Questions tagged [harmony]

For questions about the "vertical" aspects of music and how to build and study them.

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What are some chord substitutions for a I-IV-V blues progression?

I was watching a video of SRV and one of the things that really stood out was the fact that he seemed to have a different iteration of the I-IV-V turnaround - and made it look/sound effortless. Any ...
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41 votes
12 answers
26k views

Why do many songs in major keys use a bVII chord?

Based on my understanding of chord theory, the chords used in most modern popular songs are comprised of notes that occur in the scale of the tonic key for that song. The I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, and ...
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32 votes
11 answers
43k views

How is counterpoint different from harmony?

Harmony is a kind of second sound you hear. Counterpoint is also the second sound you hear. Aside from technical differentiation, how can you by ear differentiate these two concepts. Is it possible ...
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32 votes
6 answers
4k views

Why is bass note so important in harmonic analysis of music?

In any type of harmonic analysis the bass plays a big part in determining the function of the harmony. There are even special ways to describe what note of the chord is in the bass (known as ...
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31 votes
8 answers
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Understanding minor key harmony

A comment discussion under this question from me, clued me in to the fact that I don't really understand how minor keys work very well. So here is what I think I know The natural minor comes from the ...
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29 votes
9 answers
27k views

How to dramatically change the feeling of a song while keeping the melody largely the same?

How to dramatically change the feeling of a song while keeping the melody largely the same? Let's say we have a happy, upbeat pop song and we want to turn it into a sad song (or vice versa). Is it ...
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28 votes
6 answers
5k views

How to create Chord progressions that make sense

I've been reading over Walter Piston's Harmony book, and it has been an eye-opener to say the least. I understand concepts like tension and release, voice leading and so forth, but I still don't ...
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26 votes
9 answers
6k views

How to modulate very smoothly and stealthily from major to minor?

I would like to modulate from G major to c minor in such a way that it would be almost unnoticeable to the listener. I'm composing a piece in a style that's very Arvo-Pärtesque minimalist-sounding, so ...
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24 votes
8 answers
20k views

Is F Lydian mode in the "key" of C Major?

In most cases (if not all), a piece of music without sharps or flats in the key signature, would be considered in the key of C major or A minor. This question assumes the context of Western Music ...
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23 votes
6 answers
6k views

Why does G# sound right when my melody is in C major?

I composed the following melody using notes from the C major scale. In the third bar a G# (Ab) seemed a natural choice to complete the loop, but I don’t understand why. G# is not in C major nor its ...
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23 votes
6 answers
70k views

What is a secondary dominant chord?

What is a secondary dominant chord? What's the theory behind them? How are they used in composition?
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23 votes
11 answers
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Why does Bach sometimes end with flat 7ths?

I've been studying the Bach inventions, and I see a common patterns in the first 3 inventions: They tend to include the flat 7ths in the very end. Examples: C major: D major: E♭ major: From a ...
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23 votes
5 answers
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F# major vs Gb major?

I was looking at Dvorak's Humoresque (op 101 n 7) : it's mostly in G♭ major, in the middle it changes to F♯ minor. This would have looked more natural for me if F♯ major instead of G♭ major were used. ...
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22 votes
10 answers
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Making Sense of Blues Soloing; differentiating major/minor pentatonics

Quarantine has allowed ample time for musical exploration. I'm a classically trained pianist studying music in college, and I'm using this extra time to be immersed in and learn how to play the blues. ...
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22 votes
6 answers
12k views

Prokofiev's style

I have a predilection for music from the first half of the 20th century. I can't pinpoint the exact reason why, I suspect it is from absorbing so much music from movies, tv series and computer games ...
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21 votes
6 answers
8k views

Do capable harmony singers sing in just intonation or tempered tuning?

I understand that the mathematical frequency ratios between certain intervals will correlate with the overtones that are present when a note sounds in a fundamental frequency. Certain predictable ...
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21 votes
8 answers
5k views

Harmony in Phrygian : What chords are tonic, subdominant, and dominant?

