These are Questions and Answers relevant to the animated demos. Please also refer to the main list of Questions and Answers.

I don't see structures like these when I analyse music

Sometimes, the basic chord progressions are extended by the use of voice leading patterns such as passing notes, auxiliary notes, appoggiaturas, passing chords, auxiliary chords and appoggiatura chords etc. For further information on these see the Voice Leading Appendix. Also, the examples chosen are short examples of the basic structure. These have been chosen because they are brief enough to fit onto one screen. Syntactic structures are often longer than those given and can be extended, just as sentences in language can be extended by combining complete and incomplete structures. Chapter 6: Extensions to the Basic Structure will include more on this topic.


When I analyse music, chord successions don't appear to look like these 'static' and 'dynamic' patterns.

The examples chosen, in the main, use only functional chords. These chords can be further elaborated by voice leading patterns which sometime result in non-functional chords such as passing chords, auxiliary chords and appoggiatura chords etc. When analysing root progression these have to be disregarded in the root analysis. There are some examples of these in the demos but you can also see more about these in book Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 and in Voice Leading Appendix.


This is all too simple, it can't be true!

The best theory is the theory which explains the data by the simplest number of rules. This theory is empirically based. i.e. it is based on the analysis of data from many pieces of music. A full Thesis is in preparation which summarises the evidence for the theory.


If this is so simple, why has no-one thought of it before?

Individual components of the theory have been anticipated by other musical theorists:

The 19th century theorist Richter discusses passing chords as a concept and this is taken up by theorists such as Schoenberg and others.

Linear progressions are explained by contrapuntal theory and further elaborate on by Schenker.

The idea that music alternates between chord oscillation and chord progression is anticipated by Schoenberg and others.

The idea that music can be represented by parsing diagrams is introduced by theorists such as Lerdahl and Jackendoff.

However, this is the first theory that links all of these ideas together in such a way that explains how voice leading, chord progression patterns and musical phrase syntax all work in tonal music and to some extent in modal and tonally related music.


In what way is this theory useful?

This theory is useful in three main ways.

  1. It helps us understand how music is structured. It explains the function of every chord in its context in the whole musical phrase rather than just in relation to its preceding and succeeding chord.

  2. Students of music often find the process of harmonising a melody difficult because with previous theories there is no simple way of determining which chords might be appropriate at any particular place in a musical phrase. This theory helps by breaking down a musical phrase into structural elements so that appropriate patterns fall into place naturally. See Harmonising a Melody.

  3. This theory does not work in isolation. It brings together: voice leading theory, root progression theory, musical analysis and style analysis. The theory can be used to analyse and understand music from a variety of styles and can be used to highlight the style distinguishing factors. For more on this see the Full Analysis Chapter.


When I listen to music I don't hear it in this way. Am I supposed to listen for syntactic structures?

No. Just as when you listen to language you are not consciously listening for grammatical structures, you should not listen for these in music. The demonstrations are intend to aid understanding in a way that brings the theory to life. They are not intended as a way of training the ear to listen in a particular way. However, the theory can be used by composers to understand factors which determine the style of a piece of music or by performers to help with phrasing of music etc.



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