Enharmonic mix-up

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Enharmonic confusion is the name given to the compositional practice of reinterpreting notes as other notes if they have the same key on a (12-step) keyboard, but have different names because they belong to different scales. On a keyboard, A-flat and G sharp , C-flat and B , F and ice , etc. are on the same key and can be reinterpreted accordingly: A-flat as G sharp , Ces as B or ice as F , etc. This allows the musical context and the function of the tones to be understood change, for example to change to a different key ( modulation ).

Keyboard with keys from E flat major (green) and A major (red)

Example 1:

Enharmonic confusion A flat (belonging to E flat major) to G sharp (belonging to A major)

The note As in the second chord is assigned to the key of E flat major. By changing the sign, the key changes to A major and the tone G sharp in the third chord is assigned to the key A major.

Example 2:

This example shows how a diminished seventh chord can be assigned to different scales by reinterpreting tones: A - C - D - F (tones of the E flat major or E flat minor scale) reinterpreted as A - B - D - F (Tones of the scale of C major or C minor), as G sharp - B - D - F (tones of the scale of A major or A minor) and finally as G sharp - B - D - ice (tones of the Scale of F sharp major or F sharp minor).

Sometimes, however, notes are notation confused enharmonically to make them easier to read.

The term can only be equated to a limited extent with the term Enharmonics (see below ), which has a much larger field of meaning.

The twelve semitones of the ascending, chromatic enriched C-Dur - scale to be confused enharmonically in the second note row one above the other tones designate the same Tonort (see below) and sound in gleichstufiger mood equal to:


Here are the different names for the twelve tones of the equal scale; Root tones are highlighted:

Ice cream
G sharp a
Location of C sharp D flat and D flat E flat in the pure tuning

In many moods, the enharmonic mix-up of the above-mentioned tones is not possible without an audible "shift". For example, a D-flat in the pure mood and in the mid-tone mood is lower than its enharmonically mistaken counterpart, the E-flat . In contrast, in the Pythagorean tuning , the dis is higher than the id . If you play a piece with enharmonic mix-up on a harpsichord tuned to a medium tone , the enharmonic mix-up sounds poor. The claim that such an intonation can still be wanted by the composer or performer is controversial.

History of Enharmonics and Enharmonic Confusion

In ancient music theory, Enharmonics was a name for a type of scale formation alongside diatonic and chromatic scales. In the music theory of the Renaissance the term was taken up again and used in different ways. We therefore find two different meanings in the music of the sixteenth century .

  • For one example, were in the nineteen-stage atmosphere at Guillaume Costeley with enharmonic notes of different height meant tones.
  • On the other hand, there was an Enharmonik with the same keys in the lute tunings of that time, which were referred to as equal .

Towards the end of the 17th century , the well-tempered tunings enabled all enharmonic mix-ups on the same keys. With the possibility - on the limits of the mean-moods addition - even Cis and Des , It and Dis , F and ice , Fis and Ges , Gis and As , B and Ais and C and His enharmonically not only melodic, but also in To use a harmonic context, all keys of the circle of fifths and their chords were now even available for a piece of music. The recitatives of the late baroque are almost characterized by their intensive use of enharmonic progressions. The diminished seventh chord was discovered as an important element of modulation with the help of enharmonic confusion , the four tones of which are each a small third apart and can be reinterpreted in many ways.

Whether an enharmonic mix-up could be carried out thus depended on the tuning system used. The closer this came to the well-tempered tuning and finally the equal-tempered tuning , the more numerous enharmonic mix-ups that could be used and more tolerable for the hearing .

In romantic music , the tonality was expanded more and more and began to dissolve in the course of the 19th century for some composers. Enharmonics played a decisive role in this. B. with Franz Schubert , Franz Liszt , Richard Wagner and further into the 20th century z. B. with Gabriel Fauré , Claude Debussy , Alexander Nikolajewitsch Skrjabin , Max Reger and the early Arnold Schönberg , who among other things enabled the enharmonic reinterpretation of altered chords almost limitless modulations and a harmony no longer necessarily tied to a root note .

In the further development towards atonality and later in the dodecaphony and in the context of serial compositions , the Enharmonik largely lost its previous functional significance. In the case of enharmonic mix-ups, it was often only about a pragmatic notation as possible and less about the harmonic reinterpretation of a tone. As a result, new, twelve-step notation systems were invented and partly used in practice that no longer contain enharmonic tones.

Typical examples of enharmonic mix-up :

Johann Sebastian Bach:
Chromatic Fantasy , enharmonic mix -up A-G sharp
Franz Liszt:
Chapelle de Guillaume Tell from the Années de pèlerinage ,
enharmonic confusion G sharp-flat
Alexander N. Scriabin:
Sonata op.70 , enharmonic mix -up of D-sharp, E-flat


Notes and individual references

  1. This is possible with well-tempered tunings including the equally tempered tuning.
  2. A-flat and G sharp differ only by a schism (2 cents) in pure tuning . From A flat you get a G sharp after 12 fifths and this G sharp is - octaved - a Pythagorean comma higher than the A flat . The interval E - G sharp in the 3rd chord is a pure third and this G sharp is a syntonic comma lower than the G sharp in the circle of fifths. Difference: Pythagorean comma - syntonic comma = schism. (In the sample here was - in Euler notation  Major It to A major of modulated With a modulation of 'E-flat minor to A-major-minor would be the difference of -. ' As and ,, Gis 41 cents = small diesis . Note: 'Eb and , A belong to the C major / minor scale.)
  3. For example, the excessive fifth chord in the 23rd measure of Chopin's Prelude Op. 28 No. 4 in E minor is notated in most editions with B instead of the actual A sharp , ie actually "incorrectly". The reason is easier readability. See: Chopin - Prelude in E-Minor. (PDF) Retrieved June 30, 2016 .
  4. a b c Mark Lindley : Mood and Temperature. In: Frieder Zaminer (ed.): History of music theory. Volume 6: Hearing, Measuring and Arithmetic in the Early Modern Era. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1987, ISBN 3-534-01206-2 , pp. 109-332.
  5. ^ Arnold Schönberg: Harmony. Anniversary edition. Universal-Edition, Vienna 2001, ISBN 3-7024-0264-0 , p. 296 f., Especially sheet music example 182.
  6. Hanns Jelinek : Instructions for twelve-tone composition. In addition to all kinds of Paralipomena (= Universal Edition. No. 12083–12084, ZDB -ID 2237343-3 ). 2 parts. 2nd Edition. Universal Edition, Vienna 1967.
  7. Klangreihenmusik: script sheet for twelve-tone musical notations (1), accessed on July 13, 2015.