False Relation

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False Relation


the contradiction between the sound of a natural note and its chromatically altered counterpart in another voice. In diatonic harmony, a false relation usually creates the impression of a “false” (“bad”) sound, and therefore the rules of musical composition prohibit its use in chordal texture. It is permitted only as a barely noticeable by-product where there is developed voice-leading, or as a special expressive technique, to convey sorrow or morbidity, for example.

The false relation was often used in romantic and postromantic music as one of the means associated with the nondiatonic elements of the tonalities (for example, the part of Kashchei’s wife in N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Kashchei the Immortal). In 20th-century music the false relation is frequently encountered as a standard means in the chromatic tonal system.


Tchaikovsky, P. I. “Rukovodstvo k prakticheskomu izucheniiu garmonii.” Poln. sobr. soch, vol. 3. Moscow, 1957.
Rimsky-Korsakov, N. A. “Prakticheskii uchebnik garmonii.” Poln. sobr. soch, vol. 4. Moscow, 1960.
Tiulin, Iu. N., and N. G. Privano. Teoreticheskie osnovy garmonii, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1965. Pages 210–15.
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