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This article is about musical harmony and harmonies. Harmony_sentence_0

For other uses of the term, see Harmony (disambiguation). Harmony_sentence_1

"Disharmony" redirects here. Harmony_sentence_2

For the episode of Angel, see Disharmony (Angel). Harmony_sentence_3

In music, harmony is the process by which the composition of individual sounds, or superpositions of sounds, is analysed by hearing. Harmony_sentence_4

Usually, this means simultaneously occurring frequencies, pitches (tones, notes), or chords. Harmony_sentence_5

Harmony is a perceptual property of music, and along with melody, one of the building blocks of Western music. Harmony_sentence_6

Its perception is based on consonance, a concept whose definition has changed various times throughout Western music. Harmony_sentence_7

In a physiological approach, consonance is a continuous variable. Harmony_sentence_8

Consonant pitch relationships are described as sounding more pleasant, euphonious, and beautiful than dissonant relationships which sound unpleasant, discordant, or rough. Harmony_sentence_9

The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony_sentence_10

Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic line, or the "horizontal" aspect. Harmony_sentence_11

Counterpoint, which refers to the relationship between melodic lines, and polyphony, which refers to the simultaneous sounding of separate independent voices, are therefore sometimes distinguished from harmony. Harmony_sentence_12

In popular and jazz harmony, chords are named by their root plus various terms and characters indicating their qualities. Harmony_sentence_13

In many types of music, notably baroque, romantic, modern, and jazz, chords are often augmented with "tensions". Harmony_sentence_14

A tension is an additional chord member that creates a relatively dissonant interval in relation to the bass. Harmony_sentence_15

Typically, in the classical common practice period a dissonant chord (chord with tension) "resolves" to a consonant chord. Harmony_sentence_16

Harmonization usually sounds pleasant to the ear when there is a balance between the consonant and dissonant sounds. Harmony_sentence_17

In simple words, that occurs when there is a balance between "tense" and "relaxed" moments. Harmony_sentence_18

Etymology and definitions Harmony_section_0

The term harmony derives from the Greek ἁρμονία harmonia, meaning "joint, agreement, concord", from the verb ἁρμόζω harmozō, "(Ι) fit together, join". Harmony_sentence_19

In the past, harmony often referred to the whole field of music, while music referred to the arts in general. Harmony_sentence_20

In Ancient Greece, the term defined the combination of contrasted elements: a higher and lower note. Harmony_sentence_21

Nevertheless, it is unclear whether the simultaneous sounding of notes was part of ancient Greek musical practice; harmonía may have merely provided a system of classification of the relationships between different pitches. Harmony_sentence_22

In the Middle Ages the term was used to describe two pitches sounding in combination, and in the Renaissance the concept was expanded to denote three pitches sounding together. Harmony_sentence_23

Aristoxenus wrote a work entitled Harmonika Stoicheia, which is thought the first work in European history written on the subject of harmony. Harmony_sentence_24

It was not until the publication of Rameau's Traité de l'harmonie (Treatise on Harmony) in 1722 that any text discussing musical practice made use of the term in the title, although that work is not the earliest record of theoretical discussion of the topic. Harmony_sentence_25

The underlying principle behind these texts is that harmony sanctions harmoniousness (sounds that please) by conforming to certain pre-established compositional principles. Harmony_sentence_26

Current dictionary definitions, while attempting to give concise descriptions, often highlight the ambiguity of the term in modern use. Harmony_sentence_27

Ambiguities tend to arise from either aesthetic considerations (for example the view that only pleasing concords may be harmonious) or from the point of view of musical texture (distinguishing between harmonic (simultaneously sounding pitches) and "contrapuntal" (successively sounding tones). Harmony_sentence_28

In the words of Arnold Whittall: Harmony_sentence_29

The view that modern tonal harmony in Western music began in about 1600 is commonplace in music theory. Harmony_sentence_30

This is usually accounted for by the replacement of horizontal (or contrapuntal) composition, common in the music of the Renaissance, with a new emphasis on the vertical element of composed music. Harmony_sentence_31

Modern theorists, however, tend to see this as an unsatisfactory generalisation. Harmony_sentence_32

According to Carl Dahlhaus: Harmony_sentence_33

Descriptions and definitions of harmony and harmonic practice often show bias towards European (or Western) musical traditions, although many cultures practice vertical harmony In addition, South Asian art music (Hindustani and Carnatic music) is frequently cited as placing little emphasis on what is perceived in western practice as conventional harmony; the underlying harmonic foundation for most South Asian music is the drone, a held open fifth interval (or fourth interval) that does not alter in pitch throughout the course of a composition. Harmony_sentence_34

