Harmony and tonality

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Types of chords

  • A concord is a chord where all the notes seem to 'agree' with each other, it feels at rest and complete in itself.
  • A discord is a chord where some notes seem to 'disagree' or clash giving an unsettled feel.
  • Diatonic harmony uses notes which belong to the key.
  • Chromatic harmony uses notes from outside the key to give the chords more 'colour'.
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cadence is formed by two chords at the end of a passage of music.

Perfect cadences sound as though the music has come to an end.

Interrupted cadences are 'surprise' cadences. You think you're going to hear a perfect cadence, but you get a minor chord instead.

Imperfect cadences sound unfinished. They sound as though they want to carry on to complete the music properly.

Plagal cadences sound finished. Plagal cadences are often used at the end of hymns.

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  • tonal music is in a major or minor key
  • atonal music is not related to a tonic note and therefore has no sense of key
  • modal music is in a mode
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When a piece of music changes key it is said to modulate

The three most closely related keys to the tonic are the dominant, the subdominant or the relative minor ormajor keys.

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Drone/Pedal/Ground Bass

  • drone is a held (or repeated) chord, (usually a bare 5th) throughout a passage of music.
  • pedal is a single note that is held on, or repeated in, the bass. An inverted pedal note is a sustained or repeated note in a high register.
    Ground bass is the term used in Baroque music where a bass part is repeated throughout the piece.
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