TONICS - Why Musicians Should Laser Focus On Them...

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by AxemanVR, Sep 10, 2021.

  1. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Yes, Tonic and Root are not essentially interchangeable.

    For one thing, while a chord may have a Tonic note in it, a scale never has a Root - it only has a Tonic. And even if a chord has a Tonic note in it, it's only considered a "Tonic Chord" if it is the chord is built from the first degree of the scale that it's associated with.

    Sure, Tonic and Root are "sort of the same but different", so it's probably just easier to remember that (on the most part) Tonics apply to scales and Roots apply to chords *unless the chord is used to describe its harmonic function as it relates to other chords - and even then it's only going to apply to one chord in any given key... not all of them...



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    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
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  2. OmegaWoods

    OmegaWoods Tele-Holic

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    I'm mostly ignorant of music theory having not been to college for such things. Most scale diagram I've ever seen shows "R" for the first note of the scale.

    After doing some research and reading your posts, I realize that they're not the same thing.

    What I will say is that the word "root" is used by a LOT of people to mean "the first degree of the scale".

    Thank you for dispelling my ignorance.
     
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  3. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Don't worry, I got called out a while back myself for accidentally using the term Root when describing a scale, now I'm extra careful about such things...


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  4. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Tonic water. Root beer. Different.
     
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  5. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Good analogy; While both are liquid refreshments that can quench one's thirst, they clearly aren't the same thing...


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  6. Edgar Allan Presley

    Edgar Allan Presley Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks for this post. I'm a North Texas music school dropout; I never got past theory 1 and jazz theory 1. I loved both classes, and draw on what I learned all the time. But I don't remember learning the distinction between root (the 1 of a chord) and tonic (the 1 of a scale and tonal center of the section of music). Of course, we used the term tonic in theory class (a major scale consists of tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, leading tone). And we talked about root movement with respect to voice leading and baroque part writing rules. Man, that stuff was fun.
     
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  7. OmegaWoods

    OmegaWoods Tele-Holic

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    But they knew exactly what you were talking about, didn't they?

    Maybe you should hang out with a different group of folks...
     
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  8. oldunc

    oldunc Tele-Holic

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    Not going to get into this really, but I think a lot of confusion nowadays comes from the fact that traditional functional harmony, which was built around resolution of the tritone, has disappeared from much of today's music, other than as an understood feeling of harmonic function based on aural memory; this is why, for example, you can play I IV V in parallel, which includes no resolutions,, and still feel it as a progression that resolves to a tonic. I think this mostly comes from the influence of the blues, which adopted from African music the notion of call and response, which resolves things melodically rather than harmonically.
     
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  9. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Traditional "Voice Leading" treats four-part harmonies as "four individual melodies being played at the same time", which clearly demonstrates how tightly bound both the harmony and melody can be in relation to each other. None the less, everything is still "usually" pursuing a single goal; A resolution to the same place at the same time.

    What that resolution ends up looking like may not be what we are currently used to hearing though, since the interaction of both harmony and melody can be influenced by what the majority of people agree sounds "right" - something that has slowly evolved ever since "traditional" theory first got a foothold (while the music itself has dramatically shifted).

    I myself try to avoid the typical "Dominant to Tonic" V7-I resolution as much as possible (as long as the outcome is still sufficiently satisfying of course).

    Obviously the melody has a significant impact in certain situations - for instance, where it can steer a piece away from an Ionian (Major) mode and towards a Dorian (minor) mode - but the harmony must also be in tune (no pun intended) to going in that direction as well.

    For instance, I once wrote a piece that uses the notes from the Key of B Major, but it ultimately resolves to C#m instead of B Major - thus actually making it C# Dorian.

    B Major notes: B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#

    B Major Chords:

    B
    C#m
    D#m
    E
    F#
    G#m
    A#o (*I used A#m instead in my piece)


    Anyway, I did not set out to write this song in C# Dorian, but the melody made it go in that direction. Here's a stripped down section of the piano piece I wrote that essentially descends downwards using the chords A#m, G#m, F#, E, D#m and C#m, but (taking its cues from the the melody), the piece stops short of ending on B Major and ends on the C#m chord instead (although, if I chose to, I could have placed a B Major chord after the C#m chord and it wouldn't have "necessarily" sounded wrong either):





    Others can be the judge, but I think the feeling of absolute finality to C#m is achieved at the very end of that piece, despite a progression that looks something like: vi-v-IV-III-ii-i with no clear cadence involved - although I'm sure theory nerds could argue that the ii chord (D#m in this case) has the Perfect 5th and minor 7th notes of the V7 (G#7 Dominant 7th chord), which makes the D#m some sort a substitute for the V7 - but, seriously, I really think that's all part of Music Theory's fancy dancy, hocus pocus way of spinning things to make everything somehow "theoretically fit” rather than admitting that somethings can "just fit" without further explanation.

