by a perfect fifth to the dominant chord.

In harmonic progressions, the German Sixth chord serves as a chromatic passing chord, introducing a note foreign to the key and leading to increased tension before resolving to a more stable chord. Its unique interval structure adds color and complexity to compositions, enhancing the richness of the harmonic palette.

The German Sixth chord is prevalent in classical music, particularly works composed during the Baroque and Classical periods. Composers utilize this chord to create harmonic interest, introduce chromaticism, and heighten emotional expression in their compositions.

Music Theory
Understanding how a chord is related to the key and to the other chords in a piece of music

Harmonic Analysis is a method used in music theory to analyze the chords and harmonic progressions in a piece of music. It involves identifying and understanding the underlying harmonic structure and relationships between chords.

The process of harmonic analysis typically involves several steps. First, the chords in the music are identified, usually by labeling them with Roman numerals or chord symbols. This allows for a standardized representation of the chords regardless of key or specific notes.

Next, the harmonic function of each chord is determined. This involves understanding how each chord functions within the overall key and harmonic context. Chords may have different functions, such as tonic (stable and final), dominant (tense and leading), or subdominant (transitional). The harmonic function helps to establish the tonality and overall direction of the music.

Harmonic analysis also involves studying chord progressions and the relationships between chords. This includes identifying common chord progressions, such as cadences, modulations, and other harmonic patterns. Analyzing these progressions helps to reveal the structure and form of the music.

Additionally, harmonic analysis examines the use of non-chord tones or dissonances within the music. These tones create tension and resolution, adding color and expression to the harmonic language.

Harmonic analysis is an essential tool for musicians, composers, and music theorists. It provides insights into the harmonic language of a piece, its tonal center, and how chords and progressions contribute to the overall musical effect. By understanding the harmonic structure, musicians can make informed interpretive choices and gain a deeper appreciation of the music they perform or study.

Music Theory
A natural phenomenon in which a single pitch produces multiple additional harmonic pitches through mathematical divisions

The "Harmonic Series", also known as the "Overtone Series", refers to a sequence of harmonically related tones that are produced when a fundamental frequency is sounded. When a musical instrument or a sound source produces a tone, it is not just a pure single frequency but consists of a fundamental pitch along with a series of additional frequencies known as overtones or harmonics.

The Harmonic Series is based on the physical properties of sound waves. When a musical instrument or a vibrating object produces a sound, it vibrates not only at its fundamental frequency but also at higher frequencies that are integer multiples of the fundamental frequency. For example, if the fundamental frequency is 110 Hz, the first overtone will be at 220 Hz (2 times the fundamental), the second overtone at 330 Hz (3 times the fundamental), the third overtone at 440 Hz (4 times the fundamental), and so on.

The Harmonic Series forms the basis of the timbre or tone quality of a musical sound. The relative strengths and proportions of the overtones determine the unique sound characteristics of different instruments and voices. For example, a violin and a flute playing the same pitch will have different timbres because of the different amplitudes and distributions of their overtones.

In Western music theory, the Harmonic Series has influenced concepts of harmony and chord structure. The fundamental frequency and its overtones form the basis of harmonic relationships and intervals. The relationship between the fundamental and the first overtone (octave) is considered the most consonant, while higher overtones introduce more complex and dissonant harmonies.

Musicians and composers often utilize the Harmonic Series in various ways. They can explore harmonic relationships, create rich and complex textures, and manipulate the timbral qualities of sounds by emphasizing or suppressing specific overtones. Understanding the Harmonic Series can enhance the understanding and appreciation of the harmonic and timbral aspects of music.

Music Theory
A sound wave that has a frequency that is an integer multiple of a fundamental tone

Harmonics, also known as overtones, are a special sound effect in music that refers to the additional high-frequency tones generated simultaneously during the production of sound by an instrument or a sound generator.

When an instrument or sound generator produces sound, in addition to the main fundamental frequency, a series of higher frequencies known as harmonics are simultaneously generated. These harmonics exist at integer multiples of the fundamental frequency and form a harmonic series.

Harmonics possess unique timbre and resonance characteristics, enriching the sound quality of an instrument or a sound. In instrumental performance, musicians can generate and control harmonics through specific techniques and fingerings. In choral and vocal singing, singers can also produce harmonics by utilizing appropriate vocal techniques.

