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Music Notation and Terminology

CHAPTER XVIII

Chords, Cadences, Etc.

196. A chord is a combination of several tones sounding together and bearing an harmonic relation to each other. The simplest chord is the triad, which consists of a fundamental tone called the root, with the third and fifth above it. C—E—G is a triad, as are also D—F—A, F—A—C, and G—B—D.

197. Triads are classified as major, minor, diminished, or augmented.

A major triad has a major third and a perfect fifth, i.e., it is a major third with a minor third on top of it. Ex. C—E—G.

A minor triad has a minor third and a perfect fifth, i.e., it is a minor third with a major third on top of it. Ex. C—E—G.

A diminished triad has a minor third and a diminished fifth, i.e., it is a minor third with another minor third on top of it. Ex. C—E—G.

An augmented triad has a major third and an augmented fifth, i.e., it is a major third with another major third on top of it. Ex. C—E—G.

198. A triad may be built on any scale-tone, but those on I, IV, and V, are used so much oftener than the others that they are often called the common chords. In referring to triads the Roman numerals are used to show on what scale-tone the triad is based, the size of the numeral (with other signs) indicating the kind of triad found on each tone of the scale. Thus e.g., the large I shows that the triad on the first tone (in major) is a major triad, the small ii shows that the triad on the second tone is minor, etc. The following figure will make this clear.

 

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The triads in the minor scale are as follows:

 

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199. A triad is said to be in fundamental position when its root is the lowest tone. It is said to be in the first inversion when the third is the lowest tone, and in the second inversion when the fifth is the lowest tone. Thus e.g., in Fig. 66 the same chord (C—E—G) is arranged in three different positions, at (a) in fundamental position, at (b) in the first inversion, and at (c) in the second inversion.

 

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200. When the root is not the bass note, figures are sometimes used to show what chord is to be played or written. Thus, e.g., the figure 6 over a bass note means that the note given is the third of a chord, the root being found by going up a sixth from the bass note: i.e., the chord is to be sounded in its first inversion. In the same way the figures 6/4 indicate that the note given is the fifth of the chord, the root and fifth being found by going up a sixth and a fourth from the note given; i.e., the chord is to be sounded in its second inversion.

The use of these and other similar figures and signs is called figured bass (or thorough bass) notation. An example of a figured bass is given in Fig. 67.

 

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Thorough bass notation was formerly used extensively in writing accompaniments to vocal works, the accompanist having to interpret the notes and signs given, and then to make up an interesting accompaniment as he went along. Much of Handel's music was written in this way, but in modern editions of these works the chords have been printed in full and the signs omitted.

201. A seventh chord consists of a fundamental tone with its third, fifth, and seventh. The fifth is sometimes omitted. A ninth chord consists of a fundamental with its third, fifth, seventh, and ninth.

202. A cadence is the close of a musical phrase: in melody it refers to the last two tones; in harmony to the last two chords.

The word cadence is derived from cadere, a Latin word meaning to fall, the reference being to the falling of the voice (i.e., the dropping to the normal pitch) at the close of a sentence.

203. The most frequent cadence in harmony is that involving the chord on I preceded by the chord on V. Because of its directness the cadence V—I is called the authentic cadence.

204. The most satisfactory form (to the ear) of the authentic cadence is that in which the highest voice (the soprano) of the final chord is the root of that chord. When the final chord appears in this position the cadence is called perfect[36] authentic, and when the third or fifth of the chord appear in the soprano, the cadence is called imperfect authentic. Fig. 68 shows the chord G—B—D cadencing to C—E—G in three different ways. The first one (a) is called a perfect authentic cadence, but the last two (c) and (d) are imperfect authentic.

 

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205. A plagal cadence is one in which the tonic chord is preceded by the sub-dominant chord (IV—I). The plagal cadence (sometimes called the church cadence, or amen cadence), like the authentic, is described as being perfect when the soprano of the tonic chord is the root of that chord, and imperfect when the soprano of the final chord is the third or fifth of that chord. Fig. 69 shows the chord F—A—C cadencing to C—E—G in three ways. The first one (a) is called a perfect plagal cadence, the last two are imperfect plagal.

 

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206. A half-cadence occurs when the dominant chord is used as the final chord of a phrase, and is immediately preceded by the tonic chord. This form is used to give variety in the course of a composition, but is not available at the end because it does not give a definite close in the tonic key. Fig. 70 shows the use of the half-cadence at the close of such a phrase.

 

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207. A deceptive cadence is the progression of the dominant chord to some other chord than the tonic, the word deceptive implying that the ear expects to hear V resolve to I and is deceived when it does not do so. The most common form of deceptive cadence is that in which V (or V7) resolves to VI. It is used to give variety, but as in the case of the half-cadence, is not available at the end of a composition. Fig. 71 gives an example.

 

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208. A sequence is a succession of similar harmonic progressions, these resulting from a typical or symmetrical movement of the bass part. See Fig. 72.

 

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The word sequence is also applied to a succession of similar melodic progressions, as in Fig. 73.

 

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209. Modulation is a change of key without any break in the continuity of chords or melody tones. Harmonic modulations are usually effected through the medium of a chord, some or all of whose tones are common to both keys. Examples of both harmonic and melodic modulations are shown in Figs. 74 and 75.

 

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The chord most frequently used in modulating is the dominant seventh, i.e., a seventh chord (see Sec. 201) on the dominant tone of the key. In the key of C this chord is G—B—D—F; in the key of D it is A—C—E—G; in the key of A it is E—G—B—D, etc.

 

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210. A suspension is the temporary substitution of a tone a degree higher than the regular chord-tone, this temporary tone being later replaced by the regular chord-tone. See Fig. 76 (a).

 

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211. A retardation is the temporary substitution of a tone a degree lower than the regular tone, this tone (as in the case of the suspension) being later replaced by the regular chord tone. See Fig. 77 (a).

 

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The "regular chord tone" to which both suspension and retardation resolve is called the tone of resolution.

212. The anticipation is a chord-tone introduced just before the rest of the chord to which it belongs is sounded. See Fig. 78 (a).

 

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213. A pedal point (or organ point) is a tone sustained through a succession of harmonic progressions, to the chords of some of which it usually belongs. The term pedal point originated in organ playing, (where the foot on a pedal can sustain a tone while the hands are playing a succession of harmonies), but as now used it may be applied to any kind of music. The dominant and tonic are the tones most often used in this way. See Fig. 79.

 

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214. When the upper three voices of a four-voice composition are written close together (the soprano and tenor never appearing more than an octave apart), the term close position is applied. But when the upper voices are not written close together, the term open position is applied.

215. By transposition is meant playing, singing, or writing a piece of music in some other key than the original. Thus e.g., if a song written in the key of G is too high in range for a soloist, the accompanist sometimes transposes it to a lower key (as F or E), thus causing all tones to sound a second or a third lower than they did when the same song was played in the original key.



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