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



This appendix is a compilation of the techniques of structural analysis, which are embedded in various chapters of Sound Patterns. Structural analysis of music is the process that shows how Roman numerals work together to create larger harmonic patterns, and is closely related to sentence diagrams and schematic designs. All three systems use graphic symbols to represent function and interconnectivity.


  1. CADENCE is the most important area of musical structure, since it is the ultimate goal of every phrase.

    1. Authentic cadences come in two basic varieties: perfect and imperfect. The perfect authentic cadence (PAC) is a V to I motion, with stepwise motion to ^1 in the soprano and a ^5 - ^1 motion in the bass. The imperfect authentic cadence (IAC) is a motion from any form of dominance to I (in root position). A variety of scale degrees may be found in the soprano and bass. [refer to Chapter 14]

      1. The PAC is represented as:

      2. The IAC is represented with its specific position of dominance, e.g.,:

      3. If a cadential 6/4 is included as part of the PAC, it will be written as part of the V symbol, and becomes intrinsically welded to the cadence (called the super perfect authentic cadence). [refer to Chapter 16]

    2. Half cadences (HC) are, by definition, half of a PAC. [refer to Chapter 14] They can also include the cadential 6/4.

    3. Deceptive cadences (DC) are authentic cadences that resolve to a substitute for tonic rather than I, such as submediant (VI), and are represented by the chord of resolution. [refer to Chapter 18]

  2. PROLONGATION is second in importance. Prolongations are the expansion of a given harmonic area in musical space [refer to Chapter 14]. There are many techniques for doing this, and those are explained below in B. Any harmonic area can be prolonged, but by far the most common prolongation is that of tonic.

    1. Prolongations are represented by horizontal lines following a harmonic area.

    2. All Roman numeral symbols in structural analysis are presented in upper case since they are referring to a concept of harmony rather than specific sonorities.

    3. Sometimes, a prolongation does not begin with tonic. [refer to Chapter 14]

    4. On rare occasions, tonic may not be explicit (e.g., there might be only one scale degree of tonic present). Consequently, tonic is only implied, and is written inside parentheses. [refer to Chapter 14]

  3. CONNECTION is the least important of the three primary areas of structure. Connections occur about half the time in structural analysis, and their sole purpose is to provide a link from the end of a prolongation to the beginning of a cadence. [refer to Chapter 15]

    1. Connections cannot be explained as either of the other two areas and therefore must be classified as a separate element, in lower case and smaller font.

    2. Connections can be a variety of harmonic areas, but frequently they are
      • Pre-dominant harmonies such as supertonic (II) and subdominant (IV) [refer to Chapter 15]
      • Tonicizations of the dominant [refer to Chapter 20]
      • Chromatic harmonies such as borrowed chords, the Neapolitan, or augmented 6th chords



    The movement from one position of a sonority to another does not result in harmonic activity; that is, the Roman numeral has not changed. This is the simplest of all prolongation techniques, and is shown with simply indicating the position numeral over the prolongation line. [refer to Chapter 14]


    Every harmonic area has several other harmonies that work as substitutions. Substitutions for tonic are generally VI, IV6, or III. [refer to Chapter 18 for greater detail]

  3. EMBELLISHING CHORDS [refer to Chapter 14]

    1. Passing chords (P) are harmonic areas that move from one form of tonic (including inversions and substitutions) to another, with a specific passing motion in the bass.

    2. Neighbor chords (N) are harmonic areas that move from one form of tonic (including inversions and substitutions) to another, with a specific neighbor motion in the bass.

    3. Incomplete neighbor chords (IN) are harmonic areas that move from one form of tonic (including inversions and substitutions) to another, with a leap in the bass to an active pitch (such as leading tone or 7th of tetrad) that must resolve by step.

    4. Pedal chords (ped) are harmonic areas that move from one form of tonic (including inversions and substitutions) to another, while the bass remains on one pitch. [refer to Chapter 15 and Chapter 16]

  4. HARMONIC PATTERNS can prolong by using a group of sonorities, working together, to create a larger harmonic area.

    1. Harmonic prolongations, the alternation of the tonic triad with another root position sonority, require no extra explanation. This works in a tonic prolongation with only two harmonic areas:

      1. Dominant in root position, surrounded by the tonic triad

      2. Subdominant in root position, surrounded by the tonic triad

    2. Subordinate progressions (SOP) are a simple group of chords, usually four sonorities that:
      • Begins on a form of tonic,
      • Moves to a connective area
      • Moves to a form of dominance
      • Ends on a form of tonic

      This could be as simple as I - IV - V - I. Since the success of this as a form of prolongation rests on the first and last chords, the specific position and/or substitution must be labeled as well. [refer to Chapter 15]

    3. Repeating patterns in music are any extended progression of similar chord structures or root motion. [refer to Chapter 30]

      These patterns are

      • Parallel first inversion triads
      • Root motions of 3rds and 5ths
      • Sequences

      There are two primary functions for these patterns:

      1. To prolong a given area, shown in the structural analysis as a series of carats indicating the placement of the repetitions within the prolongation

      2. To move from a prolongation to a connection or the cadence, shown in the structural analysis as a series of carats indicating the repetitions, moving from one harmonic area to the other (shown with an arrow at the end of the prolonging line). [refer to Chapter 30]


    1. Connective prolongations occur when more than a single sonority is used. As before, inversions, substitutions, embellishing chords, and harmonic patterns, can be used, but related specifically to the connection.

    2. Dominant prolongations are second only to tonic prolongations in frequency. Dominant is prolonged in a similar manner, using inversions, substitutions, embellishing chords, and harmonic patterns, but related specifically to the dominant.

      The excerpt below is an example of three types of prolongations. In measures 21-23, there is a prolongation of the connection (presented above), a dominant prolongation from measure 24 to 32, and a prolongation of the arrival of tonic in the last four measures. The reduction of this excerpt is a simply I------ conn V I, but it is expanded in an extraordinary manner.

    3. Cadential prolongations:

      1. Plagal tags can be added following an authentic cadence. [refer to Chapter 15]

        In the famous excerpt below, the true cadence is the perfect authentic cadence in measures 3 and 4. Handel extends that cadence with a series of small plagal tags, culminating in the last two measures with one large plagal tag. This type of prolongation is commonly found in works with strong sacred connections, with a nod to the "amen" at the end of hymns.

      2. Cadential repetition, many statements of an authentic cadence in quick succession, adds emphasis and expands the cadence. Notice in the Beethoven excerpt below there are no less than four final cadential motions, and there is even a false one in m.9. There is also a prolongation of the connection with two more reiterations as well.

      3. Harmonic prolongations, many repetitions of dominant and tonic, occur frequently at the end of long symphonic movements, in order to provide great finality and conclusion.

        In the excerpt below, the true cadence occurs in measures 4-5, but the tonic is prolonged through repetition for nine measures. The harmonic prolongation is in the final measures.


Chromatic areas, such as tonicization, modulation, borrowed chords, Neapolitan triads, augmented 6th chords, altered dominance, and chromatic mediance have NO effect whatsoever upon structural analysis. They always fit into the contexts shown above.

Copyright 2008-2009 by Phillip Magnuson.

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