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Thread: Stable and active tones

  1. #1
    Registered User chroo's Avatar
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    Stable and active tones

    Hi Folks,

    I'm sorting out melody and composition. I am hoping to confirm my understanding of stable and active tones.

    In C, CEG are the stable tones in the key.

    Questions:

    1. Playing in (vi mode), the chord tones are ACEG and as I understand, (A) is still an active tone and CEG are still the stable tones. Is this correct?

    2. Modulating to the harmonic minor, as I understand, ACE become the new stable tones. Is this correct?

    3. Just to confirm, the stable and active tones change to any key being modulated into?

    For the last year I have been finding an enormous amount of useful information by searching your forums. I could not find the answer for the question above and I really appreciate any feedback offered.

    All the best,
    Chroo

  2. #2
    unruly quadruped dogbite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chroo View Post
    Hi Folks,

    I'm sorting out melody and composition. I am hoping to confirm my understanding of stable and active tones.

    In C, CEG are the stable tones in the key.

    Questions:

    1. Playing in (vi mode), the chord tones are ACEG and as I understand, (A) is still an active tone and CEG are still the stable tones. Is this correct?

    2. Modulating to the harmonic minor, as I understand, ACE become the new stable tones. Is this correct?

    3. Just to confirm, the stable and active tones change to any key being modulated into?

    For the last year I have been finding an enormous amount of useful information by searching your forums. I could not find the answer for the question above and I really appreciate any feedback offered.

    All the best,
    Chroo
    chroo,

    as i understand your question, and please correct me if i'm wrong, the vi (aeolian) mode would have stable tones on its tonic triad A C E, and G would be less stable as the seventh the the tonic triad Am. in other words, although the use of harmonic minor may strengthen a resolution to vi (Am) it is not necessary to do so.

    much depends upon context, as i would imagine you suspect, but the tonic triad of the mode in question is the primary source of stability in modal situations. so the answer to your first question:

    "1. Playing in (vi mode), the chord tones are ACEG and as I understand, (A) is still an active tone and CEG are still the stable tones. Is this correct?"

    would be no. think about it: why would "A" not be stable during the sounding of the sixth mode's tonic triad Am...

    please ask further if you need. the subject of "modality" may lead to disagreements but i don't think in this case it will be so.

    edit; ignore the following if it makes any answers to your question more hazy

    C major

    tonic triad C E G (most stable)

    subdominant triad F A C (less stable)

    C, as an element of both the subdominant and tonic triads, is generally stable; therefore, the active tones are F and A...

    dominant triad G B D (most unstable)

    G, as an element of both the dominant and tonic triads, is generally stable; therefore, the active tones are B and D. further, F is an element of G7 (V7) as well as the subdominant triad F major and may be considered most (active) dissonant along with the leading tone B.

    from this, you may imply that any tones not found in the tonic triad are active or otherwise unstable.

    A minor

    tonic triad A C E (most stable)

    subdominant triad D F A (less stable)

    A, as an element of both the subdominant and tonic triads, is generally stable; therefore, the active tones are D and F...

    dominant triad E G B (most unstable) and its truly dominant cousin E major or E7 (E G# B and D)

    E, as an element of both the dominant and tonic triads, is generally stable; therefore, the active tones are G and B and especially G# as the leading tone...

    your example was in Am, so perhaps your confusion may be related to the G# itself as standing apart from the G natural found in the pure minor mode. this may be a bigger subject than you anticipated (to sharp or not to sharp the seventh G) but i for one have absolutely no trouble hearing the resolution from the subtonic G to the tonic triad's A.

    as i said, ignore that last part if it's not helping but for me, an inspection of the basic I, IV, and V chords has been most useful in learning how to "hear" these things.

    best,

    db
    © 2007-2014 Schell Barkley
    Dogbite Music Publications
    music-ube-theory.com

  3. #3
    Registered User chroo's Avatar
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    Thank you DB,

    I always appreciate your detailed/considerate replies.

    It appears my vocabulary is stumbling as I try to run from a crawling position.
    However, my Jazz theory is starting to grow like a mold creating fine cheese.

    I muddled my description of melody with chord vocabulary. (Upon reflection, this seams an easy thing to do…) I am starting to grasp tone tendencies of the key in relationship to a song's melodic line. Perhaps a better description, stable and (unstable) tones, which begin and end measures to create tension or resolve and leaving measures open or closed.

    1. Perhaps a better way to ask the question; is this a proper description?

    If I have a measure with Am (vi aeolian mode) as the chord, (from: vi - ii - V - I) and the melodic
    line ends the measure with the (min7: G), this creates a mostly closed measure. This, even though
    the (min7: G) is an unstable tone in Am, but has a stable tone tendency to the key of (C) as the (5th).
    Then starting the next measure, Dm (ii Dorian) with the (min3: F). The (F) is considered to have an
    unstable tone tendency to the key as the (4th), but is a stable tone in Dm as the (min3rd).

    2. Is this a correct perspective?

    In creating melody, these are two basic ways to look at tone quality:

    a. Tone tendencies of the key.
    b. Tones related to the modes in the key.

    3. Would it be correct to say it is very important to keep tone tendencies of the key
    in mind when writing melodic lines?
    Further and a bit of a reach for me, would it be proper to say tones from a mode are used
    to target tones of the key, in writing melodic lines? If this is the case, it would seem tone
    tendencies of the key have more importance to the melody than tones from a mode?

