Harmony and harmony

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Harmony at the Prague Conservatory by Friedrich Dionys Weber , Prague 1841 (title page)

Harmonics (from ancient Greek ἁρμονία harmonía, "symmetry", "harmony") is a comprehensive term from music theory and practice. It deals with the order of the sounding together of several tones and can be seen as a vertical (simultaneous) component of music, in contrast to the horizontal (time-series) components rhythm and melody .

The theory of harmony , on the other hand, means the systematic recording of the chord design and the tonal sound space, combined with methodical instructions ( e.g. in the composition ) for the most error-free handling of the sound connections in the sense of the traditional specifications of music within the major - minor tonal epoch (approx to the present day). According to the musicologist Ziegenrücker, the subject of harmony theory is “in addition to the structure of the chords, in particular the connection of the sounds to musically logical sequences”.


In antiquity, harmonics coincided entirely with the theory of tone systems (see Philolaos and Aristoxenos ). Since the development of polyphonic music, the importance of harmony has narrowed more and more to the simultaneous harmony of different voices. In this narrower meaning that predominates today, harmony encompasses all stylistic forms of musical harmony, starting with the early polyphony of the European Middle Ages through to the sound structures of the avant-garde . Like polyphony, harmony is therefore a primarily occidental- European development.

The term “harmony theory” is based on Jean-Philippe Rameau's (1683–1764) Traité de l'Harmonie (1722), a treatise which used the knowledge of the fundamental bass theory to create a more analytical theory during the period of the figured bass . The step theory developed by Jacob Gottfried Weber (1779–1839) and later expanded by Simon Sechter (1788–1867) and Arnold Schönberg (1874–1951) was established towards the end of the 19th century by the functional theory established by Hugo Riemann (1849–1919) added. Both systems have survived to this day with modifications and extensions. Schönberg's Harmony Theory , published in 1911, was also the theoretical foundation for atonal twelve-tone music . Heinrich Schenker (1868–1935) combines the theory of counterpoint with the theory of chords in his theory of harmony : the voice leading is now understood as the horizontalization of (vertical) harmony (also referred to as the basic principle in the reduction analysis he founded ).

With the theory of harmony, however, only part of the history of music - namely harmony - is covered from a compositional and analytical point of view. The theory of harmony means, above all, to convey a craft theory based on a pedagogical intention, which must lead to certain abstractions and simplifications, since a stylistic development of over 300 years has to be taken into account. Nevertheless, the theory of harmony is still of central importance today, as it gives insight into stylistic - and thus interpretative - basic questions of music between 1600 and 1900. In addition, basic knowledge of harmony is essential for understanding popular music or jazz .

See also




  • Lars Ulrich Abraham: Harmony. The homophonic sentence . Laaber Verlag
    • Volume II with examples and exercises
  • Manfred Wagner : The harmony teachings of the first half of the 19th century. Gustav Bosse Verlag, Regensburg 1974, ISBN 3-7649-2081-5


  • Wilhelm Maler: Contribution to the Durmolltonal harmony theory. Volume 1 (1st edition 1931). 11th edition. Leuckart, 1980, ISBN 3-920587-00-6
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Francke: Theory and Practice of the Harmonic Composition. (1st edition 1898) Reprint of the 4th edition 1929: Georg-Olms-Verlag, Hildesheim 1987, ISBN 3-487-07973-9
  • Wolfgang Budday: Harmony theory Viennese classic. Theory - sentence technique - work analysis. Verlag Berthold & Schwerdtner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-00-008998-5

Function theory:

New music (20th century):

Popular music, jazz-rock-pop:

Web links


  1. Cf. Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. German Publishing House for Music, Leipzig 1977; Paperback edition: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, and Musikverlag B. Schott's Sons, Mainz 1979, ISBN 3-442-33003-3 , p. 104 (“The term harmony includes every spatial coexistence of tones, the order of the interrelationships.”)
  2. Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. 1979, p. 104.