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Tension and resolution

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Lachi
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Tension and resolution Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 04:48 PM Reply

Sup guys?

I read almost everything about the tonic/dominant relationship, the building of tension and release, and all things related. My mind is a lot confused. Let me understand better...

Talking about a C major scale for easy things:
âEU¢ C is the TONIC, and has a sense of rest
âEU¢ D (SUPERTONIC) and A (SUBMEDIANT) are passing notes, not really stable
âEU¢ E is the MEDIANT, has a sense of rest just like the tonic
âEU¢ F is the SUBDOMINANT, and it has a good tension
âEU¢ G is the DOMINANT, and it's the second most important note for its tension
âEU¢ B is the LEADING TONE, really unstable

What I want to know is: where does the Subdominant tends? Just like the Dominant is attracted to the Tonic, the other degrees also share some types of relationship. I didn't find nothing... anyone care to explain?

Sorry for noob questions, see ya


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WizMystery
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Response to Tension and resolution Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 05:14 PM Reply

It seems you're talking about melody here, which has different rules than harmony, but I'll tell you a little about both anyway.

In classical^2 theory (the classical period subset of classical music), melody works like this:

The tonic can go anywhere.
The supertonic goes to the tonic.
The mediant is just the mediant.
The subdominant goes to the mediant when in major - this is due to the minor 2nd between the two tones. In minor, this doesn't matter all that much.
The dominant goes to the tonic.
The submediant (which you seem to have left out) goes to the dominant when in minor - this is due to the minor 2nd between the two tones. In major, this doesn't matter all that much.
Finally, the leading tone goes to the tonic in major or when it is raised in minor (which is most of the time).

Here are the basic rules of chordal harmony, which differ greatly:

The tonic can go to anything.
The supertonic goes to the dominant.
The mediant is seldom used, but it acts a lot like the tonic.
The subdominant goes to the dominant.
The dominant goes to the tonic.
The submediant (vi) goes to the supertonic.
The subtonic (vii, it would be in poor judgement to call a chord a leading tone) goes to the tonic. And you never use it in root position.

Fun tip: The dominant chord also acts as a pivot between keys. Any time you want to "go somewhere," just act as if the chord you're currently using as the tonic, do a little I - V - I dance, and suddenly you've psychologically left your original key.

WizMystery
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Response to Tension and resolution Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 05:19 PM Reply

At 11/12/12 05:14 PM, WizMystery wrote: The tonic can go anywhere.
The supertonic goes to the tonic.
The mediant is just the mediant.
The subdominant goes to the mediant when in major - this is due to the minor 2nd between the two tones. In minor, this doesn't matter all that much.
The dominant goes to the tonic.
The submediant (which you seem to have left out) goes to the dominant when in minor - this is due to the minor 2nd between the two tones. In major, this doesn't matter all that much.
Finally, the leading tone goes to the tonic in major or when it is raised in minor (which is most of the time).

Actually, I'd like to correct myself here. None of this makes any bit of sense unless you consider the chord progression you're using. It all depends on the situation and the movement of the other voices you've set up. The only rule you can rely on is the leading tone resolving to the tonic, everything else is a lot more nuanced.

Rampant
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Response to Tension and resolution Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 05:20 PM Reply

A IV (subdominant) can go anywhere, really, such as an inverted vi (just move your F down to E), but the strongest resolution is to the dominant V7 (for the key of C: G B D F) because you can get the outline (the 7th, the major 3rd, and the root) by moving only two notes (FAC --> FGB).

joshhunsaker
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Response to Tension and resolution Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 05:30 PM Reply

This isn't really a noob topic lol. Most people even with extensive history in playing/writing music don't end up looking too hard at the very technical side that you're talking about here.

Even then, I'm not really sure what your question is. Are you asking where the subdominant tends to want to go? And then are you referring to the note or movement into the subdominant chord from a key of c?

A lot of this stuff has really to do more with the mathematical relationship between notes. For instance, the reason why 'octaves' are the same note is that going an octave above a specific note only doubles its frequency:

"For example, if one note has a frequency of 440 Hz, the note an octave above it is at 880 Hz, and the note an octave below is at 220 Hz."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octave

In the same sense, you have a sort of "shared importance" between the subdominant and dominant because the "[subdominant] is the same distance "below" the tonic as the dominant is above the tonic". Which means between the two they form the closest thing to the middle of that scale as you can get. Our brains tend to like things with mathematical relations which is why harmonics sound so nice. Musical components with no detectable relationship (say introducing microtuning halfway through a normal song) typically would sound horrible because there is proportionate relationship between the notes.

