Dissonance And Consonance

A brief review of the needs of a dissonant chord progression and the redundancy of a consonant chord progression.

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Okay, so first you need to understand your key signatures... if you don't then you will never get the idea of consonance and dissonance. Anyway, so first we will go over the figured bass system of chord identification to help you understand what it is that i am talking about.

Figured Bass

Have you ever looked at music and seen some roman numerals and wierd little sharps and flats underneath chord progressions? Well, that's the figured bass. Essentially it's purpose is to let you transpose the music into other keys and it lets you know where the piece is leading you. In this figured bass you will see the progressions made. For every key there is a set of roman numerals. I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, I - and they all have names, but i won't get into that, essentially all you need to know is that tonic is I for now...

Dissonance

Dissonance is what results when you play something that doesn't fit in with the progression, or it just doesn't follow a certain pattern. It can happen with your chord formations, such as throwing a Bb into an F major chord, or you can have it with the progressions of chords in your piece, such as using the III or VIIdim. in a piece that is excluding them. This results in a sound that is not pleasant by itself, but when writing music, it gives it an edge that is otherwise not there.

Consonance

Consonance is what happens when you follow all the rules and formations that you are supposed to. A lot of times you will find that I, II, V, and VI are usually consonant, and the others usually dissonant (described earlier). This means that assuming you stay with consonant chord progressions, you will have a solid piece that will have a good start and a good end. It will seem really strong and the movements fluid, but there will not really be much climax or denoument to your piece. It will be like a flatlining patient in the ER to be blunt, dead. So if i can't use all dissonant chords, and i can't use all consonant chords, what do i do? Well, obviously you have to do some sort of mixture of them. It's really not as complicated as it sounds. Take Metallica with the song Enter Sandman. The opening power chord riff starts low on a good consonant chord, and progresses to some that are a little off, the high pitch, but as a resolution to the dissonance and the fifth skip it steps back within that skip and flows back to a nice consonant chord again. Therefore you have that cool sound of edginess that ends really well.

Resolution Of Dissonance

Every time you use disonance you need to resolve it. Not only does it make for good practice, but it makes for good pieces, and even better satisfaction with your piece. Any time you have dissonance, say you are in the key of A Major, and you use a C chord in first inversion, you are going to have a dissonant sound, so what you need to do is resolve that. Now how you do that is really up to you. You can skip right to one of the nearest consonances, or you can let the notes lead you there. If you were in a first inversion C, you would probably want to go to a solid E, so that you would fall on the V chord, making it strong. If you don't understand anything about this article or have questions feel free to email me at Toastter@gmail.com.