    4. Are these correct?

    Stable and unstable tones:

    a. Major key: Stable tones (1 3 5) and unstable (2 4 6 7) order: (1 5 3 6 2 4 7)
    b. Natural minor or (Parallel minor): Stable tones (1 b3 5) and unstable (2 4 b6 b7)
    c. Harmonic minor: Stable tones (1 b3 5) and unstable (2 4 b6 7)
    d. Melodic minor: Stable tones (1 b3 5) and unstable ascending (2 4 6 7) descending (b6 b7)
    e. Chromatic tones: Are all unstable tones.

    Natural resolution of unstable tones:

    a. 2-1, 4-3, 6-5, 7-1
    b. 2-1, 4-b3, b6-5, b7-1 Also (because of the 1/2 step: 2-b3)
    c. 2-1, 4-b3, b6-5, 7-1 Also (the 3rd of the V is the leading tone of the major key and wants to resolve to the I of the major key.)
    d. Ascending 2-1, 4-b3, 6-5, 7-1 descending 2-1, 4-b3, b6-5, b7-1
    e. Resolves to the closest diatonic tone

    5. Is this a correct perspective: A chromatic tone used as a passing tone is considered an
    unstable tone. Modulating into another key, melody uses the new stable and unstable tones
    of the new key to create tension/resolve and open/closed measures.

    It seemed necessary to go into this much depth to explain my inquiry. I certainly do appreciate any feedback.

    All the best,
    Chroo

  4. #4
    unruly quadruped dogbite's Avatar
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    much to consider. it does sound to me you're asking the right questions. some of the issues are:

    1) what is the primary key or tonality.

    example: black orpheus in Am

    2) is there a secondary key or tonality?

    example: black orpheus has resolution(s) to Dm

    3) how long do the chords last: harmonic rhythm

    i think much has to do with expectation; for example, i can play the vi in a vi ii V7 I in such a way as to either:

    1) lead the listener to believe that the chord is unstable in expectations of the following ii, or

    2) treat the vi as it's own temporary tonal center, where the anticipated harmonic progression to ii would actually be a surprise...

    i think that all is valid in that:

    1) the primary key (which may change in the middle of a tune) is of primary significance, and

    2) the chord of the moment, as well as the previous and subsequent chords may be of varying levels of significance. further, through various kinds of substitutions and conceptual devices the music may exhibit elements of keys and chords not actually happening; therefore,

    the listener, through the composer, player, or improvisor, may react to keys, both real and unreal; chords, both real and unreal; or neither...

    an example of an unreal chord progression would be in Am where i would freely borrow from Fm because Fm7 goes with (as the ii of) Bb7 which goes with (as the tritone sub of) E7 which goes with (as the V7 of) Am.

    i really think that harmonic rhythm and expectation have a huge amount to do with all this. as per your example, i think that the vi chords seventh in C (Am's G) is in fact stable in most cases even if the key of A minor has been firmly established. i have found that my perception of consonance and dissonance (stability and "active tones" as you say) has evolved considerably to include more dissonances (for example 7ths, 9ths and altered tones etc) as acceptable and that "consonance" can be applied in the strictest sense (major and minor thirds, perfect fourths* and fifths, major and minor sixths) or more relaxed to include extensions and alterations...

    context and expectation. hope i've been helpful

    *some consider the interval known as the perfect fourth to be dissonant. i do not.
    © 2007-2014 Schell Barkley
    Dogbite Music Publications
    music-ube-theory.com

  5. #5
    AAJ's Spammer Exterminator Tenorman's Avatar
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    Hi Chroo,
    I've tidied up your mis-posting and thread title here

    Birth Controller to the Jazz Community. (click on the underlined text for more information)

  6. #6
    Registered User chroo's Avatar
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    Thanks again, you are without question always helpful DB,

    I think of the perfect 4th as asking where to go, not where it needs to go or got there… I do love quartal harmony and have enjoyed Pat Martino's work for a very long time.

    I have reached the point where I am going through the real book and recognizing modulations from the chord progression. My base understanding of this helps me recognize new theory to learn, when I come across chord changes I don't understand. I also understand how multiple keys can be in play as the song finds some resolution, or not… Then there is augmented theory, such as Giant steps. Then there is diminished theory… 3 chord types and a world of directions to go into. A piece I'm working on:

    D# diminished | Bb add9 | Em b6 | Gm add9
    I enjoy how the C moves through the D# Diminished, Bb and the Em then resolved into the (min3rd: Bb) of Gm.

    I've been studying a few books about writing melody and feel I am getting a grasp. When my Guitar Teacher is back in town, I plan to start going through Harmony and Voice Leading with him. Here I come Bach… Mainly, I enjoy the idea of writing melody which can stand on it's own, then for multiple parts… Also, transcribing and understanding Jazz melodies, then incorporating ideas gleaned…

    Life is good.
    Chroo

  7. #7
    Registered User chroo's Avatar
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    Thanks Tenorman,

    Exterminate those pesky loose ends.

    Cheers,
    Chroo

  8. #8
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    about stable tones

    do you know the stable and unstable tones of the modes

    Ionian would be 1 5 3 2 6 4 7

    what Do you know about the stability in the other modes?? and the harmonic minor and melodic one salute ya

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