[Smt-talk] Reductive Analysis

Ninov, Dimitar N dn16 at txstate.edu
Sun May 13 09:15:30 PDT 2012

Dear Professor Klorman,

I never compared Schenkerian-oriented musicians to skinheads, and the fact that you have twisted my line of thoughts in this direction is unacceptable; I brought up this example to imply that no one has to try to become a specialist in a field that is overall unappealing to him or her. But, not being a specialist, one may very well be able to see what is at stake in an analytical method. Of course, I too, studied Schenkerian analysis, and to the extent it was taught, I did very well. But even at that time (some 12 years ago, when I read a book by Schenker, and was interested in his indignation towards conventional harmony), I had a hunch that something was wrong with this graphical entertainment to be uplifted to a serious business.

On the other hand, I not only think that reductive analysis is useful, but I use it frequently, both in "serious music" and jazz. It has very little to do with Schenker, and it does not necessarily contain graphics. For example, I make a reductive analysis of "All the Things You Are" in the following manner (in contrast to many musicians, I start analyzing the song in F minor rather than in Ab major, because this gives me clearer juxtaposition of the T-D relationship at the beginning and the end of the phrases; of course the song ends in Ab major): 

1. The whole scheme of the first phrase, for those who are not acquainted, is Fm--Bbm7--Eb7--Abmaj7--Dbmaj7--G7--Cmaj7

2. Reductive analysis: Fm-----------C (T-----------D). This analysis displays the relationship between the initial key (chord) and the key of modulation, and it also suggest the main scales I could play over the phrase: Fm natural (which is also Ab major); C minor harmonic, over the G7 chord, then C major at the arrival of the new tonic. 

The second phrase develops in the same manner, but starting in Cm (again, I am not analyzing it in Eb major, as many colleagues) The reductive analysis is Cm------------G (T---------D). Scales: Cm harmonic, G minor harmonic (over the dominant to G), and then G major.

Thus the analysis of the first period is Fm: T----D (C major) and Cm: T----D (G major). This simple analysis is really a background- it only shows key areas and their relationship.

Middle period or Bridge: Full scheme Am7--D7--Gmaj7; F#m7b5--B7--Emaj7 (C7, a turnaround to the beginning) Analysis: G (T)-----------; E (T)----------; then C7 (D of Fm). Scales: G major; E minor harmonic over the II-V progression to E, and E major. Then Fm harmonic over the C7 chord.

Both harmony and melody evolve in the most common sequential pattern I-IV-VII-III-VI-II-V, where V becomes the new tonic. An analysis of the melody will show the top notes on the downbeats of the chords which enter a special relationship: these are the third degrees of the corresponding  chords, and the leading tones do not resolve into their designated tonic notes.

While many more things could be said in the analysis of this song, my main point is that this analysis is directly applicable to the process of music making, improvising, and composing. It is simple enough to keep the attention, and yet, is it deep enough to show you how the from develops phrase-wise as a function of melody, harmony, and rhythm; how keys relate to each other; and what particular scales you may use to accommodate the landscape of those keys.

I do  not see how a Schenkerian analysis could be practically applicable in this manner. I am on the impression that some colleagues really experience delight when they have finished a Schenkerian graph - nothing wrong with this - but do they think of what use their graph is for the practicing musicians out there? Or, perhaps, some of them think it is not so important for theory to be related to practice? 

Also, I am certain many of the things that are pointed out by a complex analysis showing arrows, lines, and different kinds of note heads and stems, could be explained in a simpler, and more appealing manner, making a graph better looking and better organized visually. 

Best regards,


Dr. Dimitar Ninov, Lecturer
School of Music
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666

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