Harmonic Functions

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What are Harmonic Functions?

    The Tonic

    The Dominant and Subdominant

    An example using I, IV and V

    Identifying the I, IV and V degrees

    The II and VII Degrees

    The III and VI Degrees

    Harmonic Functions in Minor Keys

    Harmonic Analysis

Nonharmonic Tones

    Passing Tone

    Neighbor Note




    An Example

Secondary Dominants

    Secondary Dominants Examples

    Using Secondary Dominants


    The Dominant Chord

    The Pivot Chord

    Two Examples

    An Example from Bach

    Modulation to Distantly Related Keys

Augmented Sixths


    Major Keys

    Harmonic Function

    Tritone Substitution

    Musical Examples

Neapolitan Sixth

    Construction and Identification

    Major Keys

    Musical Examples

Other Tutorials:

Reading Music




Musical Forms

Related Exercises:

Harmonic Progresssions Dictation



  Seventh Chords

  Secondary Dominants

  Secondary Diminished Sevenths

  Augmented Sixths

  Neapolitan Sixth



  Seventh Chords

  Secondary Dominants

  Secondary Diminished Sevenths

An example using I, IV and V

Here we show the first measures of Mozart's Sonata K. 283 in G Major. This is a good example of how the I (tonic) , IV (subdominant) and V (dominant) degree chords can be used. Since we are in the key of G Major, G major is the tonic, C major is the subdominant and D is the dominant.

In the first measures Mozart plays the chords using arpeggios (the notes are played consecutively).  He also uses chord inversions. When a chord is in inversion the lowest note is not the root. For example, in measure 2 Mozart uses a D dominant 7th chord (D - F# - A - C) but he uses the A as the lowest note (see Inversions).

In the next example we have:

  1. Added a top stave (the smaller one) with all chords in root position and the chord symbol (see Triads Chord Symbols in Jazz7th-chord Symbols in Jazz).
  2. Added roman numerals below the lowest stave to identify the degrees. Chord inversions are shown using the small numbers (see Baroque Chord Symbols, Figured Bass 7th-chord Symbols).
  3. The notes in red are non-harmonic tones. These notes are not part of the chords.

Many melodies can be harmonized using only the tonic, dominant and subdominant chords because these chords have all the notes of the scale.

© 2011 J. Rodríguez Alvira

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