Dissonance in Music

Think of your favorite song and I promise you it has some dissonance.  Dissonance is a somewhat “off-putting” feeling or sound that you experience in a song.   The only way dissonance works is that it resolves to something non-dissonant.  Music is just like life, it just simply can’t be all smooth and perfect.

There is nothing better than tension in a song.  Properly paired with words, a dissonant tension can really grab you and make you feel connected with the song. 

Here are some examples of dissonance in a few songs.

  • Neil Youngs “Old Man”. The tune starts off this the dissonance before resolving to the D (I chord).
  • The Doors “Not to Touch the Earth”. Each verse is dissonant. Listen to the first 45 seconds of the song before the dissonance resolves into the refrain
  • Soul Pigeons “From the Mountain”. The main riff of our song has a flat 7th note as it descends and resolves back to the riff
  • Soul Pigeons “Bound” features a fully dissonant 6 second section that starts at 1:25

CLICK HERE to hear a playlist of these songs

The most common places to use dissonances is in a bridge or musical transition into a lead. For example, a V7 chord is a chord that naturally wants to resolve to the I chord. By substituting a diminished chord for the V7 you instantly create a very displeasing tension that begs resolution.   

I would wager that every one of your favorite songs are using V7 chords that resolve to the 1 chord! 

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