Robert Estrin - piano expert

What is Atonality? - Part 1

Learn what atonality means and how it is distinctive from tonal music.

In this video, Robert tells you about atonality and how it is distinctive from tonal music.

Released on August 5, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome to and I am Robert Estrin with the first in a two-part series. What is atonality? You've heard it in spooky movies and such where the notes clash, and you have strange dissonances. Unlike most music which is melodic and you could sing, atonal music is much more complex.

So whereas most music, Western music, that is is based upon major and minor scales forming nice tonal music that's pretty and digestible, atonal music is based upon oftentimes what's called the tone row or all 12 notes. All the chromatics are arranged in some pattern of a random nature that the entire piece is built upon. So atonal, for example, like this. Imagine building a piece out of that instead of a major scale. And you could end up with all kinds of dissonances. Chords like that will occur.

So that is, in a nutshell, what atonality is. Built upon tone rows, having all 12 tones instead of just the 7th plus the 8th note being the 1st note, again, of a major or minor scale. And we can go into more depth about what atonality is in future videos. Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin, here at and
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Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on August 5, 2015 @2:09 pm PST
Some atonalities are more than my ears can take!
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