Using Chromatic Harmony in Music

During the Romantic era, composers freely used chords containing tones not found in the prevailing key. This created harmonic tension and yearning in their music.

Chromaticism is the use of non-diatonic pitches, which suggest different tonalities and participate in modulation. It has been an essential tool for composers from the Baroque period to modern times.

Chromatic passing tones

Chromatic passing tones are notes that don’t belong to the key and that can be used to spice up harmony. They can also create tension that resolves in a satisfying musical journey. They are commonly used in blues and jazz.

Toby W Rush has created some super logical (and pretty) graphics that make understanding secondary dominants, altered chords, Neapolitan sixths and enharmonic modulations a breeze. You can check them out here.

A chromatic passing tone fills the interval between two chord tones that are a semitone apart and occurs in a weak rhythmic position. It is also known as a chromatic approach note or an accented chromatic neighbor tone.

These can be augmented or diminished seventh chords that are derived from the root of the dominant chord. For example, a D minor chord can be changed to an A minor by adding a G in the middle voice. However, a raised fifth must be used carefully, because it may cause a dissonant relationship with the dominant chord.

Chromatic chords

Chromatic chords are a powerful tool that can add harmonic colour and expressiveness to your music. They can create tension and dissonance that can be resolved to create a satisfying musical journey for the listener. Using chromatic chords can also add an element of mystery to your music.

By definition, a chromatic chord is a chord that contains a tone not found in the prevailing key. These chords can be augmented or diminished depending on their position in the scale. To create a chromatic chord, you can start with a diatonic chord and add a chromatic passing note or a neighboring chromatic pitch.

Secondary dominants, Neapolitan sixths, enharmonic modulations – the list of ways to incorporate chromatic chords in your music is endless. However, understanding them can be a little daunting for beginners. To help you out, we’ve compiled a series of handy guides by musician and jolly good illustrator Toby W. Rush that will have you spicing up your harmony in no time.

Chromatic progressions

Chromatic progressions use notes that aren’t part of the key to create tension in a composition. They also add more color and variety to a song’s harmony. They’re most common in rock music, but can also be found in jazz.

Composers such as Cesar Franck and Anton Bruckner used chromatic tendencies to the point that they destabilized the tonal system. The chromatic chord sequences in Wagner’s opera “Tristan und Isolde” are a famous example of this.

In addition to using chromatic chords, composers can also chromatically alter diatonic chords. For example, a flattened note in a chord makes it sound darker and more intense. This technique is called modulation and is a common feature of many styles of music.

A chromatic chord sequence can also be derived from a diatonic sequence by changing the interval size and/or quality of the transposition. For example, a diatonic ascending 5-6 sequence can be chromaticized by replacing the descending perfect fourth in beat 2 with a minor third (Example 6). This gives a progression that sounds chromatic but retains its modal identity.

Chromatically altered pitches

Using chromatic harmony in music is an important skill that can add tension and emotion to your compositions. It can also create a sense of resolution and balance in your music. Chromatic harmony has had a significant impact on various musical styles, including classical and jazz.

Chromatic notes can be lowered or raised, but they must resolve to a diatonic pitch. This is known as enharmonic equivalence. It is important to understand the rules of chromatic chords and progressions in order to play them effectively.

A secondary dominant is a chord that does not belong to the parent key but is related to it by a common tonic. It can be used in augmented triads, borrowed chords, Neapolitan chords, and other chromatic chord types. It can also be a part of modulation. It is important to practice resolving these chords to make sure that they are satisfying for the listener. Chromatic chords can also be spelled in different ways, which is known as “spelling.” These differences are not necessarily intentional and may be the result of a combination of factors.

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