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Thread: Tonality of popular music

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Default Tonality of popular music

    How much does it differ from CP tonality? How "functional" (whatever that means!) it is? I don't think the V-I cadence is actually all that important for "establishing tonality" in popular music. I mean, I guess it's fairly common to end a piece/section with those chords but I think that's more likely just a consequence of them both being major chords in the key (and major chords are popular). According to this, it is equally common to precede the I chord with the IV chord (actually a bit more common in fact!).

    Also in the minor keys, while the major V chord and the leading tone is certainly common, my intuition says that it is also common to use only natural minor through the song. That would be quite un-CP. Am I wrong?
    Last edited by Dim7; Aug-24-2015 at 15:45.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dim7 View Post
    How much does it differ from CP tonality? How "functional" (whatever that means!) it is? I don't think the V-I cadence is actually all that important for "establishing tonality" in popular music. I mean, I guess it's fairly common to end a piece/section with those chords but I think that's more likely just a consequence of them both being major chords in the key (and major chords are popular). According to this, it is equally common to precede the I chord with the IV chord (actually a bit more common in fact!).

    Also in the minor keys, while the major V chord is certainly common, my intuition says that it is also common to use only natural minor through the song. That would be quite un-CP. Am I wrong?
    If you check the revised ToS you'll see that any reference to tonality is no longer permitted (nor is atonality).

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dogen View Post
    If you check the revised ToS you'll see that any reference to tonality is no longer permitted (nor is atonality).
    I don't that's the correct solution. Tonality/atonality debates will instead become cryptic and impossible to moderate. What we need is regulated (a)tonality debates.

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dim7 View Post
    I don't that's the correct solution. Tonality/atonality debates will instead become cryptic and impossible to moderate. What we need is regulated (a)tonality debates.
    The problem is that certain viewpoints are hierarchically privileged over others. What we need is a method of debating using all viewpoints equally, related only to one another. This will ensure the supremacy of TalkClassical for the next hundred years.

    Most top 40 stuff is better described as modal than tonal. About half the interchangeable dance pop-type stuff on the radio at the moment is all i-VI-III-VII, for some reason. Not sure when that started.

    My sense is that R&B uses more interesting blues/jazz-inflected harmony, but I haven't studied it closely or anything.

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Speaking of modality, I think it's a pretty incoherent concept.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dim7 View Post
    Speaking of modality, I think it's a pretty incoherent concept.....
    Stop that right now.

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    To my ears, most pop, jazz, and rock music is not CP tonal. I'd describe it as modal, but not in the traditional sense.

    By that I mean that the music is diatonic, but avoids reference to tonal function.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    The problem is that certain viewpoints are hierarchically privileged over others. What we need is a method of debating using all viewpoints equally, related only to one another. This will ensure the supremacy of TalkClassical for the next hundred years.
    Would this involve 12-viewpoint conversations or viewpoint-rows?

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    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    I suspect that there's a bit of everything, from the microtonal intervals of the blues to bitonality (even in mainstream pop, Beyonce's Single ladies is an example), modality, atonality, diatonic and chromatic stuff (metal for instance).

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Modality, tonality and atonality - none of these really exist. There's just diatonicism, pentatonicism, chromaticism, wholetonism, octatonicism, someweirdscaleism etc. Plus triadism and.... weirdchordism.
    Last edited by Dim7; Aug-24-2015 at 19:26.

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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    About half the interchangeable dance pop-type stuff on the radio at the moment is all i-VI-III-VII, for some reason.
    VI - VII - i is also a very common natural minor progression in pop music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    To my ears, most pop, jazz, and rock music is not CP tonal. I'd describe it as modal, but not in the traditional sense.

    By that I mean that the music is diatonic, but avoids reference to tonal function.
    I HATE it when Taggart and Mahlerian make this distinction. ESPECIALLY when Mahlerian says that modal music has "no tonal function."

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dim7 View Post
    How much does it differ from CP tonality? How "functional" (whatever that means!) it is? I don't think the V-I cadence is actually all that important for "establishing tonality" in popular music. I mean, I guess it's fairly common to end a piece/section with those chords but I think that's more likely just a consequence of them both being major chords in the key (and major chords are popular). According to this, it is equally common to precede the I chord with the IV chord (actually a bit more common in fact!).

    Also in the minor keys, while the major V chord and the leading tone is certainly common, my intuition says that it is also common to use only natural minor through the song. That would be quite un-CP. Am I wrong?
    Yes, tin-pan-alley popular songs are tonal; Yale music theorist Alan Forte frequently uses "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" as an example of tonality and good song construction.

    ~
    Here is a link to Forte's thoughts on this, and please bear in mind that he is the most respected music theorist of our time.

    ~http://forte.music.unt.edu/archive/allenforte/popmus.html

    Last edited by millionrainbows; Aug-24-2015 at 19:38.
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Yes, tin-pan-alley popular songs are tonal; Yale music theorist Alan Forte frequently uses "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" as an example of tonality and good song construction.

    ~
    Here is a link to Forte's thoughts on this, and please bear in mind that he is the most respected music theorist of our time.

    ~http://forte.music.unt.edu/archive/allenforte/popmus.html

    "in recent years I have cultivated an interest in exploring the repertoire of what I call classic American popular song, the very large corpus of music created during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s by such household names as George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers"

    Modern pop may be quite different.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I HATE it when Taggart and Mahlerian make this distinction. ESPECIALLY when Mahlerian says that modal music has "no tonal function."
    http://soundideas.pugetsound.edu/cgi...ummer_research

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatonic_function

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