Harmonics have wide applications in music. They can be used to create unique sound effects, enhancing the richness and expressiveness of music. Harmonics are also commonly employed in experimental and innovative approaches in contemporary music, providing a sound experience distinct from traditional music.

Music Theory
The combination of simultaneous musical notes in a chord

Harmony is an important concept in music that refers to the combination of different pitches played or heard simultaneously. Harmony is the result of multiple voices or instruments producing musical effects through the simultaneous or successive playing of notes.

Harmony can create rich musical textures and harmonious effects. Notes of different pitches intertwine in harmony, forming chords, chord progressions, and intervals. These harmonic elements collectively create the harmony and stability of the music.

Harmony plays a crucial role in music, allowing for the expression of emotions, the creation of ambiance, and the enhancement of contrast and depth. Composers and musicians use harmony to compose and perform music, making it more diverse and expressive.

The theory and practice of harmony hold a significant place in musicology. Learning harmony helps us better understand the structure and development of music, enhancing our appreciation and creative abilities in music.

Music Theory
A main melodic line is supported by one or more additional musical lines

Homophony is a musical texture where one main voice or melody is accompanied by other voices or instruments playing simpler supporting parts. It is a contrast to polyphony, where multiple independent and relatively equal melodies are performed simultaneously.

In homophonic music, one voice typically takes the lead and carries the main melody or theme, while other voices or instruments provide harmonic accompaniment or play simpler melodies. This coordination and support between the voices create a rich sound and a sense of harmony in the music.

Homophonic music has played a significant role in Western classical music, particularly since the Baroque period. Many classical compositions, religious chants, folk songs, and even popular music employ homophonic textures. Harmonic progressions, chords, and contrapuntal techniques are widely used in homophonic music, contributing to its rich timbre and emotional depth.

In contemporary music, homophonic textures are still widely used, not only in classical genres but also in popular music and jazz. Homophony allows for rich musical effects and enhances the expressiveness of the music.

Music Theory
Half Cadence

"Imperfect Cadence", also called "half cadence", is a chord progression in music commonly used to create a temporary or interim sense of resolution, guiding the music towards the next chord or section. This type of cadence does not bring about a complete harmonic resolution, leaving the listener with a sense of incompleteness that generates anticipation and interest in continued listening.

The Imperfect Cadence typically involves a tonic chord (I chord) moving to a dominant chord (V chord). As the tonic chord transitions to the dominant chord, a momentary sense of closure is created, but the progression does not conclude in the usual, fully resolved manner. Consequently, the listener perceives an unfinished quality that encourages them to remain engaged, awaiting further developments in the music.

This cadence is often employed in music to conclude phrases or transitions, steering the music towards the subsequent chord, theme, or section. It can be utilized to craft brief pauses that contribute to rhythmic variation and enhance the emotional expression of the music.

The Imperfect Cadence finds widespread application in musical compositions across genres, whether in classical music, pop music, or other styles. It guides the listener's emotional response and attention, imbuing the music with dynamics and a sense of progression.

Music Theory
Deceptive Cadence

"Interrupted cadence", also called "deceptive cadence" or "false cadence", is a musical harmonic progression that occurs unexpectedly, leading the listener in a surprising direction away from the anticipated harmony. It involves altering the expected chord progression (usually V-I or V-i) to a different chord, creating an unexpected musical twist and providing a sense of deception or sudden change.

The interrupted cadence is a clever harmonic technique used to defy listener expectations and create surprising musical effects. It often takes place at the end of a musical phrase, where the audience expects to hear a traditional chord resolution but is redirected to a different chord instead. This alteration can lead to a chord that is related to a different key or involve a chord progression that is less commonly heard within the given context.

For instance, in an anticipated V-I perfect cadence, if the V chord is changed to a vi chord, a interrupted cadence occurs. This shift creates an unexpected effect, abruptly altering the emotional direction of the music. Interrupted cadences can be employed to add drama, humor, or a sense of instability, making the music more engaging.

While a interrupted cadence may disrupt expectations, it simultaneously enriches the emotional expression of the music. By implementing such changes at unexpected moments, musicians can craft a fresh and intriguing listening experience, keeping the audience attuned to the music's unfolding developments.

Music Theory
The distance in pitch between two tones

An interval refers to the distance or pitch difference between two musical notes. Intervals can be described based on the number of semitones between the notes, representing an increase or decrease in pitch.

Intervals can be the direct distance between two consecutive notes or the distance between two notes played simultaneously. Intervals can be expressed using numbers or names, such as "major third", "perfect fifth", and so on.

