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Thread: Leading Tones

  1. #1
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    Leading Tones

    Hey again!!

    I've been reading theory on internet for quite a while now, and I've came across with something I'm not familiarized with, the "leading tones"......

    1)what are the leading tones?
    2)which benefits give me to know which are the leading tones at the moment of improvisation/composition?
    3)how can I apply them?( I tend to play a lot using diatonic triads all over the neck in combination with the passing tones of the scale of the current tonality, I play guitar)

    Thank you very much
    Last edited by juanf03; 09-25-2012 at 03:56 PM.

  2. #2
    BMus (Hons), MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    The leading tone (or the "leading note") is the seventh note of the major key, or the sharpened seventh note of the minor key. (So, B in C major and G# in A minor for example).

    Classically, they typically resolve upwards to the tonic (the first note), but of course there are exceptions.

    This leading note to tonic often implies the progression V-I (as in the perfect cadence), or possibly a substitute such as viib-I. As such, this goes a long way towards defining the key.

  3. #3
    Registered User Color of Music's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    Hey again!!

    I've been reading theory on internet for quite a while now, and I've came across with something I'm not familiarized with, the "leading tones"......

    1)what are the leading tones?
    2)which benefits give me to know which are the leading tones at the moment of improvisation/composition?
    3)how can I apply them?( I tend to play a lot using diatonic triads all over the neck in combination with the passing tones of the scale of the current tonality, I play guitar)

    Thank you very much
    Leading Tones "lead" you somewhere. Now, in most cases when talking about just scales, they lead you to the tonic or first note of the scale. They are a semitone or halfstep below the root.

    C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C

    D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D

    Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C-D-Eb

    Etc.

    To use an application:

    "Do Re Mi" from the Sound of Music. The lyrics and title correspond to Solfeggio/Solfege notation, but the same rules apply.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIjobdArtiA

    Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do

    The lyric accompanying the Ti (the seventh note) note is: "That will bring us back to Do!" (The first note)

    Now, when you hear the song in the link. it is in the key of B; therefore, the scale is: B-C#-D#-E-F#-G#-A#-B. This is transposed a semitone upwards, therefore, in the film you will here this in B-flat: Bb-C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb

    Note that there are seven notes in the musical scale (A-B-C-D-E-F-G - the A minor scale, btw); however, if the first note is not repeated, it feels incomplete ...

    Notice when she sang the scale, but said: "Let me see if I can make this easier," she stopped before singing the root again. Even though she didn't sing it, we are led to believe the next note will be Do (The key note)

    Additionally, there is also another scale that has the leading tone. The scale is called Harmonic Minor. (R-2-b3-4-5-b6-#7-R)

    The sharpened 7th is the same one found in the major scale. you just don't "see" it, but it's there.

    D Major: D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D
    D HM: D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C#-D

    The rule to get HM is play the natural minor scale, but raise the seventh note a haldstep or semitone. This means that there will be an augmented second (minor third to your ear, but this is incorrect) between note six and seven.

    The HM scale is heavily at play when playing/listening to songs in minor keys.

    Summertime (Norah Jones rendition): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJOtaWyEzaI

    The V chords - specifically V7s - are supposed to be minor, but are major because of the "leading tone" (The Bbm-F7-Bbm phrase: The A in the F7 chord leads you to the Bbm chord smoothly)

    The A note is present in both the Bb Major and HM scales - the leading tone in both scales.

    An application would be cadences. Here's Beethoven's 5th as an example. It's in a minor key, but you can clearly hear the HM scale being used: C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-B (natural) [due to the G7)-C

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rghJEWAUqoE (The ending is V7-i)

    Use the leading tones on V/V7/viio/viio7/7b9s - as you can see, the leading tones are applied to dominant chords (Vs) or chords functioning as dominants (viis)
    Last edited by Color of Music; 09-25-2012 at 06:20 PM.

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    great answer, thank you both!

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    Hey again!!

    I've been reading theory on internet for quite a while now, and I've came across with something I'm not familiarized with, the "leading tones"......

    1)what are the leading tones?
    You won't get a better answer than the above two...
    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    2)which benefits give me to know which are the leading tones at the moment of improvisation/composition?
    Knowing what key you are in will tell you the leading tone - which is always (as explained above) a half-step below the tonic.

    "Benefits" for improvisation are hard to say. Generally, the leading tone does its job in a chord progression (or melody) without you doing anything.