Phrygian is a very distinct sounding mode. I've been trying to better understand the harmony of the mode so I can use it more. Obviously the i chord is a tonic chord and iv is a subdominant chord, but ...
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21 votes
5 answers
3k views

Is there any set of 2-6 notes that doesn't have a chord name?

Is there any combination of up to six notes in the chromatic scale that could not be classified and named as a chord? Can anyone give me an example and explanation if so?
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21 votes
5 answers
3k views

Beatles - Because: Chord progression

I am currently looking at this tune but I'm a bit confused by a part of the progression. It seems to be using chords built mostly from the C# harmonic minor scale. So, my current understanding ...
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21 votes
4 answers
2k views

Do people with perfect pitch distinguish between equal temperament and just temperament?

Do people with perfect pitch distinguish between equal temperament and just temperament? Suppose someone with perfect pitch is singing a duet and wants to harmonise in thirds above the main melody. ...
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20 votes
8 answers
6k views

"The intervals considered dissonant have changed since the 'Middle Ages'"; How so?

In reading my new book 'Complete Classical Music Guide', I understand the following: If two notes are separated by a consonant the sound is pleasing to the ears. If they are of a dissonant ...
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20 votes
6 answers
38k views

Do all chords in a progression usually fit within a scale

I am wondering if when writing a chord progression, all the notes fit within a single scale. If not, what is the logic behind chord progressions?
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20 votes
5 answers
5k views

Guide-lines for creating a simple chord-progression?

I am working on a computer program that generates a simple melody, based on a simple chord progression of four chords taken from the 7 triads of the C Major scale. The program is also supposed to ...
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20 votes
2 answers
14k views

Is there any real difference between Counterpoint and Polyphony?

From what I understand, they both kind of refer to the same thing. Why the need for 2 terms?
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20 votes
4 answers
30k views

What is the best way to learn to sing harmony?

I am quite capable of singing the lead vocal but have a difficult time finding the 3rd or 5th harmony in order to harmonize with someone else. Is there a method of learning to hear or find the ...
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20 votes
1 answer
5k views

What is a multi-tonic system?

Coltrane changes, Slonimsky-Schillinger Symmetric System, three-tonic system, four-tonic system: what are they? How are they used in improvisation, composition, harmonization, and reharmonization? Are ...
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19 votes
10 answers
5k views

In blues, country blues, why don't songwriters get sued for aping the same progressions/tempos/scales as other established blues songs?

Thought: As a guitar player, you can play the blues in pretty much any scale, A for instance with stock rhythms and endings. Example: You write a song in that scale you may even use the same solo ...
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19 votes
9 answers
9k views

Exactly what does "diatonic" mean?

Is the meaning very context dependent, or can it be defined in general terms? Does the meaning change by author or period? Sometimes it's used to refer to anything that stays within a specific tonal ...
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19 votes
6 answers
2k views

What makes the tonic the tonic and when do I know it changed?

What makes a note the tonal center of a scale other than forcing the listener to come from and go back to the selected note as the center? Or is that what makes that note the tonal center? Also at ...
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19 votes
4 answers
2k views

Why do melodies have harmonies?

It seems to me that every melody can be assigned chords. Although different people may assign different chords, in many cases, only certain chords (a small subset of all possible chord choices) seem ...
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18 votes
5 answers
6k views

What's an "add" chord?

The name implies that you are adding a note, but we already notate that explicitly in the chord name and quality. We say Cm7, not Cm add 7. If we want a 9th, we can go Cm9, but is Cm add 9 correct ...
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18 votes
4 answers
88k views

How do I practice harmonizing in singing?

I'm not good at singing harmonies. In my mind to harmonize, you can just sing an alternate melody and that usually sounds good with the main melody. I don't think to myself that I have to sing a 5th (...
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18 votes
2 answers
3k views

What is a Neapolitan 6th?

In studying music theory I have heard the term Neapolitan 6th quite a few times, but I'm not quite sure what it is. What is a Neapolitan 6th and how is it used in a composition?
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17 votes
4 answers
3k views

How can a perfect fourth interval be considered either consonant or dissonant?

