If you are interested in music theory, you may have heard the term “sequencing” thrown around. But what exactly is sequencing in music theory?
Sequencing refers to the repetition of a musical idea at a higher or lower pitch. This can be done with melodies, chords, or even entire sections of music. The repeated idea can be transposed to a new key or simply repeated in the same key.
Types of Sequences
There are two main types of sequences: exact and modified. In an exact sequence, the repeated idea is identical to the original. In a modified sequence, the repeated idea includes some variation from the original.
Exact sequences can be further categorized into three types: diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic.
In diatonic sequences, the repeated idea follows the same pattern of whole and half steps as in the original. For example:
Original: C – D – E
Sequence: G – A – B
Note how each note in the sequence is a fifth higher than its corresponding note in the original.
Chromatic sequences involve repeating an idea but moving each note up or down by half steps. For example:
Original: C – E – G
Sequence: C# – E# – G#
Note how each note in the sequence is raised by a half step from its corresponding note in the original.
Enharmonic sequences involve repeating an idea but using different enharmonic notes (notes that sound the same but are spelled differently). For example:
Original: C# – F# – B
Sequence: Db – Gb – Bb
Note how each note in the sequence is spelled differently but sounds the same as its corresponding note in the original.
Modified sequences involve some variation from the original idea. There are many ways to modify a sequence, including altering the rhythm, changing the contour of the melody, or adding or subtracting notes.
Examples of Sequences in Music
Sequencing is a common technique used in many genres of music. Here are a few examples:
- The opening riff of “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple is an exact diatonic sequence.
- The chorus of “Hey Jude” by The Beatles features an exact chromatic sequence.
- The intro to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 features a modified diatonic sequence.
Sequencing is a powerful tool for composers and arrangers to create musical interest and structure. By repeating a musical idea at higher or lower pitches, they can create patterns that are pleasing to the ear and help guide listeners through a piece of music.