Intervals play an important role in music theory and performance. They are used to describe and analyze harmonic structures, chord constructions, and melodic progressions in music. The choice and use of intervals can affect the emotions, colors, and overall sound effects in music.

Understanding and being familiar with different intervals' characteristics is crucial for music learners and performers. By learning the naming and features of intervals and practicing to recognize and play different intervals in performance, music learners can enhance their auditory skills and performance abilities.

Music Theory
It+6

The "Italian Sixth" is a chord used in music theory and composition, known for its distinct harmonic color and function. Also referred to as the "Italian Augmented Sixth" chord, it is a type of altered dominant chord commonly found in classical music. The Italian Sixth chord contributes to chromatic harmonies and provides a sense of tension and resolution within musical compositions.

The Italian Sixth chord consists of the root note (fundamental), a major sixth interval, and a major third interval above the root. The resulting structure is enharmonically equivalent to a minor seventh interval above the root and is typically spelled as an augmented sixth interval and a diminished third above the root.

One of the most distinctive features of the Italian Sixth chord is its tendency to resolve outward to an octave. The augmented sixth interval resolves to the octave, while the root note often moves down by a fifth to the dominant chord.

In harmonic progressions, the Italian Sixth chord is often utilized as a chromatic passing chord. It introduces chromaticism and provides harmonic contrast, leading to a sense of tension that is subsequently resolved as it progresses to the dominant or other related chords.

The Italian Sixth chord is prevalent in classical music and continues to be a tool used by composers to create harmonic richness and evoke specific emotional effects. Its unique interval structure and its ability to infuse compositions with chromatic interest make it an essential element of classical harmonic language.

Music Theory
The main set of pitches of a piece of music

"Key" refers to the main tonality of a piece of music, and it serves as the foundation for both the melody and harmony. It can be broadly divided into two categories - major key and minor key. Both create different effects on the atmosphere and emotions conveyed.

Generally, major key is usually associated with liveliness and cheerfulness, and often used to express positive emotions. On the other hand, minor key is usually associated with sadness and darkness, and often used to convey sorrowful emotions.

Music Theory
A musical interval smaller than a semitone

"Microtone" refers to pitches that lie between the traditional Western musical scale's standard intervals, with differences smaller than a half-step interval. Microtones are used to create more subtle and complex musical colors, going beyond the limitations of the traditional music scale.

The traditional Western musical scale is based on equal temperament, dividing an octave into 12 half-step intervals, each with a fixed frequency difference. However, in some musical traditions, it has been recognized that subtle variations and expressions in music can be achieved through finer changes in pitch.

Microtones are pitches that fall between the standard pitches of the traditional musical scale, with differences smaller than a half-step interval. These differences are often expressed in fractions, cents (one hundredth of a semitone), or other units.

Microtones have different applications in various musical traditions. In some cultural and traditional music contexts, microtones are used to create distinctive musical colors and expressions. Additionally, modern composers and performers frequently use microtones to create more diverse and intricate musical effects.

Microtones can be applied not only to individual notes but also to chords and scales, creating more intricate and unique musical textures. This approach to musical expression highlights the variability of pitch and holds a significant place in experimental and contemporary music.

Music Theory
Key Changing

Modulation is a technique in music where a piece transitions from one key or tonality to another. This change in tonality can create a different emotional and musical effect. The purpose of modulation can be to enhance a piece's expressive power, making the listener feel more emotions and variations; it can also be used to connect different sections of a piece tightly, making the structure of the piece more complete.

The most common way to modulate is to choose a key that is similar or closely related to the current key and use a common or pivot chord to make a smooth transition. A common tone is a note that is present in both keys and can be used as a bridge between the two. A pivot chord is a chord that exists in both the current and new keys and is used as a harmonic pivot point to transition smoothly from one key to another. Chromatic chords can also be used to create tension and instability before a modulation.

Modulation can occur in the melody or harmony. In the melody, a modulation can be achieved by using a modulation note, which is a note that is common to both keys and can be used to lead the melody into the new key. In the harmony, modulation can be achieved by changing chords, such as using a pivot chord or a chromatic chord.

Music Theory
A single melodic line without any accompanying harmonies or supporting voices

Monophony is a fundamental musical texture that consists of a single melodic line without any accompanying harmonies or supporting voices. In monophonic music, there is only one distinct musical part or voice performing the melody, making it the sole focus of the composition.

