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Thread: Should I use plagal motion to go back to G major?

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    Senior Member caters's Avatar
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    Default Should I use plagal motion to go back to G major?

    So I am about halfway through the first movement of my suite and I am in the middle of the harmonic B section(I don't know yet if I will do any melodic borrowing from the A section, thus me clarifying that the B section is harmonic.

    Here is how I modulated to D major:

    G -> Em -> Bm -> F#m -> C#° -> A7 -> D

    I used a harmonic sequence of descending fourths starting from Em and then stopped the sequence as soon as I reached a dominant function chord. It was a diminished chord so I had 3 options for the second dominant chord, those being:

    C#° -> C#°7 -> D
    C#° -> C# halfdim7 -> D
    and
    C#° -> A7 -> D

    Because I was going for a warm feel to the music, I went with the A7. Now, I'm thinking about how to go back to G major. I could just use D major and go straight to G that way. But because I have been in D major for an extended period of time and I modulated to D major, that would just feel like a I -> IV motion, not a change in tonic. At least not for several bars. And while this could work as for example, the last few bars of the development section of a sonata form piece, since I am not writing this first movement of my suite in sonata form, that doesn't make as much sense.

    A better way would be to modulate to E minor and then after being in E minor for x bars, go to G major. This at least confirms the move back to a single sharp key. But the movement from a minor key to its relative major is relatively weak. And it weakens the sense that there was a minor key at all. If the minor key passage is short enough, it will sound just the same as if I did the I -> IV motion and then tonicized the IV.

    But here is an idea, what if I use plagal motion to get to G major? Well, that means that I need to use the IV of G major, C major, in place of the C#° of D major. Just 1 half step motion of the chordal root and all of a sudden, it doesn't sound like we are in D anymore. But because there is no Bb, it doesn't sound like we are in D minor either. No, it sounds like something is being set up. That would be a plagal cadence moving back to G. Now, I know the plagal cadence is weak. But it is stronger than that relative key motion that I mentioned before.

    And since I plan on ending this movement with a plagal cadence, this harmonizes well with it. So should I use plagal motion to go back to G major? It will avoid me having to stay in G major for several bars before it feels like the tonic. And it will also avoid the weakness of the relative key motion.

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    You could be making time-consuming demands on readers by expecting them to read these long explanations and speculations when hearing the different possibilities in a sound file might be far more useful, even as a midi file. Sometimes hearing is worth 1000 words.
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    Senior Member caters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    You could be making time-consuming demands on readers by expecting them to read these long explanations and speculations when hearing the different possibilities in a sound file might be far more useful, even as a midi file. Sometimes hearing is worth 1000 words.
    I know, but I also know that I have had responses to the question in long posts, most often right here in the Music Theory subforum. I also know that there is only so much space for uploaded files and that I don't have a finished B section, let alone the entire piece.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    It'd also help if you at least acknowledged responses from people...a simple thank you can go a long way.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    The short answer: Yes. use the plagal since it goes to IV, and IV is the step which, in any key, is dissonant, and leads away from its key to other areas. That's why it exists, to create instability which can be resolved elsewhere.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    You could be making time-consuming demands on readers by expecting them to read these long explanations and speculations when hearing the different possibilities in a sound file might be far more useful, even as a midi file. Sometimes hearing is worth 1000 words.
    Personally, I like these kinds of detailed, convoluted posts. MIDI files? Nah, I think he should make a video at the piano, with playing and talking, like Leonard Bernstein.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

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