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).

Basic Music Literacy
introduction note names intervals clefs transposition

There are two basic ways of labelling notes, depending on what information you want to convey. There are absolute note names such as F#1 that will always refer to the same pitch but there are also relative note names that tell you the function of a particular note within a scale or key.

Relative note names
These are useful when you want to convey the function of a note. In the example below, the simplest system is shown above the stave. Each note or degree of the diatonic scale is numbered, so in C major C is 1, D is 2 etc. - each note has a caret ^ above the number to show that it is a scale degree as opposed to, for example, a bar number.

Below the stave is the most commonly taught system, in which each degree of the scale is given a functional name (these can be used for triads as well). These names reveal the way in which different notes in the tonal system are considered more and less important.

You will notice that most of the names give the position of the note relative to either the first or fifth scale degree (mediant, for example, refers to the fact that this note is half-way between the first and fifth scale degrees). This is because the tonic and dominant have a special function in tonal music (see the introduction to tonality for more on how tonality works)

Absolute note names
There are several competing systems and you should use whatever convention your institution prefers. The following is used on this web site (as an example, an E on the first line of the treble clef is called e1):

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