The concept of building tension and instability is a lot about how our ears relate a certain pitch to the tonic pitch.

Having a pitch that is 'unstable' doesn't mean you can't use it as a kind of anchor for a specific arpeggio. And here's where things in terms of composition become more interesting. Take an arp on a keyboard of C - E - G - B. Playing this over and over again against say a "C" in the left hand to solidify the tonic you would think would be grating but in fact it really quite beautiful. Then lower the tonic to "A" in the left hand while playing the same arp and the effect is similar even though now your "B" that your playing in the right hand is the supertonic which is also supposed to be very unstable. Let's say in either case you resolve the "B" in the arpeggio to a "C". The contrast is that now the arpeggio sounds boring. Strange right?

The trick to most very effective composition is learning to rely on inherently unstable notes and chord transitions to craft movement that keeps the listener expectant.

Buoy
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Response to Tension and resolution Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 05:33 PM Reply

At 11/12/12 05:14 PM, WizMystery wrote: Fun tip: The dominant chord also acts as a pivot between keys. Any time you want to "go somewhere," just act as if the chord you're currently using as the tonic, do a little I - V - I dance, and suddenly you've psychologically left your original key.

oh my god oh my god it works each time

i will use this in every song from now on

WizMystery
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Response to Tension and resolution Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 06:01 PM Reply

At 11/12/12 05:30 PM, joshhunsaker wrote: Stuff

Also, notes with a lower frequency ratio between them sound more consonant while notes with a more complex frequency ratio between them sound more dissonant. An octave relationship has a frequency ratio of 1:2, a P5 relationship has a frequency ratio of 2:3, but a tritone has a frequency ratio of 45/32 (ew).

I'm going to totally derail this thread for a second with a question though.

Pads tend to use a chorus effect where multiple oscillators are pitched slightly apart from each other to create the illusion of a large number of instruments playing together - at what point can they be pitched far enough that the effect is lost and all that's left is dissonance?

midimachine
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Response to Tension and resolution Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 08:19 PM Reply

At 11/12/12 06:01 PM, WizMystery wrote: Pads tend to use a chorus effect where multiple oscillators are pitched slightly apart from each other to create the illusion of a large number of instruments playing together - at what point can they be pitched far enough that the effect is lost and all that's left is dissonance?

depends on how many voices/oscillators - the more voices the more you can get away with.
personally, i don't like detuning more than 15 cents either side unless i'm going for a particular sound or have a whoooole lot of voices. realistically, i'm lead to believe a section of a professional orchestra never has more than 30 cents between the flattest and sharpest voice unless they're playing intentionally fucked up music (source: girlfriend who plays flute and piccolo in a number of orchestras).

tl;dr kinda opinion based but maybe not idk


p.s. i am gay

Lachi
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Response to Tension and resolution Nov. 13th, 2012 @ 02:35 AM Reply

Wooo, thanks everyone.
Really, a lot of precious informations.

I was a stupid for not detailing the question, but I wanted to know was about the relationship between each degrees of a scale. But I'm talking about a melody, not about harmony and chords. Horizontal movement.

I know that using a non chord note can create tension; raising the notes or changing the ryhthm can create tension; etc. What I'm missing is how to solve a tension created by a fifth note (V) or a (II) ? Because everytime I find myself back to the tonic (I).

As Wiz said, maybe there is no a particular rule about this if I'm not using chords or other elements of reference.

Do you guys know more about this tension/release thing?
I'm talking everytime about melody.


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descara
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Response to Tension and resolution Nov. 13th, 2012 @ 04:16 AM Reply

At 11/13/12 02:35 AM, Lachi wrote:

tension; etc. What I'm missing is how to solve a tension created by a fifth note (V) or a (II) ? Because everytime I find myself back to the tonic (I).

Well, first of, keep in mind that the dominant scale degree is actually pretty stable. However, it often moves, especially in bass voices, to the tonic degree. The supertonic, in major, is relatively neutral in its tension - in downward movement, it'll typically want to go to the tonic degree, while in some upwards movement and for example the movement IV-II-III, it resolves better to the mediant. In minor, the supertonic has a more upwards tendence.

Lachi
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Response to Tension and resolution Nov. 13th, 2012 @ 12:46 PM Reply

Thanks. So, from what I see, the scale I'm using also influence this... =)


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