One of the highest and somewhat basic ranked knowledge that professional musicians have to know are the: Italian, French, German, and Neapolitan chords. The augmented sixth chords have fascinated composers for centuries, they have been used for centuries until today’s modern/popular music, while the Neapolitan sixth chord has a very distinct sound that creates a different feeling in the chord progression, it has also been used in today’s popular music. This chords typically have a predominant function when performing a cadence in a major or minor keys.
History of both types of chords It is very common that one would think that the first three chords are named like that because of an historical context but actually “… theorists disagree on their precise origins and have struggled for centuries to define their roots, and fit them into conventional harmonic theory. ” So why the national names? One might ask. As it is stated by the website of Arts Nova Software, there is “No particular reason, it seems. But they had to be called something. Frank, Suzie, and Jack would have done as well. ”
However, the Neapolitan sixth chord does have a specific origin. It is called Neapolitan chord because it is associated with the Neapolitan School – “in music history the Neapolitan School is a group associated with opera, of the 18-century composers who studied or worked in the city of Naples, Italy. ” Members of the school were: Francesco Durante, Leonardo Leo, Giovanni Battista Pergoles, Francesco Provenzale, Leonardo Vinci, and the best known, Alessandro Scarlatti, were they did not originate or invented the the chord, but inherited from earlier composers.
Neapolitan Chords This is a chord that it is described by the authors of the book Tonal Harmony as “one of the most colorful chords that can be used to precede the dominant. ” To the listener, they tend to have a special dramatic power in the chord progression. The Neapolitan chord, is classified as a chromatic chord that occurs more often in minor-mode pieces than in major-mode pieces, but it can be found in both. In major keys, the Neapolitan has two chromatic tones, while in a minor key, the Neapolitan has only one chromatic tone.
The most important characteristics that create this chord is how it is built. As the book Tonal Harmony simply states: “The Neapolitan triad is always a major triad constructed on the lowered second degree scale. ” b2 – 4b6 and b2 – 4-6 in minor. The Neapolitan Chord is almost always found in first inversion, so much that it is often called The Neapolitan Six Chord (N6), in order to have a smooth bass motion to the dominant chord, since as it is mentioned before, it has a predominant function. It often precedes an authentic cadence, were it normally functions as a subdominant (IV).
When comparing the options that can be used in a chord progression, they all look similar because all of the three progressions feature the bass motion 4 – 5 as it is seen in here: iv – V – i, iio6-V-i, and bll6 – V – i. When doing four-part writing, because of its close relationship to the subdominant, the Neapolitan six resolves to the dominant using the traditional voice-leading. The N6 is most effective when its characteristic degree of lowering the second degree scale (b2), is in the upper voice.
It is very common for the b2 is to descend to the #7, which the will resolve to the 1 while creating a more dramatic feeling in the progression. This chord uses the conventional resolution, it is also necessary and usually important to double the the third, because when the 3rd is in the soprano voice, all the other voices resolve down as the bass rises. In other words, in the Neapolitan Chord when the bass rises in the next chord, the resolution of the upper voices resolves down. Augmented sixth chords As mentioned before, this chords like to resolve to the dominant.
They are most frequently found in eighteenth and and early nineteenth and century music. While they sound as exotic as the Neapolitan Chords, they are more straightforward. When thinking of augmented sixth chords, if one half step can create a strong tension in a chord progression, now imagine what two half-steps sounding simultaneously could do in the chord progression. Another characteristic of this chord, is that it also sounds like a minor seventh, but it is spelled differently and it does not resolve like it, as this chord has its special resolution, which makes it easier to identify it in a piece.
A good start when describing the augmented sixth chords, is to begin by thinking of the dominant chord of a key, in this case, in the key of C major. If one goes to the doubled root of the V chord, the note were one lands in G, after that, one simply approaches the octave of two G’s with a half-step below the top note, and a half-step above the bottom note, and add the tonic note of the chord as the third of it before it. Because both of these pitches are a semitone away from scale degree five, they also both normally resolve to that scale degree.
This means that a root position dominant is the most common destination for this types of chords. In this chord, the low sixth degree is normally in the bass, to form an augmented sixth interval with the raised fourth scale degree in an upper voice. The augmented sixth is formed from the lowered sixth degree scale (le in solfage) to the raised fourth scale degree (fi in solfage), where the lowered sixth is typically in the bass. There are three types of the Augmented Sixth Chord in music theory: The Italian, the French, and the German chord.
This chords are thought to always have the two tones of the augmented sixth interval (flat 6th and raised 4th), but different use of intervals to fill out the rest of the chord. The chords are usually indicated with an abbreviation: It+6 for the Italian Chord, Fr+6 for the French Chord, and Ger+6 chord for the German Chord in musical analysis. The Italian Chord In chord progressions, the Italian Chord contains only three different pitches. It is composed by this three notes: a bass note, the major third above, and the augmented sixth above that (b6 – 1 – #4, where 1 is doubled when doing four-part writing).
The sound of the Italian Chord is like the sound of a dominant seventh chord. As stated in the book Harmony in Context “the chord has indeed often been used for two purposes: to signal the arrival of an important structural cadential point or a point of formal articulation, and, in vocal music, to mark dramatically intense moments when the text so requires. ” The French Chord The French Chord contains four different pitches. It is composed by the flatted sixth, the tonic, then it has a major second above it, and the raised fourth above the previous mentioned.
A difference between the French to the Italian Chord is that nothing has to be doubled when writing in four-part writing. The sonority of this chord is different thanks to the major second note that was added to the chord. It has the most peculiar and dissonant sounds of the three augmented sixth chords. As stated in the book previously mentioned Harmony in Context, the French Chord “is used as a point of great formal significance… hearing the powerful tension created by the dissonant sonority. ” There is a greater degree of a chromatic feeling in the chord, a “compositional approach especially loved by French Composers.
The German Chord The German Chord is enharmonically equivalent to the dominant seventh as it sounds like a complete V7 chord, but it is written differently. It is composed by the flatted sixth, the tonic, then it has a flatted third or minor third above it, and then it has the raised fourth above the previous mentioned note. The resolution of this chord is particularly different. The German Chord resolves to a the 164 first, because if it is resolved directly to the V chord, it would result in parallel fifths. The sound of the German Augmented Chord is a distinctive one.
It adds a fuller sound in the chord progression that the other augmented chords, as well as it sets a new atmosphere in the music. Conclusion From the Baroque to the Romantic period, these chords have had a very special harmonic function, which is to function as a predominant chord. These four different types of chords are without a doubt, chords that have been adding more color to the music pieces for a couple of centuries, as well as in today’s popular music. The chromatically altered chords create a new atmosphere in the music.