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The conventions of mainstream Western harmony may be divided into conventions for writing individual chords (stacked thirds on a root; inversion, doubling, spacing), pairs of chords (harmonic relationship, voice leading, avoidance of parallels), and chord progressions (scales, keys, tonality). A range of scientific and pseudoscientific theories have been advanced to explain harmonic conventions, based on frequency ratios, the harmonic series, beats, combination tones, periodicity, cognitive structures, generative grammars, and mathematical groups. Terhardt [1974a, 1976] explained the perception of harmony in terms of perceptual familiarity with the pitch pattern of typical complex tones. Unlike other theories, Terhardt’s is both empirically based and capable of explaining harmony’s origins.
KeywordsFrequency Ratio Complex Tone Harmonic Series Music Theory Western Music
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