#1
Hey guys,
I have a bit of a music theory/harmony question here. For the mediant in a major key (eg iii or Em in C major) is it usually treated as a substitute for the tonic or the fifth?
I has a listen to Bruno Mars’s “It will rain” (C to Em etc) and it sounds like a substitute fifth but I’m not sure.
Thanks,
Gaelen
#2
yes, the mediant can be used as a substitute V chord.

try playing a suspended flat nine as a V to a maj 7 as a I and you will hear a very nice resolution!
~3.6 billion years of evolutionary progress have led to this post~
#4
^ At the very least, you could elaborate on what your intention is to simply naming a composer; that's of no assistance to anybody.

A iii chord in a major key will often-times function as a tonic-extender of sorts, since it contains two of the same notes as the I chord in a standard triad structure.
However, since it has both the perfect fifth and leading tone with respect to the home key - the two strongest points of resolution in traditional harmony - it's just as viable as a substitution for the dominant, provided that it's prepared appropriately to function in such a respect.
As a dominant substitution in the key of C for example, the third (G) of Em will be inclined to resolve downward to C, and the fifth (B) of Em will be inclined to resolve upward to C, strongly reinforcing the tonic.

In much traditional harmony, though, the vii chord is viewed as the first-choice for a dominant substitution.
Last edited by juckfush at Nov 19, 2011,
#5
Hi Gaelen,

To answer your question:

Quote by Gaelendickson
For the mediant in a major key (eg iii or Em in C major) is it usually treated as a substitute for the tonic or the fifth?


The mediant in a Major key is usually treated as a substitute for the tonic.

The chord families in a major key are as follows:

Tonic: I vi iii
Sub Dominant: ii IV
Dominant: V viidim

That is not to say that it can not be used as a substitute for the dominant but it is more usual to find it functioning as a substitute for the tonic.

The above functions are typical but they are not absolute. For example the dominant (V) can sometimes be used as a substitute for the tonic. To function as a dominant there is usually a preparation or pre dominant that moves away from the tonic, which is followed by the dominant thatin turn moves back to the tonic.

In "It Will Rain" Bruno Mars uses the iii as a substitute for the tonic.

To understand this it is important to understand that you do not have a cadence at the end of each line. The cadence comes at the end of the musical passage. The musical passage comprises a complete harmonic structure. This structure is made up of a static harmonic grounding followed a more dynamic harmonic movement. The harmonic movement pulls away from the tonic, sets up a tension, then releases the tension as it moves back to the stable tonic.

If we consider the chord families as they relate to harmonic function (that I listed above) we can see the basic underlying harmonic function in the verses as:

I iii I iii
ii vi ii V

The first four bars in It Will Rain is where we find the static harmony. I iii I iii is pretty much all tonic in function. The tonic - mediant back and forth creates interest but with two common tones and only one note changing back and forth a half step and with no harmonic set up the harmony provides not real movement.

The next four bars is where we find the dynamic harmony. In the map above we have identified the ii as subdominant in function. We then mapped out the vi as serving a tonic function, but that is not it's function here, or at least not it's full function. (It is possible for a chord to serve more than one function.)

It is important here to recognize the vi as a part of a longer, diatonic version of a chain of fifths. vi - ii - V - I forms a four step chain of down a perfect fifth root movements.

In this instance the vi is a kind of v of ii, the ii is then a v of V and of course the V is obviously a V of the I. So we have a chain of down a perfect fifth root movements. This strong harmonic movement is preceded and set up by the ii which pulls away from the previous static harmony. ii vi ii V (Effectively the vi and ii are sort of diatonic secondary dominants)

Thus we can look at it like this:


[color="Green"]<---------Tonic Harmony--------->
I         iii       I         iii[/COLOR]

[color="Blue"]<-SubDom-->[/COLOR][color="Red"]<--Chain of Fifths--->[/COLOR] 
[color="Blue"]ii   [/COLOR]    [color="Green"]  vi   [/color][color="blue"]     ii   [/color]     [color="red"]V[/COLOR]


It is very common in well structured music to find a contrast between relatively static harmonic passages followed by a passage of dynamic harmonic movement just as what we find here.

I admire Bruno Mars for his ability to craft great pop melodies and he obviously has a good understanding of how to provide solid harmonic structures to support those melodies and give the song depth.

Whether you are a fan of his musical style or not it is hard to deny he is one clever guy when it comes to writing pop songs.

So in summary to your question. Usually the iii acts as a sub for the tonic. In Bruno Mars' song It Will Rain this is exactly how he uses it in the verses.

I wrote this response quickly and then revised what I wrote. I didn't go into any detail with the verses and maybe you were referring to the chorus. I'll have a look at that in the next few days.

Cheers,
Si
Last edited by 20Tigers at Nov 20, 2011,
#6
Thank you juckfush and 20Tigers for the responses. I guess this website took me off track a little bit ‘http://music-theory.ascensionsounds.com/how-to-write-longer-chord-progressions/’.

Also, 20Tigers I’m not quite sure I understand the last part of the Bruno Mars verse. Is this what you mean?

In C major the first part is C - Em - C - Em etc and then it hits
Dm (as the dominant of the mixolydian mode to establish a new harmonic basis), then
Am (as a modal version of the secondary dominant), then
Dm (as a modal version of the dominant) and finally
G (as the tonic)

I didn’t look it up but I assume it would then return to C to follow the circle of fifths pattern.

