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If I have a phrase and there is no chords, just single tones.

The phrase ends on the tonic.

Is there a term for the second last note if its always +/- 1 step (in the scale) away from tonic?

Can I call it a type of cadence for example?

2 Answers 2

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Historically, the notes a half step above or below the tonic are "leading tones". However, a whole step above or below does not have a special name in terms of cadence function.

Within a scale, the half or whole steps above or below the tonic are called the supertonic and subtonic, respectively, but that term doesn't specifically describe a cadence function the way "leading tone" does.

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  • I meant steps within the scale, not seminotes/wholenotes. So if its a whole note away from the tonic, there is no name for it?
    – Invariant
    Dec 17, 2021 at 1:06
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    @Invariant Nothing to specifically describe its cadential function.
    – Aaron
    Dec 17, 2021 at 1:22
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You're asking about either 7>1 or 2>1, I think.

Both the 7 and the 2 are part of V, so V>I could be considered, making a perfect cadence (in U.K.!). However, cadences needs some form of harmony to be called cadences - hence V>I. A single note will not evoke any particular harmony, although may hint at it, especially with a build up of other 'matching' notes prior. Bt that's not enough.

There are no words to describe what you ask about, involving diatonic, or chromatic notes. A faint possibility may be ♭2>1, maybe calling that tts, but you specifically ask about diatonics.

Leading note is the term used for note 7 (leading tone in U.S.) but although it's always one step from the tonic in scales, that's not enough. Likewise, supertonic is one step from the tonic in scales, but only sometimes in pieces, so that's not enough either.

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  • Excellent answer, although more fleshed out than the other, I will mark the other since it basically says the same, but was first.
    – Invariant
    Dec 17, 2021 at 17:34

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