35 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    shaofu0424
    That's the second most assinine thing in this thread. I've resolved ii-I many times before. There are no set rules for music, asstard. Oh, and one more thing. When playing an Fmaj chord, Bb IS an avoid note. However, that doesn't mean you can't use it - it just means that if you hold the Bb for any long amount of time you'll hear dissonance due to the b9 interval produced (a quite dissonant interval).
    rjc_15
    I don't know, the article was alright I guess. Music theory has always been very hard for me to comprehend even in it's simplest forms. I know a little, but I am no way able to rip on anyone for their perceptions. I like the comments on this also, they make me think. Thanks a crapload everyone! I kind of know about dissonance and consonance now!
    teo_huat
    i don't quite understand it ..... never learn bout music theory.... but i hope there will be more article like this ....
    WindJammer
    jof1029
    Bb dissonant in an F major chord? sorry but i think not. its the perfect fourth of the F major scale so it will sound fine.
    The clash of the fourth and major third will create dissonance... hence the third or fourth often being omitted from Maj11 chords...
    jof1029
    ^yeah, i noticed that when SD pointed that out, sorry. i was a bit worked up over how bad this was and forgot to check the strengths of my intervals. i apoligize for that one. though it is the perfect fourth of F ionian, it just wont sound fine cause of the third.
    shaofu0424
    the suggestions set forth evolved out of the classical musicians need to eliminate parallel fifths in the vogue of the times... to avoid the diminished chord as the diablo en musica... and to provide strong movement through the progression to the tonic... now as i dont have time here to get into the evolution of jazz or the other stylistic creations aforehand... these were typically used during the traditional classical (bach to beethoven) period... yet there are numerous instances where these rules were broken... bach often would codify his name within his music... beethoven would ultimately twist and rend the theory with revolutionary might... and then liszt and debussey(post beethoven) would use intervallic theory over chordal to provide subtle textures and moods... astounding work for all... the suggestions set forth are akin to the circuit theory vs electromagnetism debate... let your ears guide you... RULES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN... ohhh... and how exactly does the fourth produce a flat nine interval... is it harmonically... shouldn't it be a sus4 w/o the inclusion of a 7 or an 11 with a 7... as for set rules you are mistaken... there are set rules... if you wish to play a major scale then you follow a predetermined pattern... this pattern harmonizes in a predetermined way... stop trying to act like a badass... PRACTICE THE BEGINNERS MIND... peace... shao fu
    travislausch
    Consonance is what happens when you follow all the rules and formations that you are supposed to.
    Every time you use disonance you need to resolve it.
    ... so what you're saying is you can break the rules, but you have to follow the rules of breaking the rules??? When you break the rules of music, JUST GO FUCKING NUTS!!! Who cares about resolving? As long as you feel the music, that's all that matters.
    AXE545
    dissonance and consonance are kind of subjectable aren't they? what one person finds dissonant may not sound dissonant to another.
    ZoSo71
    Good but. The Consonect Tones of a Major scale are Tonic (I), Mediant (Major or Minor III), Dominant (V) and the Sub-Mediant (Major or Minor VI). All other tones are considered dissodent. The Sub-Dominant (IV) is not a consonent tone try to end on a Sub-Dominant chord and here how the harmony just seems to hang, it will want to move to Dominant or Mediant tones, outlining the tonic harmony
    Sykness
    I have a question...Is it possible or effective to take a chord progression and turn it into arpeggios? I'm tired of making chord progressions, I don't want to strum anymore! I want to do SINGLE-NOTE riffs, not riffs composed entirely of chords. If anyone knows how to do this PLEASE tell me
    gmsje
    Boy, you guys make me glad I never took a theory course. Sounds kind of like trying to explain "method" acting theory. travislausch gets the logic award. Weeding out the you need to follow the rules on how to break the rules was my chuckle for today. You have to be truly grounded to catch that. I think toastter's basic idea is to throw a little something out of the ordinary into the mix to spice things up. The debate has focused on vernacular and explanations of examples. Examples from known songs would probably help, like the Metallica example for instance.
    bigrd15132
    and a Bb dissonant in an F major chord? sorry but i think not. its the perfect fourth of the F major scale so it will sound fine.
    An F Major chord (F-A-C) with a Bb added would cause dissonance. First off, the subtonic is a dissonant interval to the tonic(4th to tonic or Bb to F). Second off, and A and the Bb are a m2 appart, and would be extremely unpleasant sounding standing alone. However, in the chord, it would just be dissonance, causing tension that would be resolved, most likely by progressing to the 4(Bb) chord.