Thanks again, I hope what I wrote above makes some sense hahaha
#7
III in some instances can function as V.

vi ii7b iiib I

It can be described as iiib, although it has a strong dominant character so it wouldn't be wrong to call it V13, despite missing so many notes.

Quote by Eric Taylor
There are times in the study of harmony when it can be salutary to remember Shakespeare's lines in Romeo and Juliet -

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Last edited by griffRG7321 at Nov 20, 2011,
#8
At the very least, you could elaborate on what your intention is to simply naming a composer; that's of no assistance to anybody.


Wasn't intending to render assistance. Bringing up a I-iii manuever reminded me of Debussy because I've heard it as a pretty consistent theme in some of his music. I put it out there to see if anyone would catch the reference.
Last edited by Brainpolice2 at Nov 20, 2011,
#9
Quote by Gaelendickson
Hey guys,
I have a bit of a music theory/harmony question here. For the mediant in a major key (eg iii or Em in C major) is it usually treated as a substitute for the tonic or the fifth?
I has a listen to Bruno Mars’s “It will rain” (C to Em etc) and it sounds like a substitute fifth but I’m not sure.
Thanks,
Gaelen


The way it's presented at 1st, it's almost as if they are trying to play on your expectations with a typical VI - i minor progression. the "VI" being the I of the actual key is realized when the next chords come in. In the over all context though, I hear the I - iii progression as having a tonic - Dominant relationship (though the dominant is very weak).
shred is gaudy music
#10
The way it's presented at 1st, it's almost as if they are trying to play on your expectations with a typical VI - i minor progression. the "VI" being the I of the actual key is realized when the next chords come in. In the over all context though, I hear the I - iii progression as having a tonic - Dominant relationship (though the dominant is very weak).


I can see that because the 5th of the iii chord in a major key is the leading tone. So part of the voice leading in the transition from iii back to I is something that otherwise would be suggestive of a V-I. But you could also often view it as part of a manuever to elongate/extend the I, particularly if it effectively vamps on I-iii a bit, as it also contains two of the same notes of the I chord.

Or you could use it to lead in cycle 4 fashion to the vi chord (I-iii-vi), although I'd then be very tempted to turn it into a secondary dominant (I-V7/vi-vi), which may momentarily produce the illusion that the key is now shifted to the vi. We could concievably make that kind of manuever without the VI actually being the I of the key (suppose I built it into this as the complete scheme: I-V7/vi-vi-V7-I).
Last edited by Brainpolice2 at Nov 20, 2011,
#11
Quote by Gaelendickson
Hey guys,
I have a bit of a music theory/harmony question here. For the mediant in a major key (eg iii or Em in C major) is it usually treated as a substitute for the tonic or the fifth?
I has a listen to Bruno Mars’s “It will rain” (C to Em etc) and it sounds like a substitute fifth but I’m not sure.
Thanks,
Gaelen

Nah, it just sounds like a iii in a major key, nothing more.

If you wanted the iii to sound more like a functioning dominant, experiment with inversions and voicing's of the chord beyond a standard triad.

Below is C maj7, followed by an Em6 chord with the 6th in the bass. This can also be seen (and heard) as a tritone substitution of the V. Altered dominant.

----
-5-5
-4-4
-5-5
-3-4
---
Last edited by mdc at Nov 20, 2011,
#12
Quote by mdc
Nah, it just sounds like a iii in a major key, nothing more. ]


well, a iii in a Major key can and I would argue that in this case does function as a dominant, so "nothing more" is necessary. Dominant function meaning that it's harmonic motion points towards the tonic, as opposed to a tonic function that which would imply harmony that's stable/at rest.


Quote by Brainpolice2
. But you could also often view it as part of a manuever to elongate/extend the I, particularly if it effectively vamps on I-iii a bit, as it also contains two of the same notes of the I chord.


I don't hear it that way. I hear 2 chords playing against each other. One feels stable, the other doesn't. I would call it a weak tonic - dominant relationship.

Quote by Brainpolice2

Or you could use it to lead in cycle 4 fashion to the vi chord (I-iii-vi), although I'd then be very tempted to turn it into a secondary dominant (I-V7/vi-vi), which may momentarily produce the illusion that the key is now shifted to the vi. We could concievably make that kind of manuever without the VI actually being the I of the key (suppose I built it into this as the complete scheme: I-V7/vi-vi-V7-I).


Well, the song is already written.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Nov 20, 2011,
#13
Emin6 with the 6th in the bass doesn't exist, it's C# half diminished.
Last edited by griffRG7321 at Nov 20, 2011,
#14
Quote by GuitarMunky
well, a iii in a Major chord can and I would argue that in this case does function as a dominant, so "nothing more" is necessary. Dominant function meaning that it's harmonic motion points towards the tonic, as opposed to a tonic function that which would imply harmony that's stable/at rest.

Sure, I was quick out of the blocks on that one. Though my mindset was on inversions to try and yield a stronger sounding resolve.
Quote by griffRG7321
Emin6 with the 6th in the bass doesn't exist, it's C# half diminished.

No it doesn't. I'm certainly not one that intends to provide misleading answers. As long as the TS can benefit from seeing the possibilities by using the notes of said chord and by experimenting with tensions, like the 6th.

Without wanting to stray too far from the OP, in the context of the song (now that I've listened to it), just to give my two cents, it sounds like this...
Quote by GuitarMunky
I would call it a weak tonic - dominant relationship.
Last edited by mdc at Nov 20, 2011,