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I'm having some difficulty deciding which notes with accidentals are considered as chromatic, and was wondering if someone could confirm/deny my assumptions about notes in the attached notation of Mozart's String Quartet in D Major, K155.

Bar 2: Chord is G and A# resolves to B. A# is chromatic (or would it not be because this moves from G minor to G major?).

Bar 20: Chord is E. G#'s in this bar are part of E, so not chromatic.

Bar 24: Chord is A. G# is not part of A chord but is leading tone in A major scale, so not chromatic?

Bar 28: Chord is F# minor: B#(C) is tritone of F so is chromatic. G# is 2nd note of F# minor scale, so not chromatic?

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Bar 2: Chord is G and A# resolves to B. A# is chromatic (or would it not be because this moves from G minor to G major?).

  • A# is a chromatic approach, you're right. (g-minor would need a Bb)

Bar 20: Chord is E. G#'s in this bar are part of E, so not chromatic. from bar 20 we are in A major and E is the dominant of A (secondary dominant of D)

  • The G# in Bar 20 is the 3rd of E and leading tone to A and all the further G# in this section your showing have the same function.

Bar 28: Chord is F minor: B#(C) is tritone of F so is chromatic. G# is 2nd note of F minor scale, so not chromatic?

we are still in A major and its related key f# -minor (and not F!)

B# isn't the tritone of F anyway and here B# is a chromatic appraoch to the 5th of f#m (or the 3rd of A major if you want). The G# is still lead tone to A.

The question could be: Is the lead tone of the secondary 5th a chromatic?

Regarding the tonic key D major someone will say "yes" - but as the entire phrase from bar 20 - 30 is in the dominant key of A I would say: No, in my opinion (as this passage is tonisiced to A major).

The term secondary dominant (also applied dominant, artificial dominant, or borrowed dominant) refers to a triad or seventh chord with dominant function set to resolve to a scale degree other than the tonic, with the dominant of the dominant (written as V/V or V of V) being the most frequently encountered.[8] The chord that the secondary dominant is the dominant of is said to be a temporarily tonicized chord. Tonicizations that last longer than a phrase are generally regarded as modulations to a new key (or new tonic).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secondary_chord#Mozart_example

So:

Are these notes with accidentals chromatic?

Not all of them. When the section B (bars 17-32) are considered as modulated to A major - then G# will be the diatonic lead tone of this key.

  • Great in-depth ianswer! +1 – user45266 Mar 26 at 17:26
  • Perfect answer Albrecht, very clear, thank you! Sorry, I meant to say F# minor, thanks for pointing it out, will edit it now. :) – John MC Mar 31 at 1:51
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Decide what key you're in. Notes which are not diatonic in that key are, by definition, chromatic.

If you feel we're in A major/F# minor (often pointless to try to distinguish the two) at bar 28, the B# is chromatic, the G# isn't.

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I would say tones that are not diatonic to the "local" key are chromatic.

By "local" I mean the various keys to which the music may modulate. So if the music modulates from D major or A major label anything as chromatic if it isn't diatonic to A major.

When the music is modulating the tonality becomes inherently ambiguous - it's between keys - the diatonic/chromatic distinction isn't so clear then. I suppose I would say discontinue using the key the music last departed and consider things relative to the key the music will next arrive. That isn't a rule. It's just how I think I would first try to understand the tonal direction of the music in terms of diatonic/chromatic.

  • Good point Michael about tones not diatonic to the local key being chromatic, I was thinking along those lines but it's nice to see it stated so succinctly. That's also very useful about considering things relative to the key the music will next arrive and tonal direction, as I agree, sometimes it's not so clear. – John MC Mar 31 at 1:59

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