    toastter
    okay, i guess if you want me to get into it then you can say that its a I ii iii IV V vi vii(dim) that is the proper notation, but i also said in the intro that it was a brief description. I am not sayint that it's not right, but I was just keeping it simple so that people didn't really need to know all the theory behind it. Generally when you are working with the minor chords alone they are consonant with each other, but generally they are all dissonant. If you play them alone they don't sound all that awesome. But yes in a progression they work, such as staying in major, but I was just saying that people who actually use them can realize that going in a circular progression from I, V, ii, vi, iii, vii(dim), IV, but generally if you look at that progression anyway you will find that all of the minors and majors eventually align. So it's safe to say that you can transition from a V to a ii and stay in the ii of that key. For instance, say you were modulating from C to G. If you are on the V of G, which is D, then you are on the ii of C so its the ii/v. This is the consonance that i refer to earlier and how they can work for some progressions and not other ones. I was giving a general idea on a major concept. Sorry. Now if you want to check my theory i am sure that i can tell you guys more about how things should be, but i don't really know that it would be helpful. All i am trying to do is give noobs a general idea of things and give them an intro to it. My experiences through theory 1 - 4 have been great. I just didn't want to overload people with information that wasn't really coherent exactly. and yes you can find dissonance in certain chords the vii(dim) or (half Dim) either way will be dissonant, and NEEDS resolution. you might want to end on that, but it will sound like crap. Usually people end on a V I or a I V or something alon those lines. that doesn't exclude other options, but it certainly does mean that you want to end consonant. Also, for those who refer to the dissonance in jazz as consonance are idiots. Just because they use it often doesn't mean anything, it's still dissonant. Dissonance and consonance are something that is solid, not something up to the listener. In particular jazz uses a lot of add9 and add7 chords, but among others they use diminished chords but you will realize that they are either consonant with a progression, while dissonant to themselves or they are simply resolved. Dissonance is resolved always whether you ameatures like it or not. I am tired of noobs who have taken theory 1 and two try to come up here and tell me they know all this stuff when they don't. sorry if i offended people.
    ridcullylives
    QUOTE: Oh, and one more thing. When playing an Fmaj chord, Bb IS an avoid note. However, that doesn't mean you can't use it - it just means that if you hold the Bb for any long amount of time you'll hear dissonance due to the b9 interval produced (a quite dissonant interval). ...I swear a b9 is an octave and a half step, so it would be F# an octave above the F, not Bb. Bb is a perfect fourth. That would be dissonant with a major chord because the interval between a major third and a perfect fourth is a half step, and half step intervals (when played together) sound dissonant. If you play the fourth without the third you have a very nice sus chord. Plus, to the person above...good job, but I can think of a song that ends with a diminished chord and is actually quite pretty.
    Metalhead_Jams
    You don't even know what an actual figured bass is. Have you even done any music theory. Plus, there's more to contemporary music that major and minor keys, most of rock uses the pentatonic minor and you completely ignored modes. For anyone interested the most common example of dissonance is a 4-3 suspention. e.g you play a D sus 4 chord and then resolve the G to an F sharp the G clashes with the 5th (A) and then resolves to a major chord. Learn the facts before you write about them
    SilentDeftone
    shaofu0424: trying to whitewash a subject at the core of all of western music doesn't quite work... nice try though... the I may move to any chord... the ii may move to any but the I or the vii... the iii may move to any but the I or vii... the IV may move to any... the V may move to any but the ii or the vii... the vi may move to any but the I or the vii... the vii may move to any but the ii or the IV... and that is only the tip of the suggested iceberg... rule are made to be broken... practice the beginner's mind... peace... shao fu
    That's the second most assinine thing in this thread. I've resolved ii-I many times before. There are no set rules for music, asstard. Oh, and one more thing. When playing an Fmaj chord, Bb IS an avoid note. However, that doesn't mean you can't use it - it just means that if you hold the Bb for any long amount of time you'll hear dissonance due to the b9 interval produced (a quite dissonant interval).
    white_waltz
    jof you see how the first I the fourth and the fifth are capitalized? That means major, so he added his minors my not capitalizing(that's what i was taught in basic theory) So don't rip on him for that. A so-so article. Not a lot of detail but it helps put things into perspective if you have some theory background.
    jof1029
