• Is It Called The Leading Note or The Subtonic?

    in Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    Who else wants to know whether the seventh tone of the scale is called the leading note or the subtonic?

    There are so many views about what the technical name of the seventh tone of the scale is; while some scholars say it’s the subtonic, others believe it’s the leading note.

    There are also scholars who believe that both terms are correct and the leading note is another name for the subtonic and vice-versa.

    Well, after this blog lesson, you’ll be able to know the difference between both terms and their relationship as well. But before we go any further, let’s get started by discussing briefly on technical names.

    A Quick Review On Technical Names

    Beyond the use of letters, sol-fas, and numbers to represent notes, there’s also the use of technical names where a technical name is assigned to every tone in the major key.

    Here are the technical names assigned to every scale tone in the key of C major:

    C is the tonic

    D is the supertonic

    E is the mediant

    F is the subdominant

    G is the dominant

    A is the submediant

    B is the leading note or subtonic

    C is the octave

    “Did You Notice This…”

    The seventh tone of the scale is the one scale tone associated with two names:

    Leading note

    Subtonic

    Let’s go ahead and explore these technical names (side-by-side).

    The Leading Note Vs The Subtonic

    We’re going to ascertain what the appropriate technical name is for the seventh tone of the scale is. But before we do so, let’s examine both technical names.

    The Concept Of The Leading Note — Explained

    A half-step below any given note is the leading note. For example, the third tone of the C major scale:

    …is E:

    A half-step below E:

    …is D#:

    Therefore, D# is the leading note of E:

    Every tone of the scale has a corresponding leading note; which is a half-step below the given note. For example, a half-step below A:

    …is G#:

    So, the leading note of A is G#:

    “What Is The Subtonic?”

    The subtonic is the technical name of the seventh tone of the scale in any key (be it a major or minor key). The term subtonic literally means “below the tonic”.

    In the key of C major:

    The seventh tone of the scale (which is B):

    …lies directly below C:

    …which is the tonic (or octave as the case may be).

    In the key of C minor:

    …the seventh tone of the scale (which is Bb):

    …is the subtonic and that’s because it lies directly below the tonic (which is C):

    “Yes! It Is The Subtonic. Here’s Why…”

    The term leading note is not specifically for the seventh tone of the scale; every tone of the scale has its corresponding leading note that is a half-step below it.

    The reason why the leading note is associated with the seventh tone of the scale is because in the major key, the seventh tone of the scale is a half-step below the tonic.

    This can be seen in the key of C major:

    …where the seventh tone of the scale (which is B):

    …is a half-step below the tonic (which is C):

    But in the case of the key of C minor:

    …where the leading note is Bb:

    …and the tonic is C:

    It’s inappropriate to describe the seventh tone of the C natural minor scale as the leading note. This is because contrary to half-step interval between a given note and the leading note, the seventh tone in the minor key is a whole step below the tonic.

    So, the appropriate term for the seventh tone of the scale in any key (be it a major or minor key) is the subtonic.

    Attention: Due to the half-step distance between the subtonic and the tonic in the major key, the subtonic in the major key can also be described as a leading note. However, that doesn’t make the seventh tone in the key a leading note.

    Final Words

    I’m glad we’ve put a clear distinction between the leading note and the subtonic and I’m sure you learned something in this lesson.

    We’ll go a step further into understanding how leading note chords work in a subsequent lesson. For now, I’ll leave you to post your comments, make suggestions, and also ask questions.

    Thank you for your time.

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Carolyn

    Thanks. I have to let this digest. But thanks. I will book mark until I get it. Very helpful. Thank God for all of you share.

    Reply

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