Historically, monophonic music played a significant role in early forms of Western classical music, particularly in Gregorian chant, which originated in medieval times. Gregorian chant, also known as plainchant or plainsong, is a form of monophonic liturgical music used in Christian religious services. It features a single unaccompanied melodic line that follows a free-flowing rhythm and is typically sung in Latin.

Monophony can also be found in various traditional and folk music from around the world. Many traditional songs and chants in different cultures are monophonic in nature, often serving as expressions of cultural identity, religious rituals, or storytelling.

In contrast to monophony, polyphony is a musical texture that involves multiple independent melodic lines performed simultaneously. This style of composition became more prevalent during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, with composers like Palestrina and J.S. Bach employing complex polyphonic techniques.

Despite its historical prominence, monophonic music gradually gave way to more complex textures like homophony and polyphony as Western classical music evolved. However, monophony has never disappeared entirely and remains an essential part of certain musical genres, such as some forms of traditional folk music and religious chants.

In contemporary music, monophonic elements can still be found in various contexts. For example, solo performances on a single instrument, unaccompanied vocal renditions, and certain types of minimalist compositions can exhibit monophonic characteristics.

Music Theory
♭II6

The "Neapolitan Sixth" is a type of chord in music theory that involves an altered harmony typically used within the context of common-practice harmony, especially during the Classical and Romantic periods. The Neapolitan Sixth chord is known for its distinctive sound and its tendency to create harmonic tension and resolution.

The Neapolitan Sixth chord is built on the lowered second degree of the scale (in minor keys) or the lowered sixth degree (in major keys). It consists of a root, a minor third above the root, and a diminished fifth above the root. This creates a unique and somewhat dissonant sound that seeks resolution.

The Neapolitan Sixth chord often resolves to the dominant chord or the tonic chord. In its resolution, the diminished fifth of the Neapolitan Sixth chord typically moves outward by a half step to the third of the dominant chord, while the root moves downward by a half step to the fifth of the dominant chord.

Music Theory
Same pitch but different frequency

An octave is a specific interval or distance between two pitches.

In musicology, an octave is a distance between two pitches. In which, one pitch has a frequency that is twice the other (2:1). For example, a string that vibrates at 880 times per second produces a pitch that is an octave higher than a string that vibrates at 440 times per second.

Because of this "twice as fast" frequency relationship, when we hear two pitches that are an octave apart, we perceive them as being very similar, and therefore, they are given the same letter name. For example, a pitch produced by a string vibrating at 440 times per second is called "A", and another pitch produced by a string vibrating at 880 times per second is also called "A".

Since modern musical notation typically uses seven letters of the alphabet (and accidentals) to represent different pitches, the cycle starts again after the eighth. Therefore, pitches that are named with the same letter are part of the same "pitch class", or simply "octave".

Octaves are used in most of the music systems, such as tonal music (major and minor keys), pentatonic music, and serial music (twelve-tone technique).

Music Theory
The tone sounding above the fundamental tone when a string or air column vibrates as a whole

Overtone refers to a series of higher-frequency harmonics that are produced along with the fundamental frequency when a musical instrument produces a sound. These harmonics have frequencies that are integer multiples of the fundamental frequency. Overtone is an important characteristic of the timbre or tone quality of an instrument, which can affect the instrument's sound and tone color. It can also be used for music composition and performance techniques.

Overtone is usually produced through specific playing techniques and instrument design. For example, on string instruments like guitar, harp, and guzheng, overtones can be produced by pressing the strings at specific lengths and positions; while on woodwind instruments, overtones can be produced by adjusting the airflow and the shape and position of the mouth.

Music Theory
A natural phenomenon in which a single pitch produces multiple additional harmonic pitches through mathematical divisions

The "Overtone Series", also known as the "Harmonic Series", refers to a sequence of harmonically related tones that are produced when a fundamental frequency is sounded. When a musical instrument or a sound source produces a tone, it is not just a pure single frequency but consists of a fundamental pitch along with a series of additional frequencies known as overtones or harmonics.

The Overtone Series is based on the physical properties of sound waves. When a musical instrument or a vibrating object produces a sound, it vibrates not only at its fundamental frequency but also at higher frequencies that are integer multiples of the fundamental frequency. For example, if the fundamental frequency is 110 Hz, the first overtone will be at 220 Hz (2 times the fundamental), the second overtone at 330 Hz (3 times the fundamental), the third overtone at 440 Hz (4 times the fundamental), and so on.

