Is there a term for the chord or the act of moving the note?

There are a few songs I know of that do this, e.g., the last chord of The Platters’ Only You and Stranger Things’ theme.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Richard, user45266, user48353, Tim H, Shevliaskovic Mar 28 at 1:17

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  • 2
    I've listened to both of your examples and I'm not certain what you're referring to. Could you give us a video and timestamp by any chance? – Richard Mar 26 at 21:36
  • Of course, @Richard. The examples I listed were terrible. Take, for example, a chord composed of E, G, B, and Eb — or a chord composed of A, Db, E, and Ab. – Crys Mar 27 at 16:06
  • @Crys.... instead use E G B and D# or A C# E and G#...but we know what you mean. – Michael Curtis Mar 27 at 16:46

This may not apply to the cases of interest to the original questioner but things like an A-minor chord moving to an F6 chord (A-C-E to A-C-F) is referred to the 5-6 technique. The technique also applies to whole tone movement. The procedure is reversible. One can do similar things with the lower note like (C-F-A to D-F-A). I don't really know a name for the procedure.

I think (but I'm not sure and I'm not familiar with the relevant literature) that some neo-Riemannian procedures follow this. There are placements of notes (or chords) on a hexagonal lattice (Tonnetz) which encompass these techniques.


For the last chord of The Platters’ Only You I think you need to provide some music, because I don't see the half-step movement you mention.

In the Stranger Things theme I think you mean...

enter image description here

...where the circled notes are the half-step movement you mention.

I think the theme exploits a harmonic ambiguity and creates its effect from a few musical elements rather than one single device with a tidy name. So bear with my long-ish answer...

If we simply list out the notes used in the beginning and arrange them in thirds we get C E G B which at face value is C major-seventh chord. The bass note is E instead of C and so we say the chord is in first inversion...

enter image description here

...*if we labeled the chord as such it would be I6/3.

If we use that chord label, the half-step movement would be called simply a broken chord, because the movement is using only the notes of the chord.

The problem with that analysis is the music really sounds like it's in a minor mode. A C major-seventh chord does not seem a good chord to represent the sound of a minor mode tonic chord. So I want another way to analyze this music.

Instead I can consider the E of the bass the chord root and the circled E G B are the chord tones for an Em chord.

This leaves out the C tones indicated by arrows.

We call these non-chord tones (NCT), because they don't "belong" to the Em chord. NCTs add tension to music. This "not fitting" the chord and tension can also be called dissonance. If a NCT moves to a chord tone, it is called resolving. So, the dissonance and tension of a NCT is resolved by moving the tone to a chord tone.

enter image description here

A few observations can be made from this view.

  • Em certainly better matches the minor mode feel of the music.
  • the upper C tone is part of a neighboring motion with the B or the Em chord. This is an example of a dissonant NCT resolving into a chord tone.
  • the lower C does not involve a step-wise resolution to a chord tone. This tone is implied to be sustained through the whole measure. That is an implied, sustained, unresolved dissonance. This adds a lot of tension to the music. I think this constant tension creates an angst which expresses the mood of the t.v. show.
  • it's reasonable to return to the first idea and call this a C major-seventh chord. That possibility makes the theme a bit ambiguous. In some settings a major-seventh chord sounds very mellow and pretty. I think this ambiguity tempers the strong dissonance of a minor second - which could be found in many horror movie soundtracks - to something less harsh, more eerie than terrifying.

On a purely technical note. The score samples above are from a YouTube video, they aren't a real score of the recorded theme. As recorded the E in the left-hand bass clef is a synth bass which is clearly lower than the C in the right-hand bass clef.

I threw out a bunch of music theory terms in this answer only to give you the details to understand my conclusion. I think the essential effect of the music is created by an unresolved dissonant non-chord tone and the half step movement from B to C would be called a neighbor tone.

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