General Introduction

Each musical analysis in this chapter is intended as a practical example of how the techniques and theory in this book and website can be used when analysing pieces of tonal and tonally influenced music with the aim of understanding the way each piece is structured and how root progression patterns and other components of the music contribute to the style of its composition. It should also support the evidence for the theory.

Whilst I've tried to make these analyses as self contained as possible, it is intended that you should read earlier sections of the book in order to fully understand all the details.

Each of the examples included is accompanied by an analytical outline. These show how the voice leading and root progression patterns interact in each piece. Each outline shows how the voice leading surface creates the melodic structures and how the root progression patterns create the musical phrase structures in the music. These are provided in PDF format so the reader can more easily see the detail and print off the outlines, if desired. It should be noted that whilst some of the symbols used in these outlines may resemble those used by Schenker, the overall approach is different. Schenker's analyses assume that all levels of the structure arise out of voice leading whereas the approach taken here is to show how voice leading, root progression patterns, and phrase structure syntax work together to create the musical structure. For more on the theoretical issues concerned please refer to Chapter 10 Theoretical and Historical Issues (to be included as soon as is practical). In some of the following analyses to follow in the future, I will make some comparative notes, comparing the results of these analyses with Schenker's analyses of the same pieces.

There is nothing "normative" in the analytical approaches taken here. The analyses of voice leading and root progression patterns are made in as open a way as possible to uncover the patterns in the music itself. There is no attempt to reduce everything to one or two normative patterns. (Such as I - IV - V- I or I - III - V - I, as in Schenkerian analysis) nor are decisions made in the analysis process just to prove any theoretical point. Only by taking such an open approach is it possible to uncover what is in the music itself. For instance, this approach shows whether the music is classically tonal, modal or some variation of these. This method does not restrict itself to a particular type of tonal music. Taking such an approach helps to identify what it is in the patterns in the music (voice leading, root progressions etc) that contributes to the style, period and the mood of the music.


Purpose of Musical Analysis

Musical analysis, by some, is regarded as a dry theoretical exercise that is of little practical use to musicians. However, if used effectively, analysis is a practical tool which can help in the understanding of how tonal (and other forms of music) are constructed.

The basis of the musical analysis explained here is to examine the surface voice leading and then strip it away in layers in order to uncover the underlying structure of the music. The first step is to analyse the formal structures and then the surface detail to determine how the voice leading creates motivic structures that create melody . These are then placed in the context of a musical style. Once these have been accounted for, it will be shown that the underlying structures reveal patterns in root progressions that create the musical phrase structures.

Why do this? First of all, it is what many performing musicians and composers do, subconsciously. Performers of popular music and jazz follow chord patterns which summarise the music in a similar way. The chord patterns give the performer just enough information to work out what to play without limiting the performer to particular notes or a particular interpretation. Baroque keyboard players did a similar thing in the 18th century but rather than use chord symbols they used numbers written under a bass part ("figured bass") which indicated what the player should perform, in outline, without dictating all the details. Thus the performer can add his/her own interpretation and ideas and be assured that these will fit in with what other performers are doing. In order to do this, the performer needs to understand the underlying structure of the music. It is not surprising then that these practical aids to performance - the chord symbols of popular music, and the figured bass notation of baroque music are also of use in musical analysis.

Understanding these underlying structures can help performers in several ways, for instance, with the phrasing of music. By understanding how the underlying phrase structures work, how complete and incomplete structures can be joined, it is possible to understand how feelings of expectation and realization, tension and resolution can be created in music. Understanding how this process works can help with the phrasing and expression of the music.

Understanding the structure of music from different periods is an important skill for composers. Whilst the theoretical and analytical ideas in this book are not intended to be a compositional method, composers do need to understand how music is structured in order to create music with continuity, movement and shape. By understanding concepts such as: root progression patterns, surface voice leading patterns, static and dynamic harmony and how they relate to each other and vary, style by style, the composer can use these ideas and adapt them to any style he or she wishes.

Possibly the most important reason is curiosity. Music has a language that people all over the world can understand at a subconscious level. Large numbers of people round the world listen to music that is tonal or utilises tonal harmony and tonal structures. Tonal harmony has spread and influenced music all around the world. So it is worthwhile trying to understand how this widespread language works and how it varies. It is worth trying to understand the syntax of tonal music and the structure of individual pieces of music simply because listening to it is important to so much of humanity. It is one of those big human questions.


Steps in Analysis

Following is a set of steps that summarises the approach taken in the analyses: This is a summary only. It should be used in conjunction with the rest of this book and the full analyses that follow. This can be used for reference when the reader is carrying out an analysis of his/her own. The steps are given as guidelines. They are not intended to be a rigid method. The reader should adapt the approach to suit the needs of the music to be analysed.

The steps can be applied, one at a time, across a whole piece. But, in all but very short pieces, once the formal analysis has been carried out, it is easier to apply them section by section by following the divisions identified in the formal analysis.

Step 1 - Identify the Cadences and Formal Structure

Highlight all cadences. These help to determine the ends of complete and incomplete phrase structures. See Chapter 1, Chapter 5 and Chapter 6. These help to identify the correct alignment of the syntactic structures. Check these align with the melodic structures. From these it is possible to determine the formal structure of the music. Make a note of key changes identified by the cadences at the ends of phrases and at any other points in the music. Cadences may be tonal or modal in character depending on the style of the music.

Step 2 - Identify the Surface Voice Leading

Study the surface voice leading patterns in order to understand the motivic and melodic structures in more detail. Arpeggiation, passing notes, auxiliary notes, appoggiaturas etc all make up the surface voice leading. See explanations of these and other voice leading patterns in the Voice Leading Appendix.

As part of the voice leading analysis, identify any auxiliary chords, passing chords and appoggiatura chords. These non-functional chords have the appearance of structural chords but, in fact, form part of the surface voice leading and are therefore not part of the underlying root progression patterns. See Chapter 3 and relevant entries in the Voice Leading Appendix.

Identify any linear progressions. These always start and end on functional chords and the linear voice should be made up of contiguous passing notes (diatonic or chromatic) that connect the start and end notes. See Chapter 4 and linear progressions in the Voice Leading Appendix.

Step 3 - Identify the Functional Chord progressions

Examine the remaining functional (or "structural") harmonies. For tonal music (and most tonally related music) these are segmented into episodes of static harmony and dynamic harmony. Annotate areas of sustained or oscillating chords as static harmony and areas of chord progressions as dynamic harmony. See Chapter 2.

Step 4 - Identify the Musical Phrase Structures

Of the static harmony elements identified above, determine which are dominant prolongations and which are tonic prolongations. These are the syntactic elements that combine to make up the musical phrase structures. Of the tonic prolongations identified, determine which belong to the opening section of a phrase and which form static codas extending the final tonic chord in the cadence. Identify complete and incomplete syntactic phrase structures. See Chapter 5.

Identify how the complete and incomplete phrase structures are joined to form larger units. See Chapter 5 and Chapter 6.


Next Section - Analysis of Schumann - Kinderszenen No 1.

Analysis Index



Ver. 2.7