    If you are composing, then the classic use of a leading tone is to resolve upwards to the tonic. But that's such a familiar sound, you might often want to avoid it!
    IOW, it's something to know about (a fundamental aspect of "key") and then to judge how much, and when, you want to apply it.
    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    3)how can I apply them?( I tend to play a lot using diatonic triads all over the neck in combination with the passing tones of the scale of the current tonality, I play guitar)
    Any time you play a V-I change, you are "applying" a leading tone - in its most conventional, "correct" way.
    In fact, of course, the leading tone is present in the V, iii and vii chords, so it's there any time you play those chords. The question is: do you want to make it resolve up to the tonic? (Classically, normally, you must; in modern music, maybe not.)
    Because the tonic note is also in 3 chords in the key, there are many ways that can be done.
    Take key of C, where you want the leading tone (B) to move to C. That will happen in all the following chord changes (providing you voice them so the B and C are next to one another):

    G > C *
    G > F
    G > Am
    Em > C
    Em > F
    Em > Am
    Bdim > C *
    Bdim > F
    Bdim > Am

    * These are the only two perfect cadences, or full resolutions. (Both G and Bdim have a "dominant" function.) The others from G and Bdim are "deceptive" cadences (because you expect a C chord and don't get it!). Those from Em aren't really cadences at all. But all involve the B>C voice move.

    And of course if you bring extended chords into the mix, you have other options. The note B is in Cmaj7 and Am9. The note C is in Dm7 and G7sus4.

    Of course, this is all about composition, not improvisation. Using leading tones in improvisation is just a matter of whether you want to highlight that voice in the chords that contain it (in the given progression), and whether there is that option of "leading" it to the tonic (and whether you want to do that).

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    Hey again!!

    I've been reading theory on internet for quite a while now, and I've came across with something I'm not familiarized with, the "leading tones"......

    1)what are the leading tones?
    2)which benefits give me to know which are the leading tones at the moment of improvisation/composition?
    3)how can I apply them?( I tend to play a lot using diatonic triads all over the neck in combination with the passing tones of the scale of the current tonality, I play guitar)

    Thank you very much
    A close 7-1 or Leading tone is unique in that it's able to create a reference point (1), even though it's not a jump or far move like a 3 or 5. The 6 for instance can be a resolution after it's 7 the b6. This holds true for many numbers. TT-5, b2-2 and b3-3 for example.
    These can be explained however that things were just better for the Key. I think the real idea though is that anything that is played in a positive way with its 7 will become more obvious not less. The 2 for instance helps to turn the b3 into a reference point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by juanf03 View Post
    Hey again!!

    I've been reading theory on internet for quite a while now, and I've came across with something I'm not familiarized with, the "leading tones"......

    1)what are the leading tones?
    2)which benefits give me to know which are the leading tones at the moment of improvisation/composition?
    3)how can I apply them?( I tend to play a lot using diatonic triads all over the neck in combination with the passing tones of the scale of the current tonality, I play guitar)

    Thank you very much

    The LEADING TONE is the most dissonant interval made with the root of a maj scale. It is a maj 7th apart (putting it one half step from the perfect octave) - VERY DISSONANT. It actually feels as if wants to move. This is known as a musical functions, and it is specifically DOMINANT function.

    functions

  8. #8
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by theharm View Post
    The LEADING TONE is the most dissonant interval made with the root of a maj scale.
    Pedantic correction (I know what you mean, but it's potentially confusingly worded.
    "The LEADING TONE is the note which makes the most dissonant interval with the root of a maj scale."

    (It sounds like you were saying the leading tone is an interval )
    Quote Originally Posted by theharm View Post
    It is a maj 7th apart (putting it one half step from the perfect octave) - VERY DISSONANT. It actually feels as if wants to move. This is known as a musical functions, and it is specifically DOMINANT function.
    It's debatable whether that's the reason for its "leading" function. The only time it regularly appears in a major 7th with the tonic is in a maj7 chord, which may be used as a tonic chord (at least in jazz). No dominant function in the leading tone there.

    Normally the leading tone appears in the V or vii chord - both of which have a dominant function, but no maj7 interval.
    The "leading" quality of the note then comes from its context - the fact that the key and its tonic have been previously established, which allows us to hear the note as the 7th of the key, "wanting" to move up to the tonic.

    In addition, the vii chord - often known as the "leading tone chord" - has the dissonance of the tritone (between 4th and 7th of the scale), which aids the sense of wanting to resolve: to the 3rd and root of the tonic chord. (As 7 moves up to 1, 4 moves down to 3.)

    We can also add the 4th scale degree to the V chord, creating the "dominant 7th" (V7) chord, containing both the tritone and the 5th scale degree (chord root).
    IOW, the vii chord can be seen as a rootless V7.

  9. #9
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    great, I started to check out chords with guide tones and they are quite useful, specially for comping since these voicings has only 3 voices!

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