Harmonic Analysis 1


Apply the harmonic analysis tools we have learned so far.

Harmonic Analysis

Now that we know how to identify slash chords, and roman numerals we can take a piece of music and begin to analyze it. The process of analyzing music is giving a reason why the music works the way it does. At first we try to identify the key, then label the chords and perform roman numeral analysis to the best of our ability. Ideally we walk away from this process with some new knowledge on why the music works the way it does.

Perhaps we notice a common chord progression, or a use of a particular chord in a cool way. We perform analysis to appreciate the music further and add to our harmonic tool belt. Church hymns are often simple and good starting pieces to analyze. Then as you get more complex you can dive into the wider world of music that may borrow many kinds of tricks. For example, songs will use more than one key, do chromatic things, barrow chords from various keys for various reasons and more. This is the start of true musical thought and the more you write music, analyze music and learn to listen and play music the more you will find yourself enjoying it and able to speak it.

With this in mind here is a short hymn. I have started the analysis process but leave the rest to you. At the end try to identify a pattern that you notice, and better yet try to write some music with that observation.

Also, keep in mind these are just a few analysis tools we have. Many other tools exist and different types of analysis. These tools are very foundational and I encourage you to learn them well.

Let's go through a bit of the thought process. First we need to identify the key. We see a single flat in the key signature. We also note that the first notes are F, C, and A. This spells F major, hence we decided to analyze this as the key of F major and unless we see something that says this is probably wrong we will stick with it.

Now that we have the key we can place the first roman numeral. A I. The F is in the bass and its the root note, so we are in root position and we can finally place the F chord symbol on top.

Next we see the notes E, Bb, and G. This can spell E diminished when put in the order E, G, Bb. We often need to move notes around to make it easier to see what chord is being spelled. E diminished is diatonic to the key of F and would form the 7 chord or the vii° chord. We note E is the root note and is in the bass so this is the root position. Finally we add the chord symbol.

The vii° chord usually fills a “dominant” function, meaning it often likes to go back to the I chord. This is exactly what we see in the next chord. This is one such pattern we may notice as we analyze it.

Continuing on like this we identify the next chord as Bb major in root position, which is the IV chord. Then we see Bb major again next to it however this time the inversion has changed, now the F is in the bass which is the fifth so that makes it 2nd inversion. We note this and use the slash chord Bb/F.

This is the general process. I leave the rest to you. Many pieces you may like now will probably use ideas you haven’t been taught yet, in those cases I encourage you to simply go ahead a couple measures and figure out what you can. Keep doing simpler pieces and studying theory so you can be exposed to those ideas or even try to figure it out yourself or by asking someone knowledgeable.

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