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LMT tries as much as possible to integrate multiple schools of thought, yet there are occasions where it is necessary to primarily adopt one among completely different definitions or classifications.

On this page, I provide detailed explanations of the adoption of such definitions and usage of terms, including the background thoughts. Hence “use of terms“, not “terms of use”. This is written not for beginners, but for those who have already mastered music theory, aiming to resolve their questions around the policy of LMT.


The definition of the term “Tonality” can be divided into two categories: a broad sense and a narrow sense. In the broad sense, tonality refers to a musical organization where a certain pitch functions as a center. In this sense, the antonym of tonal music is atonal music.
In the narrow sense, tonality refers to a harmonic organization based on the major-minor key system. In this sense, modal music before the common practice period is also recognized as contrasting with tonal music.r example.

LMT adopts the broad definition. I believe this to be a prevailing perspective since musicology has increasingly delved into non-Western music, especially in fields like music psychology. For example:

In a texture where tonal centricity is ambiguous, the composer can assert it in different ways. He or she may choose to repeat a single note or chord that represents the desired tonal center in a prominent registral or metric position.

Paolo Susanni, Music and Twentieth-Century Tonality (p13)

Especially in the “Melody” section, LMT formally covers topics such as church modes and ethnic scales. The scope of music that LMT encompasses extends beyond the music of the major-minor key system. Therefore, it is natural and necessary to define Tonality in the broad sense.
If you want to refer specifically to narrow sense tonality, you can use the term “major-minor tonality,” as suggested by Edward Aldwell1.


The term “mode” presents a significant gap between its meanings, encompassing the well-known church modes and what ethnic music theory calls “modes” like that of China, India, and the Arab, as well as the “modes” in chord-scale theory and the Lydian Chromatic Concept. Finding a suitable definition that integrates these disparate meanings is quite challenging.

In such a situation, if a definition of this term is sought, I’d refer to something abstract:

A scale presents a melody’s pitches arranged in an objective series from lowest to highest. A mode interprets a melody’s pitches in terms of their tonal relationships. A scale identifies a tonal collection; a mode identifies a tonal context.

Horton, Charles; Byrne, David A.;Ritchey, Lawrence. Harmony Through Melody (Kindle position No.1410-1411).

Indeed, in any usage, the word “mode” carries more than just a collection of tones, emphasizing the relationships and roles among the tones. Therefore, I define mode as follows:

A set of tones with information about tonal relationship and organization.


In the text, the term “tendency” is defined as follows:

A characteristic of certain notes that tend to resolve to specific tones rather than sustain long, due to being in an unstable condition. The intensity of that bias, or the bias itself.

In determining this definition, I referred to the explanation provided in “Great Songwriting Techniques,” which offers abundant descriptions related to melody theory:

Tone tendency, the natural tendency of a tone to either stay where it is because it is consonant or stable in a scale, or to move because it is dissonant or unstable, affects all aspects of a song.
Perricone, Jack. Great Songwriting Techniques (p.88).

However, as you can see, LMT does not inherit the “to stay because of consonance” part from the above passage. I’ll explain the reason for this.

One major issue is that this definition conflicts with another important term, “tendency tones”. A tone with a strong tendency is labeled as a tendency tone—Then by this premise, if you view “tendency to stay” also as a type of tendency, every tone can be said to have some form of tendency. Consequently, every tone would be considered a tendency tone, logically. This will spoil the existence of the term “tendency tones.”

In the first place, I doubt that stable tones really have bias “to stay”. It may be true that the tonic indeed tend to stay the same pitch compared to the leading tone, but it doesn’t mean that tonic itself actually tend to stay in absolute evaluation. It can either stay, move stepwise, or leap far away—There should be no clear statistical bias for the tonic, the wanderers of whimsy.

I believe the word “tendency” is meant for contrasting unstable tones with specific progression tendencies against stable tones with more freedom of choice. Therefore, I do not agree with extending the term “Tone Tendencies” to apply to stable tones.

Rationale for Tendency

Furthermore, some, including Mr. Periconne, use harmonic series as the basis for the stability of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th degrees of the key, but LMT does not adopt this approach, either.
This logic is fundamentally flawed as it fails to explain minor scales, and claiming universality of the theory too easily leads down the path of pseudoscience. Looking at the current academic field, I believe it is reasonable to consider tendency as a psychological response of human, formed from cultural and experiential factors.


Nothing has likely been tinkered with by a countless of theorists as much as Harmonic Function. This is not a matter of broad/narrow level like Tonality, but should be perceived as a situation where “completely different systems are using the same name”.

