This stack exchange has helped me create tension before a chorus by, for example: using a I7 chord to lead into a IV chord (secondary dominant) and even lowering that leading tone by an additional half step (in the key of C-flat major this is a B-double flat) to create extra suspense; or, in another case, in the key of c minor using a B-flat major chord to lead into the iv chord. Kudos to you if you're one of the ones who helped me discover these techniques.

My question is as follows: these unique solutions to create tension before release (chorus) . . . is there a name for them? Is there a comprehensive list of these somewhere that I can look at? I want to explore these techniques further but don't know where to look. If the answer to my question is "utilize the leading tone" or something like that, then fine. But if there's a broader category of harmony theory that i'm overlooking, then I would appreciate a nudge in the right direction. Thanks!

  • The key of Cb major is quite rare. B major would be a better way to call it. – Tim Aug 10 at 6:32
  • @Tim it depends on the instrument. Harpists would far rather play in Cb than B, because Cb has all the strings at their "unstopped" position which gives the most resonant sound. In comparison B is at the "weedy sounding" end of the spectrum. You often find orchestral scores where a B major section has the harp written in C flat. – user19146 Aug 10 at 7:08
  • @alephzero - can't get my head round that one! Please elucidate! Playing an open string on a harp that produced a Cb pitch is the same as playing an open string that produced a B pitch. I guess we're in 12EDO. What am I missing? – Tim Aug 10 at 7:12

What you are looking for are cadences, which are commonly used patterns that creates and release tension. Quoted from wikipedia (I can't explain it better, emphasis mine):

In Western musical theory, a cadence (Latin cadentia, "a falling") is "a melodic or harmonic configuration that creates a sense of resolution [finality or pause]." A harmonic cadence is a progression of (at least) two chords that concludes a phrase, section, or piece of music.

A cadence is labeled more or less "weak" or "strong" depending on its sense of finality. While cadences are usually classified by specific chord or melodic progressions, the use of such progressions does not necessarily constitute a cadence—there must be a sense of closure, as at the end of a phrase. Harmonic rhythm plays an important part in determining where a cadence occurs.

An example would be the ascending diminished seventh chord half-step cadence, which uses a diminished seventh cord as half-step between 2 major chords that are one tone apart.

There are many types of cadences and each one might have variations to play with. Have fun studying them!

  • You mention the ascending diminished seventh chord half-step cadence. But in the textbooks and online I only keep hearing about perfect cadence, plagal cadence, half cadence, etc. But where can I learn more about these specific and more complicated cadences? Thanks! – 286642 Aug 12 at 3:13
  • Unfortunately I've studied these with my professor years ago and didn't use a reference book. You can try looking for jazz turnarounds which is a fancy name for cadences used on jazz, these are more complex than the ones you mentioned (guess what, tons of 7th chords!). – EzLo Aug 12 at 11:59

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