Pitch simultaneity in particular is rarely a major consideration. Harmony_sentence_35

Nevertheless, many other considerations of pitch are relevant to the music, its theory and its structure, such as the complex system of Rāgas, which combines both melodic and modal considerations and codifications within it. Harmony_sentence_36

So, intricate pitch combinations that sound simultaneously do occur in Indian classical music—but they are rarely studied as teleological harmonic or contrapuntal progressions—as with notated Western music. Harmony_sentence_37

This contrasting emphasis (with regard to Indian music in particular) manifests itself in the different methods of performance adopted: in Indian Music improvisation takes a major role in the structural framework of a piece, whereas in Western Music improvisation has been uncommon since the end of the 19th century. Harmony_sentence_38

Where it does occur in Western music (or has in the past), the improvisation either embellishes pre-notated music or draws from musical models previously established in notated compositions, and therefore uses familiar harmonic schemes. Harmony_sentence_39

Emphasis on the precomposed in European art music and the written theory surrounding it shows considerable cultural bias. Harmony_sentence_40

The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Oxford University Press) identifies this clearly: Harmony_sentence_41

Yet the evolution of harmonic practice and language itself, in Western art music, is and was facilitated by this process of prior composition, which permitted the study and analysis by theorists and composers of individual pre-constructed works in which pitches (and to some extent rhythms) remained unchanged regardless of the nature of the performance. Harmony_sentence_42

Historical rules Harmony_section_1

Early Western religious music often features parallel perfect intervals; these intervals would preserve the clarity of the original plainsong. Harmony_sentence_43

These works were created and performed in cathedrals, and made use of the resonant modes of their respective cathedrals to create harmonies. Harmony_sentence_44

As polyphony developed, however, the use of parallel intervals was slowly replaced by the English style of consonance that used thirds and sixths. Harmony_sentence_45

The English style was considered to have a sweeter sound, and was better suited to polyphony in that it offered greater linear flexibility in part-writing. Harmony_sentence_46

Types Harmony_section_2

Carl Dahlhaus (1990) distinguishes between coordinate and subordinate harmony. Harmony_sentence_47

Subordinate harmony is the hierarchical tonality or tonal harmony well known today. Harmony_sentence_48

Coordinate harmony is the older Medieval and Renaissance tonalité ancienne, "The term is meant to signify that sonorities are linked one after the other without giving rise to the impression of a goal-directed development. Harmony_sentence_49

A first chord forms a 'progression' with a second chord, and a second with a third. Harmony_sentence_50

But the former chord progression is independent of the later one and vice versa." Harmony_sentence_51

Coordinate harmony follows direct (adjacent) relationships rather than indirect as in subordinate. Harmony_sentence_52

Interval cycles create symmetrical harmonies, which have been extensively used by the composers Alban Berg, George Perle, Arnold Schoenberg, Béla Bartók, and Edgard Varèse's Density 21.5. Harmony_sentence_53

Close harmony and open harmony use close position and open position chords, respectively. Harmony_sentence_54

See: voicing (music) and close and open harmony. Harmony_sentence_55

Other types of harmony are based upon the intervals of the chords used in that harmony. Harmony_sentence_56

Most chords in western music are based on "tertian" harmony, or chords built with the interval of thirds. Harmony_sentence_57

In the chord C Major7, C–E is a major third; E–G is a minor third; and G to B is a major third. Harmony_sentence_58

Other types of harmony consist of quartal and quintal harmony. Harmony_sentence_59

A unison is considered a harmonic interval, just like a fifth or a third, but is unique in that it is two identical notes produced together. Harmony_sentence_60

The unison, as a component of harmony, is important, especially in orchestration. Harmony_sentence_61

In pop music, unison singing is usually called doubling, a technique The Beatles used in many of their earlier recordings. Harmony_sentence_62

As a type of harmony, singing in unison or playing the same notes, often using different musical instruments, at the same time is commonly called monophonic harmonization. Harmony_sentence_63

Intervals Harmony_section_3

An interval is the relationship between two separate musical pitches. Harmony_sentence_64

For example, in the melody "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", between the first two notes (the first "twinkle") and the second two notes (the second "twinkle") is the interval of a fifth. Harmony_sentence_65

What this means is that if the first two notes were the pitch C, the second two notes would be the pitch "G"—four scale notes, or seven chromatic notes (a perfect fifth), above it. Harmony_sentence_66

