Harmony review - Analysing Haydn Piano Sonatas

Updated: Jan 19

Harmony review - Analysing Haydn Piano Sonatas

It is fundamental, for the sake of music analysis, to be very confident about our knowledge of harmony. This article reviews those harmonic functions and elements usually found in most classical sonatas.

Harmonic Progressions


One of Haydn’s most commonly used progressions; prolongational harmonies serve to support the harmonic effect of a chord through the use of 4 different methods:

  1. Neighbouring chords

We can easily identify this progression as the prolonged chord will remain in the same position at the beginning and end of the procedure. The intervening chords can be similar to the ones used in the cadential progressions. But in general if we see a simple progression I-V-I, it will be considered prolongational rather than cadential.

  1. Passing chords

The main feature of this progression is that the prolonged harmony changes from one chord position to the next one.

  1. Substitute chords

The substitute chord technique involves the use of chords which share at least two tones in common. A passing chord in between them can also be placed.

  1. Pedal point



The authentic cadence requires that both the initial tonic and the dominant chords are placed in their root position. The complete sequence of chords should be exposed for a cadence to be considered authentic. E.g. I-IV-V-I

There are several embellishments that can be seen within these harmonic progressions. The most famous are those ones practised on the 2 and the 4 degrees of the scale. The Neapolitan bII, the augmented 4th. In the case of the latter, they are implemented as V56 or VII56 of the dominant. They can also be chained further and be used like 7 diminished VII7 of the V and then the V.

Embellishments in general re used to delay the landing on any of the fundamental harmonies involved in the authentic cadence.

Half Cadence

A half cadence has the dominant as the goal of the progression.


A deceptive cadence has the VI as the goal for the progression

Half cadence

The goal od a half-cadence is the Dominant

Incomplete Authentic Cadence

Similar to a perfect authentic cadence, but the highest voice is not the tonic.

Sequential Progressions

Find below the most commonly found sequential progressions. These progressions can be embellished by using passing chords passing chords.

  • Descending fifths

  • Ascending fifths

  • Ascending thirds

  • Descending thirds

  • Ascending second

  • Descending second

Check the next article of Juan Rezzuto and "the importance of music theory and our approach of understanding music"

#pianolessonsforbeginenrs #pianolessonsinlondon #pianolessonsforadults #adultpianolessons #Haydnproject #HaydnProject #Caplin

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