Diatonic Function

In tonal music theory, a diatonic function (also chord area) is the specific, recognized role of each of the 7 notes and their chords in relation to the diatonic key. In this context, role means the degree of tension produced by moving toward a note, chord or scale other than the tonic, and how this musical tension would be eased (resolved) towards the stability of returning to the tonic chord, note, or scale (namely, function).

Each degree of the seven-tone diatonic scale has a name that relates to its function. The major scale and all three forms of the minor scale share these terms."

—Benward & Saker

Three general and inseparable essential features of harmonic function in tonal music are:

  • Position within a gamut (the available collection) of notes determines a note's function
  • Each note within the gamut is a generator and collector of other notes in the gamut; in other words both the root and its chord exercise function, and
  • Exercise and identification of function depends on musical behaviour or structure.

A fourth feature is the ambiguity that arises from the use of the same terms to describe functions across all temporal spans of a hierarchical structure from the surface to the deepest level, and that the longer term or deeper functions act as a center for shorter higher level ones and that the functions of each tend to counteract each other. "Harmonic function essentially results from the judgment that certain chords and tonal combinations sound and behave alike, even though these individuals might not be analyzed into equivalent harmonic classes," for example V and VII. "Harmonic function is more about...similarity than equivalence".

Pandiatonic music is diatonic music without the use of diatonic functions.

Read more about Diatonic Function:  Functional Harmony, Diatonic Functions of Notes and Chords, Functional Behaviours

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Diatonic Function - Functional Behaviours
... From the viewpoint of musical behaviour or structure there are three essential functions 3 essential functions Chord Inversion Tonic I Dominant V vii Predominant IV ii Other functions serve to ... Several scale degrees exercise more than one function ... Many of these functions may still be found in post-tonal music ...

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