This may be objective, but I'd like others input. Do most short phrases and motifs especially in blues and rock, end on the root. I think I've noticed that in most phrases, that the ending note is always the most important to the listener. and its usually the root (or third ) of the backing chord. Yes, No ?

2 Answers 2


Musical phrases normally end on a chord tone of some kind. The root is probably the most common (especially in rock, blues, and folk music) because it is the most stable tone in the chord. The fifth of the chord is probably the second most common note, followed by the third.

Often, musical phrases come in pairs known as "antecedent" and "consequent." It is sort of analogous to a question and answer, where the antecedent ends on the dominant and the consequent ends on the tonic. The two phrases together are called a "period." http://openmusictheory.com/period.html

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    I'd say the third is more common than the fifth, which has shades of the dominant, so wouldn't be so convincing ( concerning plagal and perfect cadences, which is well connected).
    – Tim
    Nov 12, 2018 at 19:13
  • @Tim Unless you're talking about jazz, I'm not sure that you are correct. I specifically pointed out the concept of antecedent/consequent phrases because the antecedent phrase will often end on the fifth (like in the example I linked to).
    – Peter
    Nov 12, 2018 at 19:51
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    I'm being picky but 'root' and 'tonic' are not interchangeable. The tonic is the stable tone of the key. The root of any given chord isn't necessarily the tonic. Nov 12, 2018 at 19:52
  • @MichaelCurtis I agree that "tonic" and "root" are not interchangeable words, but I'm pretty sure I used the words properly here.
    – Peter
    Nov 12, 2018 at 19:57
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    @MichaelCurtis Good point. I have changed the post to reflect your suggestion.
    – Peter
    Nov 12, 2018 at 20:02

I think this is a great question and I have spent a lot of time trying to get the sense of the ending or goal tone of phrases in blues and jazz.

I often have felt that avoiding the tonic is characteristic in the style. That ending on the tonic is either too obvious, too bland, or too strong an ending that breaks the momentum. In no way is this a definitive statement from me, but I do present two examples that I think may illustrate the point. I concede the point up front that these are the "heads" and not necessarily indicative of how the phrasing would work in improvizations.

Blue Monk emphasizing chord 3rds and 5ths

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C Jam Blue entirely the dominant

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  • The OP doesn't seem to be asking about jazz. I deliberately chose these two because they are so strongly blues oriented. Nov 12, 2018 at 20:12

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