Chapter Four


This chapter deals with the organization of notes within music or scales. The organization of tones in music is referred to as tonality or keys. The organization of notes can result in a uplifting piece of music or a feeling of melancholy. Let us dissect this further by looking at the names of each note in the key of C and seeing how each note can have a dramatic and unique impact on a melody.

Tonic: The tonic is the keynote and it is the center piece of a musical score. We have discussed the importance of the keynote in previous chapters. The following lists a few tendancies associated with the keynote.

a) Many songs begin with the tonic. Furthermore, even if the song does not begin with the tonic, the keynote is almost always stressed within the initial few measures.

b) The keynote is often the last note of a piece of music. The keynote at the end of a piece of music gives a sense of finality. If a musical score ends on a note other than the keynote, then there is usually a sense of incompleteness. Knowing that most music ends on the keynote is very important if you are trying to learn music by ear. If you can identify the keynote, then you can identify the scale. If you can identify the scale, then all that is left is determining the arrangement of the other notes and identifying the random accidental.

c) Notes of long duration often occur on the keynote. Longer durations stress the importance of the keynote.

d) The keynote (tonic) is often the highest or lowest note in a piece of music.

How many of the above guidelines apply in Shenandoah?

Leading Tone: The seventh degree (or note) is often used to add emphasis to the tonic. You should recall that there is a half step between the seventh and eighth degrees of major scales. The seventh note is referred to as the leading tone because it creates a sense of progression or movement toward the tonic.

What happens with minor keys? You should also recall from previous chapters that minor keys have half steps between notes two and three and between notes five and six. In minor keys we still want a half step between the seventh degree and the tonic. Therefore, we raise the seventh degree with an accidental. Thus, we make is sharp. Quite often you may look at a piece of music and wonder what key it is in. To narrow your choices you can always refer to the key page on Sheet Music USA. However, you still are often left with a choice of two keys. You should be able to identify whether the music is in a minor key if the seventh degree is raised with an accidental right when the seventh degree is placed before the tonic.

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