    A perfectly adequate explanation might be: If I had used an actual V7 "Dominant" chord (G#7) to the i "Tonic" chord (C#m) at the end of this piece, it would have changed the feeling of it to the extent of ruining it in my opinion, because that particular song doesn't want a happily satisfying resolution. So "why" the ii chord works in this song is because it fits - plus the fact that it's NOT the V7 chord!

    Anyway, there's no doubt in my mind that songs have the ability to write themselves, regardless of whether we can explain it or not...



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    Last edited: Sep 14, 2021
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  10. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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  11. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    In conversation, theorists do the same thing. Sometimes we don't obey all the rules of language when casually talking with each other. Or when rehearsing.

    It's a judgment call as to how anal you're going to be about this stuff.
     
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  12. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    We need to talk. I'm interested in the blues aspect. Will PM you soon.
     
  13. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    OK so I'm coming from a non-devotional-Western-centric-music perspective but not as book scholar, instead derived from listening to and valuing music of many non-Western cultures.

    The quote you include above, delivered in typical scholarly mathocentric techdom, I would translate thusly:

    Dude, music theory idealizes Euro-centric-pop-digestibility and sometimes you don't want the most commonly palatable product whether in food, music, visual art, romance & sex, choice of road from point A to point B, hairstyle, clothing and shoes etc etc etc.

    While I'm not book learned in music theory, I'd bet that to a large degree "logical positivism, scientific empiricism, idealism, and vitalism", applied to tonality, would reject foreign tonalities that don't fit the Western scholars chosen ideals for all us musicians who want to romance and tease an audience.
    Or maybe not totally reject but define as being less that ideal/ not encourage the use of.

    Yet, audiences DID sit still for Dick Dales "foreign sounding scales", and fewer but still enough to fund tours, Westerners sat still for Ravi Shankars "foreign scales".

    So WRT trained scholarly musicians rejecting certain music as lesser, improper, or even bad; I heard Berklee school kids say more than once: "When Trane got weird" in reference to post circa 1962 or so, basically the time he wrote a whole new chapter in American music.
    Those music college students surprised me, given that it was the 1980s and Coltranes work had been book studied for decades.
    All those kids had to transcribe earlier Trane, like Giant Steps, but many considered Coltranes later work just plain wrong.

    I'm going to guess and may be wrong, that we can call Coltrane a music scholar.
    Take another music scholar with Ravi Shankar.
    Ravi had been exchanging letters with Coltrane based on reputation but had not heard Tranes new work.
    They planned to meet and Shankar was very excited to meet Coltrane, as he admired him immensely.
    But, when Shankar went to see Trane play live, Ravi was horrified and completely reversed his admiration.
    Of course Shankar was playing a well established non Western music, while Coltrane was playing a possibly new and not yet accepted but soon to be very important Western music.

    Coltrane when asked by a critic why he played sheets of sound or whatever, and answered: "I'm just trying to find that one simple line"
    Ravi didn't ask, but commented to a music writer about his changed view of Tranes music: "He sounds angry".

    Point being, music scholars don't all agree, while teaching the old European derived music theory, a teacher would urge students to not play like late Coltrane or any Ravi Shankar.

    I'd reckon that today, music teaching has accepted a broader "logical positivism" due to being taught stuff by scholarly musicians who rejected much of the "scientific empiricism" they had been taught,in order to pioneer their own roads from point A to point B, for the sake of illuminating the many conventions we are directed to adhere to in society.

    But that other thing one hears: "you have to learn the rules before you can break them", frees us up a bit?
    Still, your reading in a book that it seems did not become pop in music Ed, a scholar suggesting that Western Scholars stifled or encumbered music thought with their passed down conventions?

    That's what I was trying to say in post #25.
    Sometimes you want a good bacon cheeseburger and sometimes you want kimchi.
    If you're told kimchi is just plain wrong to eat and never try it, that would be a stifling encumbrance that serves convention and conformity.

    For the record, I don't like kimchi (that stuff is just plain wrong to eat) I find Tuareg tribal music fascinating but not listenable yet still learned to play bits of it, and I love late Coltrane but not really the more conventional early Trane with Miles.
    And when I make Indian food I straddle the line between Indian and Thai.

    Disclaimer: I don't know a damn thing about music theory aside from sound, so my findings above are probably full of grave errors!

    I'd go with tawn eh size personally.
    What cultures or US regions emphasize "K" or "Ka" in speech?
    I know I know you were joking.
     
