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

Modulation to Distantly Related Keys

We will now show a short example of modulation to a distantly related key in Bach's prelude for the lute BWV 998. In only 6 measures Bach goes from Eb major to Ab minor before returning to Eb major:

  1. The Ab minor is used as pivot chord for modulating to Ab minor (measure 37). Ab minor chord is not found in Eb major, but the chord is the iv degree of Eb minor and it is a common practice to use chords from the parallel minor key. After the Ab minor chord, Bach uses the vii degree of Ab minor to establish the new key in measure 38.
  2. Bach returns from Ab minor to Eb major by using the VI degree of Ab minor (Fb major) as a pivot chord. Again, this chord is not found in Eb major, but Fb major is the Neapolitan sixth of Eb major. Following Fb major by the dominant chord of Eb major would takes us back to Eb major, but ...
  3. Bach has another surprise for us. Instead of presenting the dominant chord after the Neapolitan sixth, he precedes the chord with a secondary dominant (V of V) in measure 40.

© 2011 J. Rodríguez Alvira

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