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Thread: Music Theory Request Thread

  1. #1
    Senior Member Romantic Geek's Avatar
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    Default Music Theory Request Thread

    Hi TC members,

    I have sensed that some members here would like to understand some music theory things a bit better. In effort to provide what I know best in the classical music world (which is theory) I'd love to help educate those who have questions. I will put time and effort into these with those who have serious questions - ones that I feel that would be beneficial for the average listener to know to even get more out of their listening experience.

    As some of you may know, I got more into classical after studying music theory. Learning how it works helps make me understand and comprehend what I am hearing better. I had a lot of trouble digesting larger classical works, but with a bit of theoretical knowledge, now it becomes like an appetizer to bigger and better things!

    At the moment, I am teaching freshmen level music theory. Any of those basic questions should be easy for me to answer at this point. (Including sophomore level questions.) The more advanced we get, the best I will try to answer the questions as according to my education. If I don't know the answer, I'll ask around my colleagues to make sure I can give you the best possible answer. Some of these answers may be opinions - just as a warning that not everything is absolute.

    So unlike the Music Theory from Square One thread, I am going to try to answer questions as they come up rather than try to teach from the beginning.
    B.M. Music Theory - University of Connecticut
    M.M. Music Theory - College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati (in process)
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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Thank you. One thing thats never been 100% clear to me is this whole diminished chord alternative root nonsense.

    Wehn a triad is diminished, i am led to believe it can have a 'hidden' root. This root that is implied can be any of the tones in the chord but a half step down, and should be inferred by examining the context of the chord. This is what my teacher tells me. I understand how the 7th can then act as a 9th without a root, but dont see quite how the relationship works here.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Rasa's Avatar
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    I think it refers to the fact that if you have a vii°7 chord, it acts/feels as a dominant, even though it doesn't contain the 5th degree of that tonality.

    The 7th of the vii dim chord would be the b9 of the related V chord

    Last edited by Rasa; Dec-23-2010 at 20:51.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Sure, but does that to apply to the other chords?

    For example why would a C#dim7 possibly have a root of C, or D#, or f# ? Those are all a half step down from a note in the chord.

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    Senior Member Rasa's Avatar
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    Since D is a half step down from Eb in the presented chord, you can do the same for every note in the green chord, and enharmonically make it into the same vii chord for four tonalities.

    The same vii chord (F#°7) for G, is (enharmonically) also the vii chord in E (here the chord is called D#°7), Bb (here it's called A°7), Db (here it's called C°7)

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Aahhh... That makes a lot more sense. They each apply to a different tonality. Thank you.

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    Senior Member Romantic Geek's Avatar
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    Yep, Rasa's right on the dot. I really don't understand why one would really do that anyway personally. It's just a lot easier to say that a fully diminished seventh chord can function as the dominant. I do not hear a vii°7 as a V though. To me, it's really hard to hear a chord missing its root.

    Although, this brings in some interesting analysis issues with certain pieces of music, especially the first two movements of Schummann's Dichterliebe.
    B.M. Music Theory - University of Connecticut
    M.M. Music Theory - College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati (in process)
    My Soundclick Page - feel free to browse my compositions I post up there

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Well yes, many of these popped up in Haydn's Symphony 104

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    Senior Member Falstaft's Avatar
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    Great idea for a thread Romantic Geek. I'm also a theorist, and will check up on this thread if it ever seems like I can be of service.

    Quote Originally Posted by Romantic Geek View Post
    Yep, Rasa's right on the dot. I really don't understand why one would really do that anyway personally. It's just a lot easier to say that a fully diminished seventh chord can function as the dominant. I do not hear a vii°7 as a V though. To me, it's really hard to hear a chord missing its root.
    I'm the biggest stickler for correct enharmonic spelling out there, so this topic tickles my fancy! Romantic Geek, you raise a good point. I think how one hears the dim7 really depends on stylistic context. I think when you'd want to hear it as a dominant with a displaced root (or, in other terms, an incomplete dom) might be in some baroque or classical settings where dim7s are rarely found as independently stable vertical sonorities, rather than a harmony of linear origin. Whereas it takes on increasingly autonomous roles in romantic harmony (which I'm sure you can tell us something about! ), and is a celebrated tool for unusual chromatic modulations via its extreme enharmonic reinterpretability (ick, not a fan of that word, oh well). Enharmonic spelling also matters for situations where the dim7 isn't acting as a dom-like sonority. In general, you pick the correct enharmonic pitch by its relation (usually as alteration or chromatic neighbor) to its more stable diatonic resolution. And if that means triple flats, so be it -- for us theorists at least, certainly not for the poor performer, give them a B over a G#### any day!

    Treating it as an incomplete form of the V is, to my mind, more of a statement of function than necessarily harmonic derivation. In most settings, it acts as a weak dominant after all. It's a slippery slope, but again, in some contexts, you can even get things like a iių7 sounding like a dominant11th with elided root and third!

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    Senior Member Romantic Geek's Avatar
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    Yeah, that's why I just like to simplify things Falstaft!
    B.M. Music Theory - University of Connecticut
    M.M. Music Theory - College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati (in process)
    My Soundclick Page - feel free to browse my compositions I post up there

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    Senior Member Rasa's Avatar
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    I guess the reason I perceive it as related to the dominant is the presence of the +4 in the chord, which makes also the V7 into what it is.

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