The following are common intervals: Harmony_sentence_67


RootHarmony_header_cell_0_0_0 Major thirdHarmony_header_cell_0_0_1 Minor thirdHarmony_header_cell_0_0_2 FifthHarmony_header_cell_0_0_3
CHarmony_cell_0_1_0 EHarmony_cell_0_1_1 E♭Harmony_cell_0_1_2 GHarmony_cell_0_1_3
D♭Harmony_cell_0_2_0 FHarmony_cell_0_2_1 F♭Harmony_cell_0_2_2 A♭Harmony_cell_0_2_3
DHarmony_cell_0_3_0 F♯Harmony_cell_0_3_1 FHarmony_cell_0_3_2 AHarmony_cell_0_3_3
E♭Harmony_cell_0_4_0 GHarmony_cell_0_4_1 G♭Harmony_cell_0_4_2 B♭Harmony_cell_0_4_3
EHarmony_cell_0_5_0 G♯Harmony_cell_0_5_1 GHarmony_cell_0_5_2 BHarmony_cell_0_5_3
FHarmony_cell_0_6_0 AHarmony_cell_0_6_1 A♭Harmony_cell_0_6_2 CHarmony_cell_0_6_3
F♯Harmony_cell_0_7_0 A♯Harmony_cell_0_7_1 AHarmony_cell_0_7_2 C♯Harmony_cell_0_7_3
GHarmony_cell_0_8_0 BHarmony_cell_0_8_1 B♭Harmony_cell_0_8_2 DHarmony_cell_0_8_3
A♭Harmony_cell_0_9_0 CHarmony_cell_0_9_1 C♭Harmony_cell_0_9_2 E♭Harmony_cell_0_9_3
AHarmony_cell_0_10_0 C♯Harmony_cell_0_10_1 CHarmony_cell_0_10_2 EHarmony_cell_0_10_3
B♭Harmony_cell_0_11_0 DHarmony_cell_0_11_1 D♭Harmony_cell_0_11_2 FHarmony_cell_0_11_3
BHarmony_cell_0_12_0 D♯Harmony_cell_0_12_1 DHarmony_cell_0_12_2 F♯Harmony_cell_0_12_3

Therefore, the combination of notes with their specific intervals—a chord—creates harmony. Harmony_sentence_68

For example, in a C chord, there are three notes: C, E, and G. The note C is the root. Harmony_sentence_69

The notes E and G provide harmony, and in a G7 (G dominant 7th) chord, the root G with each subsequent note (in this case B, D and F) provide the harmony. Harmony_sentence_70

In the musical scale, there are twelve pitches. Harmony_sentence_71

Each pitch is referred to as a "degree" of the scale. Harmony_sentence_72

The names A, B, C, D, E, F, and G are insignificant. Harmony_sentence_73

The intervals, however, are not. Harmony_sentence_74

Here is an example: Harmony_sentence_75


Harmony_header_cell_1_0_0 Harmony_header_cell_1_0_1 Harmony_header_cell_1_0_2 Harmony_header_cell_1_0_3 Harmony_header_cell_1_0_4 Harmony_header_cell_1_0_5 Harmony_header_cell_1_0_6 Harmony_header_cell_1_0_7
CHarmony_cell_1_1_0 DHarmony_cell_1_1_1 EHarmony_cell_1_1_2 FHarmony_cell_1_1_3 GHarmony_cell_1_1_4 AHarmony_cell_1_1_5 BHarmony_cell_1_1_6 CHarmony_cell_1_1_7
DHarmony_cell_1_2_0 EHarmony_cell_1_2_1 F♯Harmony_cell_1_2_2 GHarmony_cell_1_2_3 AHarmony_cell_1_2_4 BHarmony_cell_1_2_5 C♯Harmony_cell_1_2_6 DHarmony_cell_1_2_7

As can be seen, no note always corresponds to a certain degree of the scale. Harmony_sentence_76

The tonic, or first-degree note, can be any of the 12 notes (pitch classes) of the chromatic scale. Harmony_sentence_77

All the other notes fall into place. Harmony_sentence_78

For example, when C is the tonic, the fourth degree or subdominant is F. When D is the tonic, the fourth degree is G. While the note names remain constant, they may refer to different scale degrees, implying different intervals with respect to the tonic. Harmony_sentence_79

The great power of this fact is that any musical work can be played or sung in any key. Harmony_sentence_80

It is the same piece of music, as long as the intervals are the same—thus transposing the melody into the corresponding key. Harmony_sentence_81

When the intervals surpass the perfect Octave (12 semitones), these intervals are called compound intervals, which include particularly the 9th, 11th, and 13th Intervals—widely used in jazz and blues Music. Harmony_sentence_82

