Pop Music Theory

Lessons

Detailed Contents

28: Diatonic Function Analysis

Detailed Contents

Contents

Lesson 28: Diatonic Function Analysis

This lesson teaches how to understand the diatonic chords in "real" songs.

Before taking this lesson, you should know: the diatonic chord functions (Lesson 27: Subdominant & Dominant).

To learn to use the diatonic chord functions (tonic, subdominant, and dominant), you should study them in real songs. This is called diatonic function analysis.

Let's do an example. Here's a short chord progression in the key of C major (it's actually a simplified phrase from Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone):

C  Dm   Em  F   G  C  

First, add Roman numeral symbols (from Lesson 25: Using Diatonics):

IIImIIImIVVI
C  Dm   Em  F   G  C  

Next, we'll add diatonic function symbols. We'll use these symbols:

T = Tonic
(T)= "substitute" Tonic
SD = Subdominant
D = Dominant

Here's the example with the diatonic functions added:

Functions: TSD (T) SD  DT
Roman symbols:   IIImIIImIV VI
Actual chords: C  Dm  Em  F   G  C  

Tension Levels


The diatonic functions have different tension levels, which means how at rest, or not at rest, that function feels. The tension levels range from the no-tension level, tonic (T), which sounds at rest, to the highest tension level, dominant (D), which "really wants to" return to the tonic. The way a chord progression moves between different tension levels creates that progression's tension story. Here's our example again, displayed as a tension-level graph so you can see the tension story's shape:

  C  Dm  Em   F  G  C  
  D V
  SD     IIm IV
  (T) IIIm
  T   I I

Following the Roman symbols above from left to right, we can see that this example's basic tension story is:
  1. Starts at rest, on I
  2. Climbs (with a bit of wandering) to high tension (the V)
  3. Drops back to rest (the last I)

This particular story/shape is very, very common, but there are lots of variations and alternatives. To develop a feel for the effects of different tension stories, you should include diatonic function analysis when you're analyzing songs (see Lesson 2: Practicing Songwriting). Make tension-level graphs for lots of different songs, make up tension stories from the graphs, and decide for yourself what you think the musical effects of different tension stories are.

Requests, questions, suggestions, problems? Tell me on Facebook or email info@drawmusic.com!

Lessons

1: Introduction
2: Practicing Songwriting
3: Pitch Names
4: Letters Game
5: Sharps & Flats
6: Half-Steps
7: Whole-Steps
8: Steps Game
9: Scales
10: Major Scale 1-2-3
11: Major 1-2-3 Games
12: Major Scale 1-5
13: Major 1-5 Games
14: Chords: Major Triads
15: Major Triad Games
16: Minor Triads
17: Minor Triad Games
18: Major Scale 1-8
19: Major Scale Games
20: Scales Above 8
21: What Next
22: Keys
23: Roman Numeral Chords
24: Diatonic Triads
25: Using Diatonics
26: Tonic Function
27: Subdominant & Dominant
28: Diatonic Function Analysis
29: 7th Chords
30: 7ths Games
31: Treble Staff
32: Treble Staff Game
33: Time: Beats & Measures
34: Note Lengths
35: Melody: Chord Tones
36: Pitch & Frequency

Detailed Contents

More Lessons


ABOUT US - CONTACT US (info@drawmusic.com) - FACEBOOK

© 2018 Conrad Albrecht. All rights reserved.