I've been reading Ralph Denyer's book, The Guitar Handbook, and in the section on intervals he states that the perfect fourth can be either consonant or dissonant but it's not explained as how or why. ...
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17 votes
6 answers
4k views

avoiding thirds at lower frequencies

From Plomp & Levelt 1965, Tonal Consonance and Critical Bandwidth: "The critical frequency is lower for more consonant intervals. This behavior reflects the musical practice to avoid thirds at low ...
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17 votes
3 answers
3k views

Why does the chord progression Dmaj -> Emaj -> Bmaj sound good?

I looked up the chord progressions for all major and minor scale keys, but this combination doesn't match any of them. Why does it work well?
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17 votes
6 answers
869 views

My ear is not very well trained - what can I look for as easy hints when trying to identify a ii-V-I progression in blues music?

I'm looking to learn how to better analyze music I am listening to, and I'm having problems identifying ii-V-I progressions, especially when they're the basis for improvisation. What are some hints or ...
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17 votes
1 answer
2k views

Locrian Harmony

I like utilizing modes in my the pieces I write, but there is one mode I've never been able to fully grasp and utilize and that is the Locrian mode. The chords that naturally occur in the Locrian ...
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17 votes
1 answer
2k views

Singing: How to pre-visualize harmonies

When singing, I have a good singing voice for harmony--once I've identified the note. However, finding the note is exactly my problem; I tend towards singing the note the lead singer is using if I'm ...
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16 votes
7 answers
4k views

How do you voice extended chords?

If I have a Cmaj13 chord, it uses 7 notes. Basically all the notes of the scale. In a previous question, I was told that you rarely play all 7 notes for a 13th chord. So how do you know which ones to ...
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16 votes
4 answers
2k views

How much of a jazz tune should I pre-arrange?

I have been learning jazz piano (mainly solo) for a few months and am trying to incorporate more color and more interesting voicings in my chords. However, I find it very difficult to keep the ...
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16 votes
4 answers
4k views

How did Mozart know about voice leading rules like consecutive fifths?

What education did Mozart receive in order to know basic harmony rules, like consecutive fifths are bad? And how did he make sure his compositions do not have errors? Did he have to check every voices ...
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  • 171
16 votes
1 answer
9k views

What is harmonic mixing / mix in key?

I'm currently learning how to become a DJ. One of the concepts that caught my attention was "harmonic mixing". I know some very basic music theory, and I'm having some trouble understanding it. What ...
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16 votes
3 answers
8k views

What is tritone substitution?

What is tritone substitution? How can this device be applied to improvisation and composition?
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16 votes
3 answers
2k views

Should the dominant-seventh chord in just intonation use 9:5 for its seventh, or rather 16:9?

It may be just out of habit, what with the 12-edo temperament all around us, but anyway: I find the dominant-seventh rendition 20:25:30:36 sounds extremely harsh. In particular, the tritone from the ...
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15 votes
9 answers
2k views

How can I learn about reasons for choosing different ways to play a chord?

I was playing a song where E7 was written as 022130 as opposed to 020100 which I'm used to playing. It sounds "stronger" and "rounder" to me, similar to playing G as 320033 as opposed to 320003. I ...
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  • 1,777
15 votes
8 answers
6k views

Is the IV chord a perfect fifth in disguise?

They say the root of the IV chord is a perfect fourth away from the key's tonic. But isn't it a perfect fifth from the tonic (if we go the other way)? let's for the sake of coolness, call it a perfect ...
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15 votes
5 answers
3k views

Inverse / reverse Picardy third

I have seen a few answers to this on the web but none seemed very authoritative. A Picardy third is the use of a major tonic chord at the end of a phrase or section in a minor key. Is there a ...
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14 votes
7 answers
3k views

Can any diminished chord be used as V anywhere?

I've been playing with diminished chords as 'V' in ii-V-I progressions. I often use one of the three diminished chords in a ii-V-I progression -- I sharpen the 5th note of the scale and hang a ...
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14 votes
5 answers
4k views

C#m in Am chord progression

I was listening this song; Chord progression is something like this; Am, E, F, C, Dm .(BTW His guitar is tuned half step down) And almost all solos are in A minor/...
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