The Overtone Series forms the basis of the timbre or tone quality of a musical sound. The relative strengths and proportions of the overtones determine the unique sound characteristics of different instruments and voices. For example, a violin and a flute playing the same pitch will have different timbres because of the different amplitudes and distributions of their overtones.

In Western music theory, the Overtone Series has influenced concepts of harmony and chord structure. The fundamental frequency and its overtones form the basis of harmonic relationships and intervals. The relationship between the fundamental and the first overtone (octave) is considered the most consonant, while higher overtones introduce more complex and dissonant harmonies.

Musicians and composers often utilize the Overtone Series in various ways. They can explore harmonic relationships, create rich and complex textures, and manipulate the timbral qualities of sounds by emphasizing or suppressing specific overtones. Understanding the Overtone Series can enhance the understanding and appreciation of the harmonic and timbral aspects of music.

Music Theory
Two voices move in parallel motion

Parallel fifths refer to two voices or chords in music that move in parallel motion and maintain a perfect fifth interval between them, either ascending or descending. In Western classical music, parallel fifths are generally considered to be dissonant and improper in harmony, as they can make the sound become monotonous and lack variation.

Music Theory
Two voices move in parallel motion

Parallel octaves refer to two voices or chords in music that move in parallel motion and maintain a perfect octave interval between them, either ascending or descending. In Western classical music, parallel octaves are generally considered to be dissonant and improper in harmony, as they can weaken the contrast between the voices and make the music lose its sense of depth.

Music Theory
Authentic Cadence

"Perfect Cadence", also called "authentic cadence", is a musical term used to describe a specific harmonic progression that often signifies the end of a musical phrase. It typically consists of the V and I chords, representing the fifth and first degrees of a scale, respectively. Because of this, it is also known as a "V-I" cadence. This type of cadence creates a sense of closure and finality, providing a natural point of conclusion for a musical segment.

The perfect cadence is a common and stable harmonic progression that holds a sense of resolution and balance. It often occurs at significant points of modulation or at the conclusion of musical phrases, indicating to the listener that a musical section has come to a complete end. In a perfect cadence, the V chord (dominant chord) carries a strong tension, while the I chord (tonic chord) imparts a sense of resolution. This contrast creates an engaging harmonic transition.

For instance, in the key of C major, a perfect cadence would involve a transition from the G chord (V) to the C chord (I). This chord progression is frequently employed to conclude sections of a piece, signaling emotional closure or the completion of a musical idea.

The perfect cadence is an essential concept in music composition and analysis. It serves not only as a technical element but also impacts the emotional and expressive aspects of music. Alongside other harmonic progressions, it contributes to diverse musical structures and provides captivating harmonic changes for the listener.

Music Theory
Amen Cadence

"Plagal cadence", also called "Amen cadence", is a type of musical cadence that involves the progression from the IV chord to the I chord. Unlike the more common perfect cadence (V-I), which creates a strong sense of resolution, the plagal cadence imparts a gentler, amen-like feeling, often associated with religious or hymnal music. It is characterized by its peaceful and conclusive quality, adding a sense of finality to a musical phrase.

The plagal cadence is often represented by the chord progression IV-I in a musical composition. The IV chord (subdominant) provides a harmonically stable base, while the I chord (tonic) brings a sense of resolution. This cadence is notably used at the end of phrases or sections in hymns and religious music, contributing to the reverent and serene atmosphere often found in sacred contexts.

The term "Amen cadence" arises from its frequent use at the end of hymns or prayers, where the word "Amen" is traditionally sung or recited. This reinforces its association with religious worship and reinforces the idea of closure, affirmation, and peaceful resolution.

For example, in the key of C major, a plagal cadence would involve transitioning from the F chord (IV) to the C chord (I). This progression concludes the musical passage with a sense of calm and contentment.

The plagal cadence serves as a contrasting alternative to the more decisive perfect cadence, offering a different emotional quality. Its gentle resolution makes it suitable for conveying a sense of solemnity, comfort, and spiritual fulfillment in various musical contexts.

Music Theory
Multiple melodies

Polyphony refers to a musical texture that features multiple independent melodic lines or voices sounding simultaneously. Each voice has its own melodic and rhythmic characteristics, creating a rich and intricate musical texture.

