music theory, a leading-tone (called the leading-"note" outside the US) is a note or pitch which resolves or "leads" to a note one semitonehigher or lower, being a lower and upper leading-tone, respectively.
Generally, the leading tone is the seventh tonal degree of the
diatonic scaleleading up to the tonic. For example, in the C major scale(white keys on a piano, starting on C), the leading tone is the note B; and the leading tone chord uses the notes B, D, and F: a diminished triad. In music theory, the leading tone triad is symbolized by the Roman numeralvii°.
Ernst Kurth(1913) the major and minor thirds contain "latent" tendencies towards the perfect fourthand whole-tone, respectively, and thus establish tonality. However, Carl Dahlhaus(1990) shows that this drive is in fact created through or with harmonic function, a root progressionin another voice by a whole-tone or fifth, or melodically (monophonically) by the context of the scale. For example, the leading tone of alternating C chord and F minor chords is either the note E leading to F, if F is tonic, or A♭ leading to G, if C is tonic. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the leading-tone is created by the progression from imperfect to perfect consonances, such as a major third to a perfect fifth or minor third to a unison. The same pitch outside of the imperfect consonance is not a leading tone.
diatonic functionthe leading-tone is the seventh scale degree of any diatonic scalewhen the distance between it and the tonic is a single semitone. In diatonic scales where there is a whole tonebetween the seventh scale degree and the tonic, such as the Mixolydian mode, the seventh degree is the subtonic.
The thriller/horror film "Jaws" contains a well known leading tone
leitmotif, E-F, to represent the shark and suspense associated with it.
*Dahlhaus, Carl. Gjerdingen, Robert O. trans. (1990). "Studies in the Origin of Harmonic Tonality", p.184-5. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09135-8.
*Kurth, Ernst (1913). "Die Voraussetzungen der theoretischen Harmonik und der tonalen Darstellungssysteme", p.119ff. Bern.
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