Unit 4: Secondary Dominants, Modulation, Binary and Ternary Forms

Topic 1: Secondary Dominants

Secondary dominant—a chord that serves as the dominant of a chord other than tonic.

Because it is not THE dominant in the established key, we say that a secondary dominant is V of some chord.  Similarly, a secondary leading-tone chord is viio of some chord.

Secondary dominants and secondary leading-tone chords are also called applied dominants and applied leading-tone chords because they “apply” the principles of dominant harmonic function, its distinctive resolutions, to a non-tonic chord.

Tonicize—to treat a non-tonic chord if it were, temporarily, the tonic.

 Secondary Dominants Overview

Locating Secondary Dominants by Accidentals: Two rules of thumb

  1. Suspect a raised note of being a leading tone.
  2. Suspect a lowered note of being a chordal seventh

 How To Locate Secondary Dominants

 Secondary Dominant Analysis

Some potential roles that a secondary dominant might play in a given musical context:

1. Lend emphasis to a chord within the phrase model
2. Harmonic diversion (taking you away from an expected harmonic goal)
3. Creating forward momentum after a phrase is complete
4. Evade expected resolution
5. Text painting or mood setting

 Secondary Dominants Analysis 2


Writing Secondary Dominants

Reminders about leading tones and chordal sevenths:

  • Do not double them.
  • Resolve them.

Prefer to make the leading tone in an applied chord act like a chromatic passing tone. For instance, instead of leaping to scale degree #4 in a V/V chord, approach it by step: ^4 – #^4 – ^5. This avoids nasty cross relations.

Cross relation—diatonic and chromatic versions of a scale degree occur in successively, in two different parts.

A leap to a secondary leading tone is fine in the bass part. Example: ^1 – #^4 – ^5

 Writing Secondary Dominant Sevenths

 Writing and Resolving Secondary Dominants

 Writing Secondary Dominants from figured bass-Corelli-1

 Writing Secondary Dominants-Corelli-2


Topic 2: Modulation

Modulation — a change of key.


Smooth Modulations

Here are two ways to seamlessly transition between keys within a phrase:

1. Use a Pivot chord—a chord that belongs to both keys.
-It precedes the first element (accidental or chord) belonging solely to the second key.
-It is often a Pd in the new key.

Note: Once in a while, there is no pivot.  For example, chromatic motion may lead into the new key: I-IV-V6/V-V, followed by a cadence in the dominant’s key.

2. Use a Sequence

Like a merry-go-round, a sequence can take you in many directions; it all depends on where you “get off.” Sequences can carry the music up or down by step, or else down by third. A chord within a sequence may be reinterpreted as a chord within a new key.

Remember: Sequences are guided by root motion, not by the phrase model.  You do not need to give Roman numerals for chords in a sequence.  Just take the last chord of the sequence and use a Roman numeral to show how that is incorporated in the following motion toward a cadence.

 Smooth Modulation: Heidenröslein

Abrupt Modulations

Sudden modulations may occur between sections and between smaller units.

There is often an abrupt return the main key after a cadence in another key.  Also, an abrupt change of key is especially useful for setting off a new section, such as the middle section of a da capo aria, minuet-trio, or other ternary (three-part) movement.

Topic 3: Binary and Ternary Forms

Binary form—the division of a unit of music into two sections, either because (1) there are two periods (2) there are two repeated sections (“two-reprise form”).

Typical harmonic plans:
I      V  :||:                        V(7) ||   I
i       III :||: (Pd tonicized) V(7) ||   I

Binary Form Introduced

Typical sources of contrast early in the second section

  • Motivic development (transformations and fragmentation)
  • Sequences
  • Modulations (other than to V or III)
  • Pedal points (usually ^5 to set up a return of ^1)

Binary Form Example 1 (Mozart, K. 284, iii)

 Binary Form Example 2 (Handel, Prelude in G major)

Binary Form Example 3 (Schubert, Waltz, D. 779, No. 16)



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