In polyphonic music, two or more melodic lines coexist and interact with one another. These melodic lines are often referred to as voices or parts, and they can be performed by different instruments or sung by different singers. Each voice has its own melodic contour, rhythm, and harmonic progression, contributing to the overall complexity and interplay of the music.

Contrapuntal techniques, such as counterpoint and imitation, are commonly used in polyphony. Counterpoint refers to the combination of melodic lines that are harmonically interdependent yet independent in their melodic motion. Imitation involves one voice repeating a melodic phrase introduced by another voice, creating a sense of musical dialogue and imitation.

Polyphony can be found in various musical genres and styles, including classical music, choral music, and some forms of folk music. Famous examples of polyphonic compositions include the works of Renaissance composers like Palestrina and Josquin des Prez, as well as the fugues of Johann Sebastian Bach.

The use of polyphony allows for a rich and intricate musical expression, as the various melodic lines interact and weave together to create a harmonically and melodically complex texture. It offers depth, intricacy, and a sense of musical conversation that engages the listener and creates a unique musical experience.

Music Theory
A quarter tone is an interval about half as wide as a semitone

Quarter tone is a musical term that refers to the microtonal interval that lies halfway between a semitone and a whole tone, often referred to as half a semitone. In Western classical music, quarter tones are rarely used, but they are widely used in some world music, modern music, and experimental music. Traditional instruments such as the piano and guitar are not capable of producing quarter tones, but some instruments, such as certain string and woodwind instruments from the Middle East, are capable of playing quarter tones.

Music Theory
A system used in music theory to represent the chords

"Roman Numeral Analysis" is a system used in music theory to represent the chords and their relationships within a musical composition. It provides a way to analyze and understand the harmonic structure of a piece of music, regardless of its key. Roman numerals are employed to denote the scale degree on which a chord is built and to indicate whether the chord is major, minor, diminished, or augmented. Here's a breakdown of how Roman numeral analysis works:

  • Determining the Key: Before performing Roman numeral analysis, it's essential to determine the key of the composition. The key signature (sharps or flats at the beginning of the musical staff) and the tonic note (the note that feels like the "home" note) are crucial in identifying the key.
  • Assigning Roman Numerals: Once the key is established, Roman numerals are assigned to each degree of the diatonic scale. The primary diatonic chords in a major key are typically represented as follows:
    • I: Represents the tonic chord (major).
    • ii: Represents the supertonic chord (minor).
    • iii: Represents the mediant chord (minor).
    • IV: Represents the subdominant chord (major).
    • V: Represents the dominant chord (major).
    • vi: Represents the submediant chord (minor).
    • vii°: Represents the leading-tone chord (diminished).
  • In a minor key, the chords may vary slightly, depending on whether it's the natural minor, harmonic minor, or melodic minor scale being used.
  • Analyzing Chord Progressions: Roman numerals are then used to represent the chords within a composition. By analyzing the progression of Roman numerals, one can understand the harmonic structure of the piece, including chord changes and modulations to different keys if they occur.
  • Distinguishing Chord Quality: Capital Roman numerals (I, IV, V) usually represent major chords, while lowercase Roman numerals (ii, iii, vi) represent minor chords. The diminished chord is represented by a lowercase Roman numeral with a ° symbol (vii°).
  • Extensions and Alterations: Roman numeral analysis can also include chord extensions and alterations. For example, a "V7" indicates a dominant seventh chord, while "IVmaj7" represents a major seventh chord built on the subdominant degree.
  • Functional Analysis: Beyond identifying chords, Roman numeral analysis can reveal the functional relationships between chords, such as tonic-dominant (I-V) progressions, which create tension and resolution.

Roman numeral analysis is a valuable tool for musicians, composers, and music theorists to study and communicate the harmonic aspects of music. It aids in understanding the underlying structure of a piece and provides a common language for discussing chord progressions and harmonic patterns.

Music Theory
A method of analyzing tonal music based on the theories of Heinrich Schenker

"Schenkerian Analysis" is a method of musical analysis developed by the Austrian music theorist Heinrich Schenker (1868–1935). It is a structural approach to understanding and interpreting the underlying harmony and form of a piece of music.

Schenkerian Analysis focuses on the hierarchical relationships between musical elements, emphasizing the fundamental structure and the voice leading within a composition. It aims to uncover the deeper levels of musical organization by reducing complex musical passages to their essential harmonic and melodic components.

