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During a V-I resolution in C Major, the Leading Tone is B.

B is the 3rd of the G7 chord. It wants to resolve to the Tonic note of C in C Major (C-E-G)

But, I've often read that dissonances want to resolve by moving DOWN, not up.

So, other than being a half-step (m2) interval, doesn't this nullify the whole idea of notes wanting to resolve down?

Generally speaking, when people say lines like "things often want to resolve down", isn't it misleading, until you deal with "in-context", specific moments of a progression?

So, when people use C Major to V7 (C-G7), that is moving UPWARDS of a 5th. (ie Circle of 5ths)

Although, it just came to be that, perhaps when people say "things want to resolve downwards", they may be referencing the entire CHORD (say G7) wanting to resolve down to the tonic (C)??

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  • IMO it's plain wrong to say dissonances want to resolve down. Most classical example is the augmented sixth chord: the aug-6 is certainly a dissonance (enharmonic to a minor 7), but it resolves upwards. Dec 30, 2021 at 13:06

2 Answers 2

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It's ultimately a question of your reference point when you use the term "dissonant": in other words, when you say a particular pitch is dissonant, be mindful of what you're saying it's dissonant against.

When we say that dissonances typically want to resolve down, we're specifically talking about dissonances in relation to the current chordal root. This is why the F of a G7 chord wants to resolve down: it's the seventh of the chord, and because the seventh is a dissonance, it wants to resolve downwards.

But the B that you mention is the chordal third of the G7 chord. And since thirds are consonances, there is no similar urge to resolve this B down.

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In a melodic line progressing in 2nds (stepwise) a tone altered by a flat "wants" to lead downwards (e.g. b7, b6), when altered by a sharp it leads upwards (e.g. augmented 2nds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths).

In your exampel the tritonus Fa Ti produces a strong dissonance with two tendings: Fa resolves down, Ti is leading tone and resolves upwards. ( B is dissonant with F , but consonant to G.)

So we'll have to think in melody lines.

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