Therefore, the responsibility of LMT is first and foremost to accurately explain this situation as it is. In SoundQuest, the first article on Harmonic Function touches upon the original version by Riemann and the variations across different schools. Ultimately, in Chapter VIII, a comprehensive understanding transcending schools is achieved.

And what LMT itself emphasizes is that the act of categorizing all chords into just three types is essentially a speculative “game” and not very practically beneficial. Therefore, categorization of non-diatonic chords are not conducted at all.

About IIIm

As for whether to regard IIIm as T or D, LMT points out that, in the first place, the idea that the function of a chord is uniquely determined by its structure is a significant distortion of the original version where context is required for functional analysis (Chord Chapter VIII, not translated yet). From this standpoint, the argument over IIIm is itself rather absurd. And this necessity of context and the ambiguity of function properly explained, there is absolutely no need to decide between the two.

That said, I think there’s still a responsibility to explain why LMT treats IIIm “primarily” as dominant, aligning more closely with classical perspectives rather than jazz theory. In brief, the reason is as follows:

  • This perspective is more faithful to Riemann’s original philosophy. IIIm is essentially “Dp“, and “TのLT” merely refers to limited instances such as when I transforms into IV.
  • There is some rationality for considering IIIm as tonic in a world where harmonic/melodic minor cadence III7→VIm is assumed as the basic form. However, in contemporary popular music, the cadence of IIIm to VIm in natural minor is also common, and this presence cannot be disregarded.
  • The rationality of treating IIIm as the tonic is essentially applicable only within jazz. For them, “dominant” implicitly focuses on whether techniques like “altered dominant” or “substitute dominant” can be applied. Though this may suits the framework of jazz theory, from the perspective of modern popular music where chords are generally much simpler, their criteria of stability/instability is relatively skewed. In today’s music, where V7→I is deemed too conventional to the point of even being sometimes avoided2, insisting on the fati tritone as a prerequisite for the dominant is, frankly, a waste of entire functional theory.
  • Related to the previous point, their notion of “stability” of IIIm is merely akin to “closer to IΔ7 compared to the altered dominant”. In this discussion, the practical sense of “tonic-ness”, such as whether a section of a popular music hit song can effectively conclude with IIIm instead of I or VIm, is not taken into account at all.

I’ve laid out several arguments, but ultimately, LMT simply declares that we see IIIm without contextual information “primarily” as Dfor convenience“, and as mentioned earlier, there is absolutely no intention to engage further in the discussion. Period.


In LMT, the development of melodic theory employs the solfa syllables doremifasolati. In minor keys, the traditional method adopted where the minor tonic is labeled as la.

This implies a greater emphasis on the relationship between relative keys rather than parallel keys. In today’s contemporary music, where the boundaries between relative keys are blurred, adopting this approach is much more rational than calling the minor tonic do.

Church Modes

From the original solfa style perspective, in the solfa of church modes, the tonic of Dorian should be re, the tonic of Phrygian should be mi, and so on.
However, in the explanation of church modes in Chapter III of Melody, there are cases where the tonic of major modes is uniformly referred to as do, and the tonic of minor modes as uniformly la.

When explaining church modes to beginners, it’s essential to compare them with parallel scales to understand characteristic tones. If the names of the tonics differ when comparing major scales(do) and Mixolydian modes(so) in parallel, the explanations must get complicated, undoubtedly hindering the process of understanding. Therefore, here, priority was given to making text easy for learners to read.
For similar reasons, in some articles in Chapters IV of Melody and VII of Chord, the tonics of all modes are uniformly referred to as do.

SoundQuest is learning text, not a dictionary. Rather than ruthlessly pursuing consistency, it’s more appropriate for learning text to adapt flexibly as long as it contributes to the students’ learning efficiency.

Syllables for All 12 Tones

In tonic solfa, accidentals are expressed by altering the vowels, such as ti♭ becoming te and so♯ becoming si.
While LMT would like to adopt this system, considering the possibility of countries less familiar with do-re-mi solfège, introducing a complete system outright might still pose a significant burden on learners. For instance, when learning three types of minor scales, if one is already confused by terms like si or fi, it becomes noise in the crucial process of learning itself.

Therefore, at least within the currently completed translation scope, the system of vowel alteration is not adopted. However, I do understand how crucial it is to assign unique syllables to altered tones in solfa singing for enhancing musical perception (in fact, I myself use 17 syllables in my daily life!).
In the Melody section’s Chapter IV, I aim to provide explanatory articles that lead advanced learners towards transitioning to the 17-syllable system, creating a developmental path for growth.