Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Tonality is the center of a piece. Tonality is what gives a song its sense of order and balance. Tonality is derived from the use of the triads of one of the 12 major or 12 minor scales (especially the use of the tonic triad and cadential points). A piece that is diatonic has a definite emphasis on the tonic triad and those triads that point towards the tonic triad. A piece that leads away from the tonic center often employs weaker cadences, chromatic chords, and dissonant pitches. Tonality remained the dominant trend up until its rejection by 20th century composers for the use of atonality. Interestingly enough, popular music and jazz maintain the tonic system that has been employed for hundreds of years while classical composers have generally rejected it. In conclusion tonality is the cement that holds a piece of music together.

Source: The New Harvard Musical Dictionary, 4th ed. Editor: Don Randel Article: Tonality