I was reading the sample version of Modern Harmony Step By Step and one passage caught my eye:

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In the passage above it seems that what is typically referred to as the leading tone is revered to as sensitive. To me the seems odd, but I'm wondering if this is a valid and accepted alternative name for the leading tone and if so why.

  • I'm pretty sure that's a mistranslation.
    – user28
    May 24, 2015 at 7:17
  • Also those terms are two words Sub Dominant not subdominant
    – Neil Meyer
    May 24, 2015 at 8:06
  • 5
    @NeilMeyer they are all one word except for leading tone.
    – Dom
    May 24, 2015 at 8:31
  • 7
    @NeilMeyer: I don't think you're right: subdominant is written as one word.
    – Matt L.
    May 24, 2015 at 8:31

2 Answers 2


As pointed out in a comment by Matthew Read, this is for sure a translation error. The author as well as the translator are both Spanish speakers (from Argentina and Mexico, respectively). Subtonic is of course correct, but sensitive is a mistranslation from the Spanish sensible for leading tone.

  • That's interesting. Also if you translate the page you linked into English with Google, it will mistranslated the term to sensitive and tender.
    – Dom
    May 24, 2015 at 8:33
  • 3
    @Dom: Yes, that's the "usual" meaning of the word, and it's probably OK for an automatic translator to make that error, but I really think that there can't be any excuse for a human translator working on a book on music theory. Such a thing would even put me off reading that book ...
    – Matt L.
    May 24, 2015 at 8:36
  • 1
    @MattL. that's why I like to read the samples before I buy a book a I find there are a lot of bad music books out there.
    – Dom
    May 24, 2015 at 8:37
  • 1
    @Dom: If you're looking for a good book on Jazz harmony, I would recommend The Chord Scale Theory and Jazz Harmony by Nettles and Graf.
    – Matt L.
    May 24, 2015 at 8:40
  • 2
    Sensible is also the usual French term for leading tone.
    – user16935
    May 24, 2015 at 17:16

Yes sensitive may also have been a translation from French ("sensible" or "note sensible" for leading tone), the French word "sensible" meaning "sensitive".

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