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Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor #2913769 11/19/19 10:58 AM
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Eli26 Offline OP
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First my apologies if I'm posting this in the wrong Forum.
Question: in Waltz in a minor most of the time the Amin chord is played a c e, but in the second section it's inverted to EAC. Why?

Perhaps if the answer can touch on some of the other reasons that Chopin(and of course other composers) sometimes inverts chords and sometimes doesn't. Any examples from this piece would also be appreciated. Or any other example if you please.


By the way this is my first post about something other than purchasing an instrument so if this belongs in a different forum please let me know. I don't know if it's considered so basic a question to belong in the beginner section, since it of course touches on music theory voicing Etc

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Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Eli26] #2913820 11/19/19 01:13 PM
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We'll be able to give you a good answer, but first you need to tell us (to make sure we're answering what you want):

Which of the A minor waltzes of Chopin?
(There are at least 2.)

Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Eli26] #2913838 11/19/19 01:40 PM
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Waltz in A minor, B. 150, KK IVb/11, P. 2/11, often designated as No. 19
(I just cut and pasted that from Wikipedia).

The one that is presumably one of the easiest chopin pieces. Appreciate any help you can give!

Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Eli26] #2913840 11/19/19 02:00 PM
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OK!
First of all, it's not really that easy grin (I know that it's often said to be) .....not really that easy unless we say it's OK to hesitate and slow down at the hard parts. ha
(which people constantly do)

To your question:
I don't see anyplace where that happens in this piece.

In general, often it does, and the reason can be explained pretty easily -- but I don't see it anywhere here.
Where exactly do you mean?


Edit: Oh -- I think I see what you mean.
If it's what I think, that's not really an "inversion," which generally means that the bottom note is other than the "root" (which in this case is A).
You're talking about the 2nd and 3rd beats, not the first?

(I'm guessing yes.)

Interesting question, a little harder than if it were the other.
But I think the answer is still pretty clear.

Notice that when it's the first way (with A at the bottom of those chords), it's in the 1st measure of a group of 2 measures.
The ones with E at the bottom of those chords are in the 2nd measure of a group of 2 measures.

The 1st measures are (sort of) strong measures; the 2nd measures are relatively weaker ones.
Putting the "root" at the bottom of the 2nd and 3rd beats is (I think we can say) stronger.
Putting the E at the bottom makes it....well, I won't say weaker, but, gentler.
It makes it more fitting for the 2nd measure of those groups of two

I don't mean it couldn't have been still with A at the bottom, just that this seems like the reason Chopin did it the other way on those chords in those measures.

Last edited by Mark_C; 11/19/19 02:09 PM.
Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Mark_C] #2913844 11/19/19 02:11 PM
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......about this part, perhaps to make it clearer:

Originally Posted by Mark_C
The 1st measures are (sort of) strong measures; the 2nd measures are relatively weaker ones.

It's like the 1st measures are (sort of) inhalations, and the 2nd ones are exhalations.


.......but at the same time (the more I think about it, the more brilliant it seems to be on Chopin's part!), the E at the bottom, compared to if it were A, leaves the phrase in sort of a suspended animation, which helps carry the music forward to the next measure. (!)

(Playing an A at the bottom, besides being relatively 'stronger,' would give it more of a feeling of finality. There's no worry about that in each 1st measure of a group of 2, because nobody would ever hear that as "finality.")

Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Eli26] #2913868 11/19/19 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Eli26
First my apologies if I'm posting this in the wrong Forum.
Question: in Waltz in a minor most of the time the Amin chord is played a c e, but in the second section it's inverted to EAC. Why?

Perhaps if the answer can touch on some of the other reasons that Chopin(and of course other composers) sometimes inverts chords and sometimes doesn't. Any examples from this piece would also be appreciated. Or any other example if you please.


By the way this is my first post about something other than purchasing an instrument so if this belongs in a different forum please let me know. I don't know if it's considered so basic a question to belong in the beginner section, since it of course touches on music theory voicing Etc



Hi Eli 26,

I assume you are referring to bar 17-24. It is not simple to give you a full answer as it would take too much space. I can give you some elements and you would have to refer to a harmony course to get more complete details. I am not sure my comments will help you depending on your background.

The first 16 bars are made of 2 sentences of 8 bars, in symmetry, the last one ends on a short modulation to C major the relative major, going from A down to C through the circle of fifth. The second section starting bar 17 is therefore essentially a standing on the dominant E which brings the piece back into A minor at the beginning of section 3.

The chord you are referring to is usually called a cadential 6-4. Though technically it is a second inversion of the tonic chord, in that case it is associated with the dominant tonality. It is very frequently encountered just before the dominant 7th. Sometimes it is described also as a double appogiatura to the following 7th chord.
The logic of the whole section is to move between a pedal on A and the dominant E. Chopin initiates a cadence on E which is never fully closed as both the melody and the harmony do not close on the tonic chord in fundamental position; bar 18, first beat starts on A and you would expect a subsequent tonic chord to follow which does not, instead the cadential 6-4 reinitiates another cadential movement; it is an avoided cadence type model which keeps the section moving forward. This sequence repeats 4 times and the section ends on a loose imperfect cadence on A again followed by the 6-4 which leads to section 3.

One characteristic of this piece is that the only full cadence (PAC) is at the end of the piece. That is also what gives the piece its somewhat dreamy character which seems to go on without really closing. Hope that helps and is not too complicated.

Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Eli26] #2913927 11/19/19 05:19 PM
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Thank you for your answers. Yes, I was referring to bars 17-24. Your answers were excellent. That is not to say I understand them fully, but I have enough of a headstart that I'm pretty sure I can understand them with bit more study and research. Thank you!

Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Eli26] #2913941 11/19/19 05:52 PM
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One other question, which is slightly off-topic. Is there a book that any of you can recommend which could give me more of a background to further understand? Something that goes beyond basic theory (or perhaps has a couple of chapters on basic theory) which then gets into the denser material? And uses examples from pieces?
(I am not looking for a graduate level textbook, but something written for a layman who has the capacity and desire to delve deeply to increase musical appreciation and awareness)

Last edited by Eli26; 11/19/19 05:53 PM.
Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Sidokar] #2913944 11/19/19 05:53 PM
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BTW, it's not a "6-4" chord if there's a "root" note in the bass -- which in this case there is; doesn't matter that it's on a different beat.

Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Eli26] #2913983 11/19/19 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Eli26
One other question, which is slightly off-topic. Is there a book that any of you can recommend which could give me more of a background to further understand? Something that goes beyond basic theory (or perhaps has a couple of chapters on basic theory) which then gets into the denser material? And uses examples from pieces?
(I am not looking for a graduate level textbook, but something written for a layman who has the capacity and desire to delve deeply to increase musical appreciation and awareness)


This leads to form and analysis. The recommended book is (or used to always be) Wallace Berry's Form in Music. Some of Wallace Berry's writings are over my head, but this book is not too bad. laugh

https://www.amazon.com/Form-Music-2nd-Wallace-Berry/dp/0133292851

It might be better to start with something like Aaron Copland's oldie but goodie What to Listen for in Music, which is really a book about form.


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Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Mark_C] #2914066 11/20/19 03:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
BTW, it's not a "6-4" chord if there's a "root" note in the bass -- which in this case there is; doesn't matter that it's on a different beat.


It is a mix of 2 harmonies, a dominant 6-4 over a pedal on the tonic, assuming the pedal is used. The first beat acts as an incomplete resolution of the previous dominant 7th. The pedal sound fades away and the dominant harmony takes precedence to lead to the dominant 7th in the subsequent bar. It is a very frequent configuration. Now how this is explained in some theory books does not necessarily equates to the actual way it sounds. Our theoretical rationale is just an approximation of what is happening. Depending on the amount of pedal used and how loud is the bass, it can change our perception. The melody play an important role as well which can reinforce or diminish a particular harmony. In some bars the melody goes to E on the 6,4 which definitely reinforce the dominant and in some other bars it is A which prolong the tonic. In any case the obvious purpose of the section is to stay on the dominant and attempt to close on the tonic but not completely. You will find similar technique in several Schubert and Beethoven pieces.

Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Eli26] #2914119 11/20/19 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Eli26
One other question, which is slightly off-topic. Is there a book that any of you can recommend which could give me more of a background to further understand? Something that goes beyond basic theory (or perhaps has a couple of chapters on basic theory) which then gets into the denser material? And uses examples from pieces?
()


The litterature on the subject is quite compartmentalized. You will find books on theory, harmony, melodic composition, form and structure. But quickly it becomes rather complicated and detailed. I, personally , am not aware of a simple book that would touch base on all those topics without getting too much into details. Maybe someother people on the forum would know. The best that come to my mind for now would be the music theory part 1 and 2 in the ABRSM series. It covers a wide range of topics in a compact form. It has the benefit of covering what you would be expected to know for the ABRSM Exams. Though you should not expect for example that after reading it you would understand how the Chopin waltz is constructed, but it would be a start. Another option would be to ask your teacher, if you have one, to give you sessions to explain the pieces you are working on.

The difficulty is that music is not like physics. There are no laws but more practice usage which varies by composer, even if there is a sort of common trunk that can generically provide a starting point.

Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Sidokar] #2914218 11/20/19 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Originally Posted by Mark_C
BTW, it's not a "6-4" chord if there's a "root" note in the bass -- which in this case there is; doesn't matter that it's on a different beat.


It is a mix of 2 harmonies, a dominant 6-4 over a pedal on the tonic, assuming the pedal is used...

That's a different spot than what I was talking about and what I thought the question was about. I don't know which of us is right -- I didn't count measures.

Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Mark_C] #2914265 11/20/19 01:30 PM
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P.S. to the above:
I did look at the measure numbers in the piece -- and I think that while you were looking at the right section, you were talking about the wrong chords, i.e. not the ones that were asked about.

You're talking about the E7 chords, right?

The question was about the A minor chords.

Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: Eli26] #2914512 11/21/19 06:31 AM
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The harmonies up to the piece's last 4 bars are all in root position. Bars 17-24 is a series of V7 - i cadences where the D in the V7 resolves onto the C (now at the top) of the i chord. The am triad in the first 16 bars is always root position mostly accompanying a C in the tune which is possibly why he chose a chord arrangement which did not feature a C at the top.

John

Last edited by drumour; 11/21/19 06:32 AM.

Vasa inania multum strepunt.
Re: Inverted chords, Chopin waltz in A minor [Re: WhoDwaldi] #2914984 11/22/19 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by WhoDwaldi
Originally Posted by Eli26
One other question, which is slightly off-topic. Is there a book that any of you can recommend which could give me more of a background to further understand? Something that goes beyond basic theory (or perhaps has a couple of chapters on basic theory) which then gets into the denser material? And uses examples from pieces?
(I am not looking for a graduate level textbook, but something written for a layman who has the capacity and desire to delve deeply to increase musical appreciation and awareness)


This leads to form and analysis. The recommended book is (or used to always be) Wallace Berry's Form in Music. Some of Wallace Berry's writings are over my head, but this book is not too bad. laugh

https://www.amazon.com/Form-Music-2nd-Wallace-Berry/dp/0133292851

It might be better to start with something like Aaron Copland's oldie but goodie What to Listen for in Music, which is really a book about form.


Thanks I just started Copland's book on your advice!


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