Blog entry by Thomas Evdokimoff

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by Thomas Evdokimoff - Monday, 5 October 2015, 10:34 AM
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Basic Harmony, Intermediate Harmony, Advanced Harmony, Counterpoint

In harmony, we learn how to write chord progressions in a four-part setting, and in keyboard style. The task at hand is to connect a series of chords in a way that retains the individual lines of music, soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. To acommplish this task, students learn a collection of rules and senarios. For basic chord progressions, ones that move from the tonic chord through to the dominant, then resolve back to the tonic, students can apply three basic principles of voice-leading in order.

  1. Resolve any active tones
  2. Connect voices by common tone
  3. Move any remaining voices by step or small skip.

Active tones include the tritone pair in dominant-type chords (leading tone and subdominant of the current key), the seventh of a chord, and any chromatically altered chord tones.

Two different versions of the progression V7-I will serve as examples.

principles of voice-leading

In the first example, the V7 chord is complete, it has all four pitches present. The bass is taken care of since both chords are in root position. The focus will be on solving the upper voices.

The V7 chord has two active tones, the leading note and the subdominant note of the key. In C major, they are B, identified as LN, and F, as SD, respectively.  These are the active tones of the chord that must be resolved first.  The three principles apply in order:

  1. Resolve active tones:
    the leading note rises by step to C, while the subdominant falls by step to E
  2. Connect common tones:
    there are no common tones in the remaining voice.
  3. Move the remaining voices by step or small skip:
    the D moves down by step to C, here creating an incomplete I chord with the root tripled and the fifth omitted.

The second example shows an alternate spelling of V7 with the root doubled and the fifth omitted. Notice how voice leading applies here.

principles of voice-leading

  1. Resolve active tones:
    the tritone resolves as before, B to C, and F to E
  2. Connect common tones:
    G moves to G
  3. Move any remaining voices by step or small skip:
    there are no remaining voices
[ Modified: Wednesday, 7 October 2015, 10:36 AM ]