Definitions

Hopefully this will condense somethings that new/less experienced musicians would like to know. The later definitions will be explained thru the course and worked with in assignments. Words in a definition that reference other definitions are italicized.

Common Practice Period – era of Western Music from the Baroque through the early 20th century.

Triad – the most common type of chord in Common Practice Period music. Three notes grouped together, can be played simultaneously or one after another. Based on the interval of a third, different combinations of thirds produce Major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads.

Figured Bass – shorthand for keyboardists using arabic numerals to indicate intervals above a bass line. Developed in the Renaissance to save paper.

Roman numerals – analysis technique that relates chords within a key to each other by showing which scale degree they are based upon. Uses Figured Bass to show inversion.

Function – description of the way a chord moves towards through a phrase towards a cadence in the Common Practice Period.

Tonal/tonality – music that uses function as the basis for most or all of its harmonic logic.

Tonic – a function, the feeling of stability or home at the end of a phrase/piece.

Dominant – a function, the feeling of motion, needing to resolve.

PreDominant – a function, a more ambiguous feeling of transition.

Secondary function/functional substitute – a chord that can replace or pretend to be a primary function chord. Weaker/less stable harmonically.

Relative – a chord with a root the interval of a third away from a Primary function chord. This relationship is similar to that of major and minor relative keys.

Variant – a chord with a root the interval of a third away from a Primary function chord, but in the opposite direction than that of a relative chord relation.

Heinrich Schenker – Austrian music theorist 1868-1935. Developed Schenkerian Analysis, a method of describing music based on levels of reduction and drawing parallels between most Western Classical music.

Hugo Riemann – German music theorist/musicologist 1849-1919. Wrote one of the first histories of Music Theory and developed Funktionstheorie, a predecessor to this system.

Tonnetz – German: “web of tones.” A way of organizing a key/pitches that is more harmonically rather than melodically/scale-based. There are many different types of these and many applications.

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