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Glossary of Schenkerian Terms


SchenkerGUIDE: Guide and Introduction to Schenkerian Analysis logo

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English TermGerman TermQuick DefinitionLink to main site
ArpeggiationA particular diminution that proceeds either up or down an arpeggio of the relevant chord or harmonic unitmore...
BackgroundHintergrundThe simple progression which spans an entire piece and from which the piece is theoretically generated. This is often virtually synonymous with first level middleground more...
Bass ArpeggiationBassbrechungThe lower voice of the Ursatz motion I-III-V-I, I-II-V-I or I-IV-V-I in the bass that spans many pieces in the background more...
Composing OutAuskomponierungThe general term for creating musical content from a given basic progression by way of diminution and prolongation
Consonant SkipA particular diminution in which the voice leaps from one note of the harmonic unit to another note of the harmonic unitmore...
CouplingKoppelungThe appearance of a (structural) tone at different registers in one voice. Similar to register transfer but is not form generating
DiminutionThe name given to the process of linear units prolonging harmonic ones more...
Dividing DominantOberquint-TeilerThe structural V that supports of the fundamental structure and similar progressions in the middleground
Fifth ProgressionA linear progression spanning a fifthmore...
First level middleground The middleground level that prolongs the fundamental structure. The term is often virtually synonymous with the background more...
ForegroundVordergrundThe surface layer of the music more...
Form GeneratingThe attribute assigned to a progression when it creates large sections of music through its presence in the first level middleground or other deep middleground levelmore...
Fourth ProgressionA linear progression spanning a fourthmore...
Full CloseAmerican English for perfect cadence
Fundamental DescentUrlinieThe descending third progression from or that appears in the background as part of the fundamental structure more...
Fundamental StructureUrsatzThe two part contrapuntal progression that forms the background of all tonal pieces. Comprises the fundamental descent and the bass arpeggiation more...
Harmonic UnitThe term generally used in SchenkerGUIDE to describe the chord or harmony being prolonged by a given linear unit or diminution.
Initial AscentAnstiegA rising linear progression to the primary tone of the fundamental descent - occurs in the first level middleground more...
InterruptionUnterbrechungA form of the fundamental structure in which there is a break after followed by a return to the primary tone more...
Level (or layer)SchichtThe layers of music successively further from the surface as revealed by Schenkerian analysis more...
Linear ProgressionZugDiminution in which two consonant tones are connected by one or more stepwise passing notesmore...
Linear UnitThe term generally used in SchenkerGUIDE to describe diminution that prolongs a given harmonic unit.
mental retentionThe theory that you hold structural notes in your head thus hearing their resolution over long musical spans more...
MiddlegroundMittelgrundThe variable number of layers between the background and the foreground of a piece more...
MixtureMischungFlattening or sharpening of scale degrees the most common of which is to b which in the first level middleground can change the mode of the piece from major to minor more...
Motion From Inner VoiceUntergreifenAscending third progression to a structural note other than the primary tone - so called because the principle of mental retention means that theoretically the progression forms an inner voice against the structural tone held in the listener's head
Neighbour NoteA diminution in which a note is decorated by a figure that moves stepwise to a note above or below the original note before returning to it. Neighbour notes may be incomplete i.e. move to a note a step away and not return to the original notemore...
NoteBritish English for tone
Obligatory Registerobligate Lagethis controversial principle states that the fundamental descent should be completed in one register over the course of an entire piece. The register is thus that of the primary tonemore...
Perfect CadenceBritish English for full close
Primary ToneKopftonThe first note of the fundamental descent
ProlongationThe extension through time in a piece of music of a chord or note from that chord more...
Reaching-OverUebergrifenThe (re-)establishment of a structural note by means of a progression which reaches over it from below it in order to descend on to it.
Register TransferHoherlegung (up)
Teiferlegung (down)
A change of register that is form generating more...
Scale DegreeThe notes of the top part or voice, particularly structural notes shown by caretted numbers
Scale StepStufeBass notes, particularly between I and V of the bass arpeggiation, that are tonicised so as to give the impression of a temporary modulation more...
Third DividerTerztielerThe III that divides the progression from I to V in the bass arpeggiation more...
Third ProgressionA linear progression spanning a third
ToneAmerican English for note
UnfoldingAusfaltungTwo notes from the same harmony form a consonant skip close to the foreground. These same two notes can be understood as a two-note chord (or dyad) in the middleground or background. In this sense the middleground dyad is 'unfolded' in the foreground.
Unsupported StretchLeerlaufThe (conceptually) dissonant passing notes between consonant notes of the fundamental structure (e.g. between and ) more...