Music analysis can refer to many things. The word 'analysis' originates from the Greek "dissolution" - meaning something along the lines of examining the parts which things or phenomena consist of. You may also know about poetry analysis from school. How many stanzas and lines does the poem contain? What is the rhyme scheme and rhythm and what does it mean?
In music analysis, as the name implies, you analyse music. Dividing a piece of music into smaller parts and examining all of them together or maybe just a single aspect. There are many things to analyse in a piece of music. In this article, you can read about how you analyse some of the important parts which music typically consists of Form (structure,) harmonies (chords,) melodies, rhythms/grooves. If there is a vocal part this, and its relation to the music, can be analysed as well.
Musical analysis is important for developing your musicality. It can also be helpful when preparing for aural exams. We have teachers who can help you understand the music theory foundations and also help you develop your ear for musical analysis:
In harmonic analysis you analyse harmonies - i.e. you are studying the chords. You use different methods. Here you can read about the most used: Roman numeral analysis and functional analysis. The methods match each of their genres. Roman numeral analysis for example is used for jazz, blues and much rock and pop, while functional analysis is best for classical music - roughly speaking - 1700-1900, but also some of today's pop music.
In Roman numeral analysis, the chords are given a number depending on which scale the individual chord is based on. They are written with Roman numerals. If you have forgotten how to write Roman numerals, here is a short overview:
If a step is augmented or diminished relative to a normal major scale it is indicated with a "#" or "b" in front of the Roman numeral. Furthermore you indicate wether it is a major or minor chord and chord extensions.
Indicating major and minor chords can be done by writing upper and lower case letters - upper case for major, lower case for minor - or by writing an "m" behind a minor chord, just like with normal chord symbols. Here is an example i C major:
|#IV / bV||F# / Gb|
|#iv / bv||F#m / Gbm|
Typical patterns you can search for are ii-V-I cadences (pronounced: 2-5-1 cadences) or 12-bar blues:
|C = I||C = I||C = I||C = I|
|F = IV||F = IV||C = I||C = I|
|G = V||F = IV||C = I||G = V|
In a functional harmonic analysis you examine what function a chord has in relation to the key and the previous and subsequent chords. It is difficult to explain exactly what is meant by "function" but it is a form of interpretation or explanation of the role or impact of the chord on the harmonic sequence.
Function theory tells us that there are three and only three main functions:
There are of course also chord other than D, F and G. These chords in some way represent T, S or D.
Broadly speaking, all functional harmonic music consists of authentic cadences. These can be shortened or extended, merged, modulated etc.
These are the patterns which functional harmonic analysis examines:
The authentic cadence is fundamental to functional harmonies and functional harmony theory. In an authentic cadence you hear alle seven notes of the scale and thus there is created a clear feeling of the key. The authentic cadence consists of the functions in this sequence:
|Function||Chord in C-major|
It is said that there are three types of relationship between these chords which are important to functional harmonic theory:
The watchful observer will see that there is neither descending fifth, common tone, or leading-tone relationship between S and D. There is a 'hole' in the authentic cadence. This is though often closed by extending the chords on S and D which gives common tone affinity and in a way also descending fifth affinity.:
|Function||Chord in C-major|
If S does not lead to D but instead continues to T it is called a plagal cadence. A plagal cadence like S-T does not have a descending fifth between the tonics but instead a descending fourth. Therefore, you could also call T-D a plagal cadence. Both instances can be seen as a shortening of the authentic cadence.
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