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THEORY IV MUST 2314 UTEP JARVIS

Reading 2: Common-Tone Diminished Chords (CT7 & CTA6)


[Modeled after Laitz, The Complete Musician, 3rd, pp. 615-18]
Common-Tone Diminished Seventh Chords (CT7)
We have encountered a number of ways to expand an underlying harmony (e.g., vii6, V^4 [P^4 ], neighbor ^4 , etc.).
Two additional harmonies can expand I and V through neighboring and passing motions. These new chords contain
chromaticism and maintain the root of the harmony they expand. Example 1 shows the first type of harmony: The
lower neighbors on beat 3 of m. 1together with the 56 motion (AB) in the left handcreate a diminished seventh
chord. Notice that the root of the tonic chord (D) is sustained as a common tone. (NOTE: The common tone does not
literally have to be sustained, it may be rearticulated instead) Embellishing diminished seventh chords such as this one
are called common-tone diminished seventh chords, labeled CT7.

We now have two functions for diminished seventh chords: They can be tonicizing (as a vii7 or a secondary
vii ) or embellishing (as a CT7 or a secondary CT7) (Example 2). The following guiding principles may be useful when
attempting to determine the function of a fully diminished sonority.
7

Common-tone diminished seventh chords share a common tone with the following chord of resolution
(Example 2 A).
vii7 and secondary vii7 chords have no common tones with the following chord of resolution (Example 2 B)
Beware of the progression vii7/V to cadential ^4 Qq %3 . The vii7/V chord shares common tones with the cadential ^4
chord. The common tones, however, are misleading, for they are not chord tones but embellishments that fall to
the %3 chord, which shares no pitches with the secondary vii7 chord (Example 2 C).

READING 2: COMMON-TONE CHORDS (CT7 AND CTA6)

THEORY IV MUST 2314 UTEP JARVIS

Tonicizing Forms

It can be difficult to distinguish between the different types of diminished seventh chords. The chromatic bass line
of Example 3 suggests that the diminished seventh chord will function as a vii7/ii. However, B is not the root of the
chord on the downbeat of m. 2; it is a V$3 chord. As you know, there are no common tones between a secondary vii7
chord and its resolution, so this diminished seventh cannot be a secondary chord. Rather, it is an embellishing chord
(CT7 of V) that connects I and V$3 by means of a chromatic passing tone in the bass.

READING 2: COMMON-TONE CHORDS (CT7 AND CTA6)

THEORY IV MUST 2314 UTEP JARVIS

Common-Tone Augmented Sixth Chords (CT+6)


Example 4 contains another chromatic common-tone harmony over a tonic pedal that functions as an
embellishment, but it is not a diminished seventh chord. Look at the figure for the first chord. Does the presence of
both flat and sharp accidentals remind you of any other chords we have learned? The sonority sounds and looks like a
Ger+6 chord, since it contains an augmented sixth (AbF#). It is a bit peculiar, however, not to have the b65 motion in
the bass, for we expect an augmented sixth chord moving to its resolution. Instead, the bass voice sustains a commontone, C. The result of this voice leading is a chord that expands the tonic rather than leading strongly to the dominant.
Such a chord is referred to as a common-tone augmented sixth chord (CT+6). You should expect that the augmented
sixth chord will be of the German variety and so it will include the following notes: Le, Do, Me, Fi (or b6, 1, b3, #4). The
bass does not have to have the common tone. The CT+6 occurs with a variety of different bass notes (ie., the bass may be
Le, Do, Me, or Fi).

READING 2: COMMON-TONE CHORDS (CT7 AND CTA6)