A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Preparation

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PREPARATION. The possibility of using a very large proportion of the dissonant combinations in music was only discovered at first through the process of 'suspension,' which amounts to the delaying of the progression of a part or voice out of a concordant combination while the other parts move on to a fresh combination; so that until the delayed part moves also to its destination a dissonance is heard. As long as the parts which have moved first wait for the suspended notes to move into their places before moving further, the group belongs to the order of ordinary suspensions (Ex. 1); but when they move again while the part which was as it were left behind moves into its place, a different class of discords is created (Ex. 2).

<< \time 3/4 \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \new Staff << \new Voice { \stemUp \partial 4 \relative c'' { c4^"Ex. 1." ^~ c b \bar "||" c^"Ex. 2." ^~ c b \bar "||" } }
  \new Voice { \stemDown \relative c' { c4 f2 c4 f d } } >>
\new Staff { \clef bass e4 d2 e4 d g } >>
In both these cases the sounding of the discordant note in the previous combination (i.e. the upper C in the first chord of both examples) is called the 'preparation' of the discord, and the latter class are sometimes distinguished especially as prepared discords. The note which prepares a discord must be ultimately capable of being taken without preparation; hence for a long while only absolutely concordant notes could be used for the purpose. But when by degrees the Dominant seventh, and later the major and minor ninths of the Dominant, and some similarly constructed chromatic chords of seventh and ninth, came to be used as freely as concords, their discordant notes became equally available to prepare less privileged discords.