Compound Intervals are formed and named as follows: Harmony_sentence_83


  • 2nd + Octave = 9thHarmony_item_0_0
  • 3rd + Octave = 10thHarmony_item_0_1
  • 4th + Octave = 11thHarmony_item_0_2
  • 5th + Octave = 12thHarmony_item_0_3
  • 6th + Octave = 13thHarmony_item_0_4
  • 7th + Octave = 14thHarmony_item_0_5

The reason the two numbers don't "add" correctly is that one note is counted twice. Harmony_sentence_84

Apart from this categorization, intervals can also be divided into consonant and dissonant. Harmony_sentence_85

As explained in the following paragraphs, consonant intervals produce a sensation of relaxation and dissonant intervals a sensation of tension. Harmony_sentence_86

In tonal music, the term consonant also means "brings resolution" (to some degree at least, whereas dissonance "requires resolution"). Harmony_sentence_87

The consonant intervals are considered the perfect unison, octave, fifth, fourth and major and minor third and sixth, and their compound forms. Harmony_sentence_88

An interval is referred to as "perfect" when the harmonic relationship is found in the natural overtone series (namely, the unison 1:1, octave 2:1, fifth 3:2, and fourth 4:3). Harmony_sentence_89

The other basic intervals (second, third, sixth, and seventh) are called "imperfect" because the harmonic relationships are not found mathematically exact in the overtone series. Harmony_sentence_90

In classical music the perfect fourth above the bass may be considered dissonant when its function is contrapuntal. Harmony_sentence_91

Other intervals, the second and the seventh (and their compound forms) are considered Dissonant and require resolution (of the produced tension) and usually preparation (depending on the music style). Harmony_sentence_92

Note that the effect of dissonance is perceived relatively within musical context: for example, a major seventh interval alone (i.e., C up to B) may be perceived as dissonant, but the same interval as part of a major seventh chord may sound relatively consonant. Harmony_sentence_93

A tritone (the interval of the fourth step to the seventh step of the major scale, i.e., F to B) sounds very dissonant alone, but less so within the context of a dominant seventh chord (G7 or D♭7 in that example). Harmony_sentence_94

Chords and tension Harmony_section_4

Main articles: Chord (music) and Consonance and dissonance Harmony_sentence_95

In the Western tradition, in music after the seventeenth century, harmony is manipulated using chords, which are combinations of pitch classes. Harmony_sentence_96

In tertian harmony, so named after the interval of a third, the members of chords are found and named by stacking intervals of the third, starting with the "root", then the "third" above the root, and the "fifth" above the root (which is a third above the third), etc. (Note that chord members are named after their interval above the root.) Harmony_sentence_97

Dyads, the simplest chords, contain only two members (see power chords). Harmony_sentence_98

A chord with three members is called a triad because it has three members, not because it is necessarily built in thirds (see Quartal and quintal harmony for chords built with other intervals). Harmony_sentence_99

Depending on the size of the intervals being stacked, different qualities of chords are formed. Harmony_sentence_100

In popular and jazz harmony, chords are named by their root plus various terms and characters indicating their qualities. Harmony_sentence_101

To keep the nomenclature as simple as possible, some defaults are accepted (not tabulated here). Harmony_sentence_102

For example, the chord members C, E, and G, form a C Major triad, called by default simply a C chord. Harmony_sentence_103

In an A♭ chord (pronounced A-flat), the members are A♭, C, and E♭. Harmony_sentence_104

In many types of music, notably baroque, romantic, modern and jazz, chords are often augmented with "tensions". Harmony_sentence_105

A tension is an additional chord member that creates a relatively dissonant interval in relation to the bass. Harmony_sentence_106

Following the tertian practice of building chords by stacking thirds, the simplest first tension is added to a triad by stacking on top of the existing root, third, and fifth, another third above the fifth, giving a new, potentially dissonant member the interval of a seventh away from the root and therefore called the "seventh" of the chord, and producing a four-note chord, called a "seventh chord". Harmony_sentence_107

Depending on the widths of the individual thirds stacked to build the chord, the interval between the root and the seventh of the chord may be major, minor, or diminished. Harmony_sentence_108

(The interval of an augmented seventh reproduces the root, and is therefore left out of the chordal nomenclature.) Harmony_sentence_109

The nomenclature allows that, by default, "C7" indicates a chord with a root, third, fifth, and seventh spelled C, E, G, and B♭. Harmony_sentence_110

Other types of seventh chords must be named more explicitly, such as "C Major 7" (spelled C, E, G, B), "C augmented 7" (here the word augmented applies to the fifth, not the seventh, spelled C, E, G♯, B♭), etc. (For a more complete exposition of nomenclature see Chord (music).) Harmony_sentence_111