At the core of Schenkerian Analysis is the concept of the "Ursatz", which refers to the fundamental structure or background structure of a piece of music. The Ursatz represents the underlying harmonic progression that supports the surface-level melodies and chords. By identifying the Ursatz, analysts can reveal the essential harmonic relationships that shape the music's overall structure.

Schenkerian Analysis also incorporates the concept of "voice leading", which refers to the smooth and logical movement of individual musical lines within a composition. By tracing the voice leading patterns, analysts can uncover the linear connections between chords and show how they contribute to the overarching harmonic structure.

In practice, Schenkerian Analysis involves the use of graphical representations called Schenker graphs, which illustrate the hierarchical relationships between musical elements. These graphs depict the layers of musical structure, from the foreground level (surface-level melodies and chords) to the middleground level (elaborations and contrapuntal lines) and finally to the background level (the Ursatz).

Schenkerian Analysis is widely used in the field of music theory and is particularly associated with the analysis of tonal music from the Common Practice Period. It provides a detailed and comprehensive framework for understanding the harmonic and structural aspects of a composition, shedding light on the composer's intentions and the inherent logic of the music.

Music Theory
Half step, or a half tone

A semitone, also known as a half step, is the smallest interval in Western music. It represents the distance of one step on the chromatic scale, which divides the octave into twelve equal parts. Moving one semitone up or down in pitch corresponds to moving to the adjacent key on a piano keyboard.

In terms of pitch, a semitone represents the smallest perceptible difference in pitch between two adjacent notes. For example, on a piano, the distance between any two adjacent keys, whether black or white, is a semitone. Similarly, on a guitar, moving one fret up or down corresponds to a semitone change in pitch.

The concept of a semitone is important in understanding scales, chords, and intervals in music theory. It serves as the foundation for building scales, such as the chromatic scale, which consists of all twelve semitones within an octave. It is also used to determine the distance between notes and the construction of chords, where specific combinations of semitones and larger intervals create different harmonic qualities.

The understanding and application of semitones are essential for musicians and composers to navigate and manipulate pitch in their compositions and performances. It allows for precise control over melodic and harmonic relationships, contributing to the rich and diverse musical language found in various genres and styles.

Music Theory
To emphasize the offbeats

Syncopation is a rhythmic technique in music where emphasis is placed on off-beat or unexpected beats within a musical phrase. It involves intentionally shifting accents or emphasizing weaker beats instead of the regular strong beats. This creates a sense of rhythmic tension and adds a syncopated or "offbeat" feel to the music.

In syncopated rhythms, the expected strong beats are de-emphasized or accented in unexpected places. This can be achieved through various rhythmic devices, such as syncopated notes, rests, tied notes, or accent patterns. Syncopation can occur in various musical genres, including jazz, funk, Latin, and pop music, and it is often used to create a lively, energetic, and groovy feel.

Syncopation adds complexity and rhythmic interest to music, challenging the listener's expectations and creating a sense of forward momentum. It can be found in both melody and accompaniment parts, and skilled musicians often use syncopation to add rhythmic excitement and enhance the overall musical experience.

Music Theory
A series of four notes separated by three intervals

Tetrachord is a musical term used to describe a segment of a scale consisting of four consecutive pitches. In Western music theory, the tetrachord is considered a fundamental building block of scales.

Traditionally, tetrachords are constructed using a combination of whole and half steps. The most common tetrachords are the diatonic tetrachords (Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian), each consisting of two whole steps and one half step. For example, the Dorian tetrachord is constructed with the intervals whole-whole-half.

Tetrachords can also be created with different combinations of intervals and structures depending on the specific musical context and style. Different musical cultures and genres may utilize tetrachords with different interval combinations.

In music theory and composition, the concept of tetrachords is often used for analyzing musical structures and establishing harmonic relationships. It can serve as a foundation for composing music or as a tool for understanding and interpreting interval relationships and harmonies in music.

Music Theory
A musical instrument that sounds pitches different from those indicated by the notation

"Transposing Instrument" refers to a musical instrument that is notated and played at a different pitch than its actual sounding pitch. These instruments use specific transposing notations to convert their actual sounding pitches into a different notation, facilitating performance and ensemble playing across different instruments.

Transposing instruments are a special category of instruments whose notation differs from other instruments when written and played. This is because the notation for transposing instruments involves a specific transposition, resulting in different sounding pitches when played. This transposition is designed to allow performers to switch between instruments of different registers without having to relearn the notes.