  14. fretWalkr

    fretWalkr Tele-Holic

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    The tritone resolution has not disappeared. The resolution of the tritone is the backbone of western tonal music. While it is true that some music doesn't have a V I resolution, 95% of the music most of us hear does. Pop songs almost always have a V to I tritone resolution. Regardless of the chord shapes you use on guitar, when a blues go to the V chord and resolves to the I, that's a resolution of the tritone.

    Most "inside" jazz is based on the II V I progression, same V to I resolution. Jazz also has shifting tonal centers or the "key of the moment" where the song changes keys one or more times. This is usually done with a V to I to the new key. Schoenberg, Berg, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and others purposely avoided this resolution to create different sounding music. Modal music also avoids this tritone resolution which gives it it's unique sound.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
  15. loopfinding

    loopfinding Friend of Leo's

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    though consider the "ii-V-I of rock" as i like to call it - bVII-IV-I. basically the opposite direction on the circle of fifths. if you go D, A, E - most everyone perceives E as the "tonic." perhaps the "strength" of plagal cadences or movement through chords in ascending 5ths as opposed to descending has been grossly underestimated?

    also i agree that modern music is less dependent on the V-I. consider stuff like this:



    i hear it as in G minor, but sitting more on the iv (so your whole song a minor plagal cadence). i guess to me it seems weird to go "this song is in C dorian"? or say that it is Bb major without any true V-I resolution? you could 100% sneak a cheeky D7 chord in there as a V and it would be reminiscent of older RnB...but it's not there.

    i guess that gets me a little weirded out about "tonic"...sure, it may be correct, but in my mind that's usually implying some kind of dominant function. maybe "tonal center" is becoming more appropriate...but i increasingly see no problem with grafting "root" on to things.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
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  16. ASATKat

    ASATKat Friend of Leo's

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    Q; what is the tonic?

    A; the note I discard when playing with triad pairs.

    It's there even if it's not played.

    C D E F G A B

    omit C and get a hexatonic scale
    D E F G A B

    make triad pairs from the hexatonic
    DFA and EGB

    harmonized the C scale with the
    triad pair and no C note in all chords other than C itself.

    C
    FAD
    GBE
    ADF
    BEG
    DFA
    EGB
    C

    Play these chords over pop and folk tunes for a delicate beautiful sound, or use them as intended, for jazz going through changes.
     
  17. Addnine

    Addnine Tele-Holic

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    The final version of this is simple. We have to learn what note ALL the frets produce. I think you also must know at least the 3 and the 5 and probably whatever 7 is typically in play for whatever chord (and progression) you're in, and where to find those notes. There's much else to be learned, of course, but these seem to me the bare minimum.

    It'd probably be good to learn all the arpeggios as well. I can fake my way through them (by visualizing chord shapes), but I can't claim really to have learned them all. (The more music you learn, the more shocking it is how much more you need to know!)
     
  18. oldunc

    oldunc Tele-Holic

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    But it's usually thee "understood" resolution that I mentioned. Bluegrass and country/ folk most often resolve V7 to I; in blues, jazz etc. it's more likely that the tonic chord itself is presented with a tritone (or as a substitute) and the tritone of the dominant isn't actually resolved. The resolution comes from the motion of the roots; ie it's basically melodic rather than harmonic in nature.
     
  19. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Maybe up to and through the 50s but once the counter culture started to take hold in the mid 60s, universities, especially in the arts, absolutely embraced non-western approaches. In the late 70s and early 80s when I started taking formal harmony and theory classes I was bombarded with "ethnic" music classes. *Los Angeles has always been pretty diverse as well as big music town so ...
    Even my most staid and stolid counterpoint teacher wouldn't have discounted Trane or Ravi Shankar.
    Formal music (art) study gets a bad rap. Mostly from folks that either never went to music school or flunked out. *I'm not referring to you telemnemonics.
     
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  20. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    OK that’s fair but I wasn’t as much saying a professor would discount “foreign” music styles as much as that they held on to the conventions of western theory rather than altering theory to include newly embraced or popular structure.
    Say the way painting conventions got rewritten with each movement era.

    But I was also getting my idea of music school conventions or attitudes in Boston and mostly from Berklee students.
    So a small sample and an unfair reporting, but again, my drifting communication pulls too many factors loosely together in what ends up poorly conveying my point.
    IF, I have A point?
    Seeking freedom in structure works.

    I’m really enjoying this discussion and even learned some stuff I searched in response to posts.
    I have to say Thank You to you and other formally educated / more knowledgeable members for trying to work with my often off the wall comments.
     
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