Continuing to stack thirds on top of a seventh chord produces extensions, and brings in the "extended tensions" or "upper tensions" (those more than an octave above the root when stacked in thirds), the ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths. Harmony_sentence_112

This creates the chords named after them. Harmony_sentence_113

(Note that except for dyads and triads, tertian chord types are named for the interval of the largest size and magnitude in use in the stack, not for the number of chord members : thus a ninth chord has five members [tonic, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th], not nine.) Harmony_sentence_114

Extensions beyond the thirteenth reproduce existing chord members and are (usually) left out of the nomenclature. Harmony_sentence_115

Complex harmonies based on extended chords are found in abundance in jazz, late-romantic music, modern orchestral works, film music, etc. Harmony_sentence_116

Typically, in the classical Common practice period a dissonant chord (chord with tension) resolves to a consonant chord. Harmony_sentence_117

Harmonization usually sounds pleasant to the ear when there is a balance between the consonant and dissonant sounds. Harmony_sentence_118

In simple words, that occurs when there is a balance between "tense" and "relaxed" moments. Harmony_sentence_119

For this reason, usually tension is 'prepared' and then 'resolved', where preparing tension means to place a series of consonant chords that lead smoothly to the dissonant chord. Harmony_sentence_120

In this way the composer ensures introducing tension smoothly, without disturbing the listener. Harmony_sentence_121

Once the piece reaches its sub-climax, the listener needs a moment of relaxation to clear up the tension, which is obtained by playing a consonant chord that resolves the tension of the previous chords. Harmony_sentence_122

The clearing of this tension usually sounds pleasant to the listener, though this is not always the case in late-nineteenth century music, such as Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner. Harmony_sentence_123

Perception Harmony_section_5

A number of features contribute to the perception of a chord's harmony. Harmony_sentence_124

Tonal fusion Harmony_section_6

Tonal fusion contributes to the perceived consonance of a chord, describing the degree to which multiple pitches are heard as a single, unitary tone. Harmony_sentence_125

Chords which have more coinciding partials (frequency components) are perceived as more consonant, such as the octave and perfect fifth. Harmony_sentence_126

The spectra of these intervals resemble that of a uniform tone. Harmony_sentence_127

According to this definition, a major triad fuses better than a minor triad and a major-minor seventh chord fuses better than a major-major seventh or minor-minor seventh. Harmony_sentence_128

These differences may not be readily apparent in tempered contexts but can explain why major triads are generally more prevalent than minor triads and major-minor sevenths are generally more prevalent than other sevenths (in spite of the dissonance of the tritone interval) in mainstream tonal music. Harmony_sentence_129

Roughness Harmony_section_7

When adjacent harmonics in complex tones interfere with one another, they create the perception of what is known as "beating" or "roughness". Harmony_sentence_130

These precepts are closely related to the perceived dissonance of chords. Harmony_sentence_131

To interfere, partials must lie within a critical bandwidth, which is a measure of the ear's ability to separate different frequencies. Harmony_sentence_132

Critical bandwidth lies between 2 and 3 semitones at high frequencies and becomes larger at lower frequencies. Harmony_sentence_133

The roughest interval in the chromatic scale is the minor second and its inversion, the major seventh. Harmony_sentence_134

For typical spectral envelopes in the central range, the second roughest interval is the major second and minor seventh, followed by the tritone, the minor third (major sixth), the major third (minor sixth) and the perfect fourth (fifth). Harmony_sentence_135

Familiarity Harmony_section_8

Familiarity also contributes to the perceived harmony of an interval. Harmony_sentence_136

Chords that have often been heard in musical contexts tend to sound more consonant. Harmony_sentence_137

This principle explains the gradual historical increase in harmonic complexity of Western music. Harmony_sentence_138

For example, around 1600 unprepared seventh chords gradually became familiar and were therefore gradually perceived as more consonant. Harmony_sentence_139

Individual characteristics such as age and musical experience also have an effect on harmony perception. Harmony_sentence_140

Neural correlates of harmony Harmony_section_9

The inferior colliculus is a mid-brain structure which is the first site of binaural auditory integration, processing auditory information from the left and right ears. Harmony_sentence_141

Frequency following responses (FFRs) recorded from the mid-brain exhibit peaks in activity which correspond to the frequency components of a tonal stimulus. Harmony_sentence_142

The extent to which FFRs accurately represent the harmonic information of a chord is called neural salience, and this value is correlated with behavioral ratings of the perceived pleasantness of chords. Harmony_sentence_143

In response to harmonic intervals, cortical activity also distinguishes chords by their consonance, responding more robustly to chords with greater consonance. Harmony_sentence_144

Consonance and dissonance in balance Harmony_section_10

See also Harmony_section_11

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmony.