A Structural Examination of Tonality, Vocabulary, Texture,
Sonorities, and Time Organization in Western Art Music



Chapter 30. Harmonic and Melodic Patterns

Chapter 29. Review and Expansion
Chapter 31. The 123's of Schenkerian Analysis


Harmonic actions so far have been studied in individual contexts. The only exception to this is the subordinate progression, which requires four chords to work. In this chapter, more groups of chords which work together in patterns will be discussed.

These patterns are used for two basic purposes:

The purpose is defined by where the pattern begins and where it ends. Clearly, if it begins and ends in the same harmonic area, it will be a prolonging gesture. If it ends with a significantly different function, then it has provided transportation to a new area.


When a triad is placed in first inversion, the intervals above the bass are a 3rd and a 6th. Since these are both imperfect consonances, it is possible to move them in parallel motion without violating any voice-leading principles.

These motions tend to be stepwise, but can leap on occasion, and they can move in any direction. This process works best in 3-voice textures; a fourth voice creates voice-leading problems. When a fourth voice is added, the extra part will not move in parallel with the other three, as seen in the tenor line below.


Repetitions in harmonic progressions are common. These repetitions are found in the root motion and can involve any combination of root positions and inversions, and with both triads and tetrads.

These patterns are found in two basic root motions: 3rds and 5ths. They must move in one direction at a time but can be either ascending or descending.

Notice in the structural analysis above that an arrow has been attached to the prolonging line to indicate the move from tonic to the cadence.

Notice in the excerpt above that the descending 3rds motion should have gone to tonic in the third measure but that Chopin elected to break the pattern with the tonic substitute.


The repeated harmonic progressions in the previous section can expand to include both melody and counterpoint, creating SEQUENCES.

A sequence is defined as a pattern that repeats exactly (or almost exactly) several times, always at a different pitch level. These pitch levels must move in one direction only, and at a constant interval. Each unit of this repeated pattern is called a LEG, and there must be a minimum of three legs to create a sequence. The final leg does not need to be complete melodically, but it must complete the prior harmonic pattern.

As with parallel first inversion passages and repeating progression passages, sequences can either prolong or serve as a transition from one area to another.


There are four types of sequences generally found in the Common Practice Period, which are defined by their direction and root motion:

  1. Ascending 2nds

  2. Descending 3rds

  3. Ascending 5ths (descending 4ths)

  4. Descending 5ths (ascending 4ths)

Sequences may be constructed of either triads or tetrads. If the pattern employs 7th chords, the inertia of the sequence can create tetrads that are uncommon, such as the subdominant 7 and the tonic 7. When this happens, it is important to remember that these are not separate and independent sonorities but are parts of a larger pattern.


Certain repeated motions, particularly the ascending 2nds and descending 3rds, have the tendency to cause parallel perfect consonances. To avoid this, a VOICE LEADING CORRECTION (VLC) is interpolated to solve the problem. Although at first glance the harmonic pattern seems to be interrupted, the larger pattern is still there, generally on strong beats. Voice leading corrections can also be the goal of a sequence.

Another type of "correction" occurs in the ascending 2nds sequence: on occasion, one step will be skipped over, usually done to avoid a diminished triad.


Sequences have a close relative in the OSTINATO. Like a sequence, it is a short repeated melodic figure, each repetition being called a leg, and requiring at least three legs. It has, however, two large differences:

An ostinato is also a close relative to a pedalpoint in that it stays at one pitch level for an extended period of time, and part of that time acts like non-chord tones.



Describe the phrase design and provide a Roman numeral and structural analysis for the following pieces in Music for Analysis:

  1. Mozart: Sonata, K283 [#96, CD track #10]
  2. Mozart: Sonata, K.310, III [#118, CD track #12]
  3. Mozart: Rondo, K.494 [#158]
  4. Handel: Sonata for Flute and Continuo [#161]
  5. Haydn: Sonata in G Major, Hob.XVI:39, III [#214, CD track #41]
  6. Bach: Invention No. 13 [#260, CD track #60]


Add soprano, alto, and tenor lines to this figured bass, then provide a Roman numeral and structural analysis:

To prepare this writing assignment properly, use the notation guidelines appendix, located at Basic Principles of Music Notation, Semester III.

Links to chapters in this unit:
Chapter 29. Review and Expansion
Chapter 31. The 123's of Schenkerian Analysis

Link to previous unit: THE ABC's OF CHORALE SETTING

Link to next unit: CHROMATIC PROCEDURES II: Modal Mixtures

Copyright 2008-2009 by Phillip Magnuson.

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