The Compositional Drummer

The Compositional Drummer

Information for the career minded drummer and musician

Harmony... episodes of tension and release


One Monday you try out for the team of your choice. You know you did well, you’ve practiced and hope you impressed those responsible for putting you on the team.  At the end of tryouts Coach advises that he will post the final cuts on Friday outside the locker rooms. All of the days in between are spent with you virtually holding your breath until that day. Friday finally comes and you rush to where the cut list is posted. You arrive and search the list intensely looking for your name... you find out you've made the team and breathe a sigh of relief.


Just like this story music composition goes through those periods of tension and release through two scale degrees. They are scale degree one known as Tonic and scale degree five known has Dominant. The balance of contemporary harmony rests on these two scale degrees and their chords. Well written melodies typically start on the tonic note they go to the dominant and head back to tonic as a point of resolution. You may ask why are these two so important, it is because of the seven degrees associated with a Major scale five of the notes reside with the tonic and dominant chords. You can think of it as tonic=home dominant=away then you return home again to the tonic.  Make no mistake, the Tonic and Dominant chords are the most important in the harmonic cycle.  However, like all other rules there are exceptions but the amount of hits written with this formula are endless.  


Finally, as an exercise spend some time experimenting with writing a simple song section that features a melody and chords built on just the tonic and dominant. It's great practice and make sure you are at a piano or guitar.  I’ve posted an example for you to listen to. Bill Wither’s tune Lean On Me is a testament to our discussion. 13 million plays on Spotify some 40 years later definitely can’t be argued with. Click the link.




Bill Withers – Lean on Me - Single Version


Blog Stats

  • Total posts(17)
  • Total comments(1)

Forgot your password?