Music theory is a fascinating subject that can help you understand the structure and organization of music. One important concept in music theory is the idea of secondary functions. In this article, we’ll explore what secondary functions are and how they can be used in music.
What Are Secondary Functions?
In its simplest form, a secondary function is a chord that has a relationship with another chord that goes beyond the basic principles of harmony. Specifically, a secondary function chord is a chord that serves the function of another chord, usually one that is not in the same key.
For example, let’s say we’re in the key of C major. The dominant chord in C major is G7. However, we could also use an E7 chord (the dominant chord in A minor) as a secondary dominant to lead to A minor.
How Do Secondary Functions Work?
The basic idea behind secondary functions is that they create a sense of tension and release by leading to chords that are not typically found within the key. By using chords from related keys or modes, composers can add complexity and interest to their music.
For example, let’s say we’re playing a song in C major. We could use an F# diminished chord (the vii°7 chord in D minor) as a secondary leading tone chord to lead to G7. This creates tension by introducing an unexpected sound (the F# diminished chord), but resolves when it resolves to G7.
Types of Secondary Functions
There are several types of secondary functions, each with its own unique purpose and effect on the overall sound of the music.
- Secondary Dominants: A secondary dominant is a dominant seventh chord built on any scale degree other than the tonic.
- Secondary Leading Tone Chords: A secondary leading tone chord is a diminished seventh chord built on any scale degree other than the tonic.
- Secondary Subdominants: A secondary subdominant is a chord that serves the function of a subdominant (i.e., creating a sense of stability and resolution) but is not in the same key as the tonic.
Examples of Secondary Functions
Let’s take a look at some examples of secondary functions in action.
- Secondary Dominant: In the song “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, there is a secondary dominant chord (A7) used to lead to D major in the chorus.
- Secondary Leading Tone Chord: In “Yesterday” by The Beatles, there is a secondary leading tone chord (Bdim7) used to lead to Em in the bridge.
- Secondary Subdominant: In “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, there is a secondary subdominant chord (F#m7-5) used to lead back to the tonic (C).
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, secondary functions are an important concept in music theory that can add complexity and interest to music. By using chords that have relationships beyond basic principles of harmony, composers can create tension and release that keeps listeners engaged. Whether you’re a composer or just a music enthusiast, understanding secondary functions can help you appreciate music on a deeper level.