TonalityGUIDE - basic tonal music theory and analysis for undergraduates
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Introduction to tonality More about the TonalityGUIDE analysis tool kit Clefs, note labels, intervals and transposition
chord identification understanding voice-leading style awareness

The ToolKIT, which is accessible from all pages of the site, outlines the three main analytical skills that aims to develop. It also links to a short introduction to the study of tonality as well as a reminder of some basics (note and interval labels, clefs and transpositions).

Understanding Voice-leading
introduction general characteristics interval succession resolution of tension embellishing progressions

introduction | unaccented passing notes | accented passing notes | appoggiaturas | anticipations | neighbour notes

The unaccented passing note literally passes between two notes a third apart (in other words, it fills in the gap) . An important characteristic of the passing note in the example below is that it is dissonant. While the b1 and g1 in the soprano voice are both consonant withe chord I (G), the dissonant a1 'passes' in between.

As explained in prescribed progressions, dissonant notes are usually subject to various voice-leading 'rules' depending on the style. An unaccented passing note occurs by definition on an unaccented part of the bar, so the dissonance is not very prominent.

Because it fills in a third, the passing note below can only be approached and left by step. But the 'rule' that dissonances must be resolved in descending motion is relaxed - can be found ascending or descending. The stepwise motion and lack of accent allow this rule to be broken without the dissonance becoming obtrusive. The unaccented passing note is therefore the most common embellishment in styles where too much dissonance is undesirable.

The first two examples below show the same chord progression with and without a passing note while the third shows the progression reversed so that the passing note ascends.

The two notes that passing note passes between need not be part of the same chord as in the above example (V and V6). Intervals larger than a third may also be filled with a number of passing notes. You will find many examples in the main body of the site.

The Tonality GUIDE tonal music analysis tool kit
information and orientation as you browse around
chord identification
understanding voice-leading
style awareness

© Copyright Thomas Pankhurst

TonalityGUIDE - Tonal Harmony and Voiceleading - Table of Contents