Not all dissonances come with an – albeit slight, in some cases – whiff of diabolic sulphur; some have been fully integrated into polite society. Here’s a case in point: the dominant seventh (known as V7 for short). It can be encountered anywhere from staid Lutheran gatherings in Leipzig’s Thomaskirche through to rather louche evenings in […]

Cluster chords

Anyone who has heard a small child let loose on a keyboard will know exactly what a cluster chord is. Palms, fists, forearms and even shoulders are brought into play to produce a glorious – for the child, at least – cacophony. Sophisticates that we are, we adults tend to look down on this jolly activity; and, […]


What’s an appoggiatura? It comes (obviously) from Italian; appoggiare means to lean upon, to rest. It is (or was) frequently shown by a note of smaller size. Here’s an appoggiatura: it sounds like this… w Notice that it moves from stressed discord… w … to unstressed concord… w The tension produced by emphasising this dissonant clash has been […]

Key elements

Modulation:  The action or process of passing from one key to another in the course of a piece of music; the result of this, as an element in the harmony of a piece; a change of key. (OED) Cadence: The conclusion or ‘close’ of a musical movement or phrase. (OED) If you feel a sudden […]