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Thread: My Problem with VII

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    Default My Problem with VII

    In music theory, we were always told that the seventh step, VII, was a "diminished" triad, which resolved up to the tonic. In the key of C major, this would be VII dim-I C major.

    I didn't buy it. My ear didn't buy it, and I always trust my ear.

    To me, this B-D-F always sounded like an incomplete dominant; a G7 without a root. Then, it made sense to resolve it to C like a V7-I always does.

    Then I started seeing "roots" where they didn't exist, in diminished seventh chords. Like the first B-D-F, I found that I could put an imaginary root below the diminished triad, in this case a G below the B-D-F triad, and I created a dominant chord (G-B-D-F). And it worked with diminished sevenths as well; G below a B-D-F-Ab (dim 7) gives us a "flat ninth" dominant: G-B-D-F-Ab.

    Later, my suspicions were confirmed by two theorists, Schoenberg (in his Harmonilehre) and Walter Piston (in his Harmony text). Both treated the resolution of any diminished chord by "imagining" a root below the lowest tone, and resolving it as if it were a typical V7-I.

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    Senior Member Rhombic's Avatar
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    I recommend Diether de la Motte's theory, where you can see that he sees this chord as a dominant without the fundamental. This is especially useful for chords such as B-D-F-(A flat), where an enharmonic modulation is more clearly seen.

    By the way, you are facing the typical problem between French notation (V7, I63) and German notation/Functional notation, which I prefer much more. German/Functional notation (it is the same one) shows how it sounds to the listener, not just an absurd combination of ordered thirds (the basis for French notation).
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    Senior Member clavichorder's Avatar
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    I'd be curious to know more about this German/Functional notation, if anyone has any links or books they'd recommend.

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    Senior Member Rhombic's Avatar
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    If I remember correctly, Diether de la Motte's Harmonielehre explains it. It considers A minor in a C major context to be Tp, i.e. the minor parallel (hence the lowercase p) of the (major) tonic (hence the uppercase T). Similarly, Eb major in a C minor context would be tP: major parallel of the tonic.
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    In Beethoven's late quartet Op. 135, third movement, he uses the diminished seventh, transforming it to a flat-nine dominant, by changing the bass note under it. Listen at about 17:39.


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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    The tonal harmony book I'm reading (Kostka/Payne) suggests the VII can be looked at in the way you've suggested - an incomplete V. So I think this may be a fairly common way of interpreting the VII chord in progressions.

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    Senior Member Richannes Wrahms's Avatar
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    It's a tritone, it resolves, the mystery being?

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    The tonal harmony book I'm reading (Kostka/Payne) suggests the VII can be looked at in the way you've suggested - an incomplete V. So I think this may be a fairly common way of interpreting the VII chord in progressions.
    Yes, I think most theory books make that point. Piston did.

    Million: The same trick works with subdominant function chords; add the second scale degree below IV and you get a stronger subdominant.

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    But it could be argued that dim vii --> I is actually more fundamental than V --> I, arising from pure voice leading; that the tendency of V to go to I comes about because of its acoustic association with dim vii.

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    ^If your (modal) counterpoint avoids tritones, the fifth of the diminished triad would be substituted with a sixth thus turning it into a first inversion V chord.

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    dim 7
    *wakes up* I was called??
    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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    Senior Member Rhombic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    In Beethoven's late quartet Op. 135, third movement, he uses the diminished seventh, transforming it to a flat-nine dominant, by changing the bass note under it. Listen at about 17:39.

    Also in the Pathétique sonata, second movement, bar 20.

    It is called a Dominant Chromatic Resolution and it is especially useful to modulate, since the resulting chord (flat nine) can be assumed as the dominant of four other tones: in my example, B-D-F-Ab, it can be the dominant of
    C Major/minor (missing a G),
    A Major/minor (missing an E, with an enharmonic modulation considering Ab=G#),
    Eb Major/minor (missing a Bb, considering B=Cb),
    F# Major/minor (missing a C3, considering F=E# and Ab=G#).

    EDIT: In the Pathétique, Beethoven changes from a V7 to a diminished seventh by shifting the bass note by one semitone (from Bb to B).
    Someday, something will come out of anything.

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    I have found it a bit of a pain in schools where they teach VII as a chord with its own function. Any attempt for them to actually explain the function of it in relation to the tonic has really just been a perfect cadence. VII is basically a dominant 9th chord without the root is it not? Outside of school I've been taught that, inside of school the curriculum has been written by morons who can't handle the fact that VII, unlike I throught to VI shouldn't be treated as having its own triad/function separate from the rest.

    I may be wrong, but my interpretation of the middle note of a triad (excluding 7ths and added notes for now) is what gives a chord its quality as major/minor in tonal/functional harmony. The leading note, or the 7th degree of a scale, is a semitone away from the nearest tonic whether the key is major or minor. The semitone difference between the two notes becomes important to the quality of chords built on the dominant note. The mere fact that the leading note and its relation to the dominant note creates the basis for a V-I progression takes away the implication that other chords built on the leading note have a function other than a dominant function. That's what I've believed anyway...

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    Senior Member TalkingHead's Avatar
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    Interestingly, in his chorales (the '371') Bach generally favours VII over the harmony textbook I-V6/4 - I6, giving us I - VII6 - I6.
    Now he surely had his reasons ...

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    Well the diminished triad has two leading tones in it, the 'tonal leading tone' that resolves up to the tonic and the 'modal leading tone' (the subdominant, 4th degree) that resolves down to the mediant (3rd degree, that tells the mode). So voice-leading-wise the only full triad diatonic resolutions are to the tonic triad or to the submediant triad (sixth degree; tonic of the relative minor) whether you want to stick a third(/s) under it or not.

    If you do and interpret the connection between two adjacent degrees as a compound progression then

    VII-I = VII-V-I = V7 - I

    VII-VI = VII-III-VI = III9 - VI which is V9 - I in the relative minor.
    Last edited by Richannes Wrahms; Mar-09-2015 at 10:16.

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