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"Tonal Harmony around Us!"



This term refers to the Harmonic style of Music composed during the period about 1650 to 1900, which would include the composers like, Bach, Handel, Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and all their contemporaries.


Much of Today's popular music is based on "Tonal Harmony", just as Bach's Music was, which means that both types have a good deal in common.


First, both make use of a Tonal Center ,a pitch class* that provides a center of Gravity.

Second, both types of music make use of almost exclusively of major and minor scales.


Third, both use chords that are Tertian in structure. Tertian means "Built of thirds" , so a tertian chord might be C-E-G, a non-tertian chord would be C-F-B.


Fourth, and very important, is that the chords built on the various scale Degrees relate to one another and to the tonal center in fairly complex ways. Because, each chords tends to have more or less standard roles or functions within a key, this characteristic is sometimes referred to as Functional Harmony.


To get an idea about Harmonic Function, lets the play following chord,


Play it several times, arpeggiate it up and down, The "Function" of this chord is clear, isn't it? Somehow, you know a lot about this chord without having to read a book about it. Play it again, and listen where the chord "wants" to go.


Now, play this just like the above example, This is an example of what is meant by the relationships between chords in tonal harmony and why we use sometimes the term Functional Harmony.


Tonal Harmony is not limited to the period 1650-1900. It began evolving long before 1650 and its still around today. Turn on your radio, go to club, listen to canned music in supermarket-it's almost all Tonal Harmony. Also, it is important to realize that not all music with a tonal center makes use of Functional Harmony-especially good deal of music composed since 1900.


*Pitch Class: an octave apart or enharmonically equivalent belong to the same pitch class. There are 12 pitch classes in all.





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