Harmonic shapes

A chaos of possibilities

The seven notes of the major scale have since long formed the basis for music theory and music analysis in a European and Anglo-American context. Diatonic music is divided into different keys based around a specific tonal centre – the tonic. This article highlights music that does not conform to the traditional harmonic movement within a key. Such music usually requires an unnecessarily complex theoretical explanation using established theoretical concepts when analysing tonal content. Some musicologists use traditional analysis to demonstrate how, for example, rock music differs from more traditional key-centred music. Other musicologists claim that certain music has established a practice and a tonal language of its own and should be analysed as such. So, how should harmony in music be defined, if not through the notion of traditional keys? In this article a new concept is proposed – harmonic shapes. These shapes are outlined over a pitch space, and can serve as a tool both for analysis and for creating music. Maybe a concept like this can help creators break free from a traditional framework, and still have a kind of dogma and direction for their creativity?

Keywords: harmony, key, modal, harmonic shape, rock music, scales, pitch space, music theory


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