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Thread: How does an established tonal center effect other notes/chords?

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    Default How does an established tonal center effect other notes/chords?

    Once a tonal center is established, what significance does it have on the perception of other melody notes or underlying chords to the listener? Tonality is still such a vague concept for me. I understand that tonality can refer more to a certain style of music, but I’m more interested in how it arbitrarily effects music rather than a way to analyze it.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    I wouldn't say that tonality "arbitrarily affects music." I don't know what you mean by that. But then your entire inquiry is problematic in its wording. What do you mean by "other" melody notes? Chords underlying what?

    Tonality isn't a style of music. Broadly defined, it's a perceived hierarchy among the notes of a chosen scale, wherein one note (or sometimes more than one) plays a central role as a point of reference to which the other notes of the scale, and/or chords built from them, relate in certain expected ways. That centrally important note is normally the principal point of departure and arrival (resolution) in a piece of music, and is felt as having a particular power of attraction. The specific hierarchy and system of relationships around it depend on the particular tonal system utilized by the music, e.g., major, minor, modal.

    I should think that simply having a clear definition of tonality, added to the experience of listening to music, would go most of the way to answering whatever question you're asking here.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jul-16-2020 at 01:34.

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    Play a repeated "drone" note and melody on top. That's a basic "tonality" and other notes will be heard in relation to this simple bass.

    Outside of ceremonial/ethnic styles of drone music, you can have way more factors in creating hierarchies of stability/tonality where many other elements of music or even knowledge about the musical style, so you can have expectations and be surprised when you hear something novel, are important in the perception of music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    What do you mean by "other" melody notes? Chords underlying what?
    The OP asked "...what significance does it (an established tonal center) have on the perception of other melody notes or underlying chords to the listener?

    I assume that by "other," he is referring to any notes or chords which are outside the "established tonal center," which would include the scale of the tonality; but accidentals fall in-between those scale notes, so they are part of the tonal center as well. In this sense, the OP's question does not define what "other" means, unless it refers to a key change, in which case the answer should be self-evident for the new key.

    There seems to be something missing in youngcapone's perception, judging by these questions. I think he needs more ear training.

    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jul-16-2020 at 14:16.

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    The tonal center acts as the "home" to which the melody (usually) resolves. I think one of the easiest ways to understand tonality is through chord progressions and cadences. Within a scale, there are 7 chords and these can be numbered (using roman numerals) as I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII.

    In the C major scale, these numbers would correspond to the following chords:

    I = C major
    II = D minor
    III = E minor
    IV = F major
    V = G major
    VI = A minor
    VII = B diminished

    If you play each of these chords and follow it with chord I (C major), you will notice that they all give a sense of "resolution", but each resolution is subtly different. The G major -> C major resolution feels the most "final" (this is called a perfect cadence), while the F major -> C major resolution is a little softer (a plagal candence, used often at the end of sacred music to signify an "amen"). These relationships will largely be the same whatever key you are in: a V to I cadence will always sound like it ends a section. In G major, this would be D major -> G major.

    There is an example embedded in the last paragraph that I think may help illustrate things - in the key of C major, the G major chord resolves strongly to the home of C major; whereas in the key of G major, the G major chord is the chord to which the melody resolves. In the key of D major, the G major chord is chord IV in the scale, so it forms a softer plagal cadence.

    Hopefully this helps.

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    Capone, have you memorized all of your intervals? Have you? If I play an interval on the piano, can you name it instantly, without thinking about it? Like we know the flavor of mustard, or the color green?

    This is the skill you must acquire. It must be second nature, and instant.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jul-17-2020 at 13:03.

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    Junior Member Kyler Key's Avatar
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    Think of it as your base that you build everything off of.

    You can think of it like the Roots of a tree, the other chords that surround the root are the trunk, branches, and leaves. They all stem from and will die without the root.
    Last edited by Kyler Key; Aug-04-2020 at 04:40.

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