A common example is the B♭ clarinet, which is a transposing instrument in B♭. When a B♭ clarinet player sees a C note on the music sheet, they actually play a sounding D note. Similarly, the A♭ horn is a transposing instrument, and the notes a horn player reads are a major second lower than the sounding pitch they produce.

Transposing instruments play a crucial role in ensembles as they enable instruments of different registers to perform harmoniously. This design of transposition minimizes adjustments needed when switching between instruments, making it easier for players to adapt to different instruments.

Music Theory
Moving a group of notes up or down in pitch by a constant interval

Transposition refers to the process of changing the key of a musical piece while maintaining its overall structure and relationships between the notes. It involves shifting all the pitches in the musical piece up or down by a consistent interval.

Transposition is commonly used in music for various purposes, such as adapting the music to different vocal ranges, accommodating different instruments, or creating desired tonal colors or emotional effects. For example, a song originally written in the key of C major can be transposed to D major by shifting all the notes up by a whole step.

Transposition requires a good understanding of music theory and the ability to read and write music in different keys. In written sheet music, transposition is often indicated by using specific key signatures or by directly notating the transposed pitches.

Transposition can have a significant impact on the overall sound and characteristics of a musical piece. It allows musicians to adapt to different contexts, explore new tonalities, and meet the specific needs of performers and ensembles.

Music Theory
Augmented Fourth, or Diminished Fifth

Tritone, also known as an augmented fourth or diminished fifth, refers to a musical interval spanning three whole tones or six semitones. It is regarded as one of the most dissonant and unstable intervals in Western music.

The tritone divides the octave into two equal parts, creating tension and a sense of unease. It is often described as having a "clashing" or "unresolved" sound. In medieval and Renaissance music, the tritone was considered forbidden and was referred to as the "diabolus in musica" (the devil in music).

The tritone's unique sound and dissonance have made it a prominent feature in various musical styles and genres, including classical, jazz, and rock. Composers and musicians have used the tritone to evoke suspense, instability, and tension in their compositions.

In functional harmony, the tritone is commonly found in dominant seventh chords. Its resolution to a consonant interval, such as a major third or a perfect fifth, creates a sense of resolution and harmonic stability.

The tritone's importance extends beyond its dissonance and harmonic function. It has also played a significant role in the development of music theory and composition techniques. Composers throughout history have explored its use and manipulation to create unique and innovative musical ideas.

Music Theory
Offbeat, the weak beat

The upbeat, also known as the offbeat, is a musical term that refers to the weak beat or the anticipatory pulse that occurs before the downbeat. It is the opposite of the downbeat and is often represented by the unaccented portion of a rhythmic pattern.

The upbeat has an important role in music, particularly in styles such as jazz, reggae, and certain dance music genres. It contributes to the syncopated and lively rhythm characteristic of these styles. The upbeat often emphasizes the offbeat or the weaker beats, adding a sense of energy and movement to the music.

Musicians and performers pay close attention to the upbeat as it sets the rhythmic feel and groove of a piece. It helps establish the overall pulse and can influence the style and interpretation of the music.

Music Theory
Microtonal music

"Xenharmonic" refers to a musical system or tuning that goes beyond the conventional Western equal temperament by using non-standard divisions of the octave. In xenharmonic systems, intervals and pitches are not restricted to the traditional 12-tone equal temperament, allowing for a broader and more diverse range of harmonic relationships.

The term "xenharmonic" comes from the Greek words "xenos", meaning "foreign", and "harmonia", meaning "harmony". It describes musical systems that explore harmonic possibilities outside the constraints of the standard Western tuning system.

Traditional Western music employs the equal temperament system, which divides the octave into 12 equal intervals (half steps), resulting in the well-known 12-note chromatic scale. However, xenharmonic music ventures into alternate tuning systems that use divisions of the octave with different ratios and intervals. These alternative tunings can result in novel harmonic relationships, unique sonorities, and unusual scales that may not fit within the framework of traditional tonality.

Xenharmonic compositions often feature microtones, non-standard intervals, and a wider variety of scales, which can create distinct and otherworldly sounds. Musicians and composers who explore xenharmonic music seek to break free from the limitations of traditional Western tuning and to explore new realms of harmonic and tonal possibilities.

Xenharmonic music has gained interest among composers, experimental musicians, and those interested in pushing the boundaries of musical expression. It allows for innovative exploration of soundscapes and can lead to the discovery of novel ways to convey emotion and meaning through music.

Music Theory