    white_waltz: jof you see how the first I the fourth and the fifth are capitalized? That means major, so he added his minors my not capitalizing(that's what i was taught in basic theory) So don't rip on him for that.
    yes the I IV and V are capitalized and that does imply major. but keeping all caps is wrong notation. so unless it is showing up on your computer as not capitalized and is capitalized on mine, its wrong. maybe i was a bit harsh, but you need the non capitalized letters to make sense.
    Idiot Pineapple
    Dissonance and Consonance are really more relative than anything else. Just because you use a note outside of a key does not automaticaly make it dissonent; you could just be turning into a minor key/scale/chord. Dissonance and Consonance are more how you hear the music, and dissonence itself is really becoming an obsolete term. How we hear music is evolving. A few hundred year ago a M3 interval (Example: distance between C and E) would sound very dissonent to some. Fifty years ago a m2 (Example: C to C#) would sound dissonent. But even now modern composers in jazz and classical are expierementing with these otherwise dissonent sounds, and how we hear music is continuing to evolve.
    jof1029
    first i must say I ii iii IV V vi vii(dim) what? there are minors in there? you might want to show that. aside from that, you didnt even explain anything particularly well. sorry but if you want to try to explain something like this it is going to take a bit more effort. and a Bb dissonant in an F major chord? sorry but i think not. its the perfect fourth of the F major scale so it will sound fine.
    say you are in the key of A Major, and you use a C chord in first inversion, you are going to have a dissonant sound
    yeah its gonna sound dissonant, C isnt even in the key of A major. i think im gonna stop now. i can say that this isnt very good and leave it at that.
    d_music_man
    good article, amybe some more examples of resolving dissonance or how to use dissonance and consonance would make it a little easier to understand for beginners.
    kurtpage
    sorry jof1029 but ur talkn dumb. First off I means a Major 1st chord while i means a minor 1st chord. So yes there are minors in there. And he was right bout the C..a flat 4th is gonna sound dissonant so following with the 5th E will resolve it nicely.
    jof1029
    what? there are minors in there?
    ^that was sarcasm. and no im not being dumb. he did not represent minors in any way, shape or form, and therefor his notation is wrong. the C is a flat/minor third of A major, not a flat 4th. and since C has 2 out of 3 notes not in the key, it wont just sound dissonant, it will sound like crap. especially if you have something else going on at the same time that is in key. i dont mean to say that this isnt a good idea for an article and has nothing good to offer. its just it has poor notation, poor examples, and doesnt offer much depth to anything.
    Wormboy
    Yeah, you don't HAVE to know key sigs, to know diss. and cons. thank goodness for music theory...
    ILIKEMUSICALOT
    It's really quite easy to understand what he's talking about. Dissonance is that "off key" note and Consonance is staying in key with the chord progressions.
    SilentDeftone
    ^ That's wrong. Dissonance can be found in key, just look at a diminished chord (VII according to him, vii according to 99% of musicians). To put this shortly, this article is complete shit. Half the information is blatantly wrong in it! You get 1 star, and if I could give 0 stars you'd have that instead. Please disregard this article as a source of information.
    Steph Bets
    YOU DO NOT NEED TO UNDERSTAND KEYS TO UNDERSTAND DISSONANCE AND CONSONANCE. if you play a b and a c together at the same time it makes dissonance. if you play a b and d together its consonant.
    shaofu0424
    trying to whitewash a subject at the core of all of western music doesn't quite work... nice try though... the I may move to any chord... the ii may move to any but the I or the vii... the iii may move to any but the I or vii... the IV may move to any... the V may move to any but the ii or the vii... the vi may move to any but the I or the vii... the vii may move to any but the ii or the IV... and that is only the tip of the suggested iceberg... rule are made to be broken... practice the beginner's mind... peace... shao fu
    jof1029
    Outlaw Tom: what chords are consanant how do you tell
    some chords naturally lead to one another, you kinda just have to either hear it or know it. the progression I IV V is very consonant and they all resolve and lead to one another. those are chord symbols that represent the first fourth and fifth chords from a major scale. the ii (minor second) and vi (minor sixth) chords also sound pretty consonant in a progression, but can create dissonance depending on where they are in a progression. the iii (minor third) and viidim (diminished seventh) chords are more dissonant sounding and need resolving to a consonant. to find out what chords are in each key, use a lesson written by SilentDeftone, its a great lesson on the topic and really helps. thats kind of the basics, there is a lot more but i dont want to rewrite the guys column for him.
    underaidbassist
    Good article, though you do need to know basic theory to understand that consonance basically means "pleasant souning," while dissonance means "unpleasant sounding"...