Author Topic: Voice Leading  (Read 5181 times)

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Ron

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Voice Leading
« on: June 28, 2011, 10:02:52 AM »
I found this on the old forum. It is an "anonymous" guide to voice-leading with additional comments by Hal.

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Fortunately, I was able to refind the file. I can't promise to be able to do this for any other files. :)

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« Last Edit: October 16, 2011, 04:56:30 PM by Ron »
Ron
Rules? What rules?

Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2011, 09:18:38 PM »
Ron, thanks for posting this list.  As I struggle along trying to pick up music theory I'm struck that although all authors recognize voice leading as very important, they don't seem to agree a common description of the rules of voice leading.  Some of the differences, I suspect, is whether describe common practice usage, or are intended to be more inclusive.  At any rate, it's handy to have author's interpretation of the subject.

Comparing the book I'm currently going through (Laitz's The Complete Musician) with this, Laitz has a set of introductory background paragraphs that cover many of the rules in this list.  He follows those paragraphs with 4 rules and 8 guidelines.  Only 2 of the rules are inviolate:
  • No consecutive unisons, octaves or fifths, whether by parallel or contrary motion
  • Do not double tendency notes
 
Hal adds that second rule as sort of a minor point at the end, but certainly doesn't stress its importance.  Is it as important as Laitz says?

Liatz's 1st rule doesn't even appear in this list (unless it is part of this list's rule 6): Resolve tendency tones by a step (except for the leading tone in an inner voice).  He particularly points out that the seventh of a V7 must always resolve down.  (I'm a bit sensitive about this rule because I think I've violated it all over the place.)

Pat

Ron

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2011, 07:49:46 AM »
When I run across "rules" like: the seventh of a V7 must always resolve down, I'm tempted to write a piece where every 7th resolves upwards.  :'(
Ron
Rules? What rules?

Michel.R.E

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2011, 08:23:06 AM »
the logic of the 7th resolving down is that it, along with the 3rd of the chord (the leading tone), create an augmented 4th, which normally resolves "inward" in tonal music. Since the leading tone "leads" upward to the tonic, the 7th of the chord cannot move upward, and logically calls for a resolution of dissonance downward.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Ron

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2011, 09:20:24 AM »
But, what if you are not logical, like me?
Ron
Rules? What rules?

Michel.R.E

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2011, 09:26:07 AM »
just saying what was behind that "rule".
for the way harmony and intervals functioned at the time, the "rule" made sense.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Ron

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2011, 10:27:22 AM »
Not to be difficult, but, just a PITA, I don't think that the attached fragment is that bad, despite the rising 7ths.  ;D


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Ron
Rules? What rules?

Michel.R.E

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2011, 12:52:37 PM »
but the 7ths in the "rule" are dominant 7ths, which the ones in your example aren't.
They also aren't resolving to the harmony which NORMALLY would be their target. That's a very important point to differentiate.

it is important to understand WHY certain rules were set in place, and what musical thought was at the origin of those rules.

obviously a composer will more than likely seek ways of breaching rules, of stretching and breaking them. (Bach, Passacaglia for organ, look at the number of parallel and direct 5ths and octaves in the opening measures, it's astounding.. yet... what's astounding is that they don't SOUND wrong. but he VERY cleverly disguised them.)

When I was studying counterpoint, one of the "rules" was that suspensions always resolve downward. It took me a few days, but I managed to create a lengthy exercise with absolutely no questionable nor erroneous passages, where a number of suspensions resolved upward. They worked. It was "do-able". But it took a LOT of work to find the right context in which to do it. I understand now WHY that rule was in place. Badly done, rising resolution of suspensions is just bad music-making.

Likewise the idea of the Aug4th within a dominant 7th chord always resolving "inward" is a great way for the student to understand the role those two notes play within the tonal and harmonic context of a passage. It makes the student more aware of the rising nature of the leading tone. It makes the student more aware of the manner in which the dissonance of an augmented 4th wants to be treated.

So yes, rules are there to be broken... by a student who has finally assimilated the material in question.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2011, 07:49:32 AM by Michel.R.E »
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2011, 07:58:07 AM »
but the 7ths in the "rule" are dominant 7ths, which the ones in your example aren't.

it is important to understand WHY certain rules were set in place, and what musical thought was at the origin of those rules.

obviously a composer will more than likely seek ways of breaching rules, of stretching and breaking them.
I'm quite sure the "rule" I mentioned applies only to common practice.  It certainly applies only to music where the concepts such as tendency tones and tonal resolution exist.

(Bach, organ toccata , look at the number of parallel and direct 5ths and octaves in the opening measures, it's astounding.. yet... what's astounding is that they don't SOUND wrong. but he VERY cleverly disguised them.)
I recently read an analysis that proposed that organ toccata might not be by Bach - that it contains too many features (such as the parallels you mentioned) that are rare in Bach's works.  But even if that analysis is correct your comment holds: they don't sound wrong.


I understand now WHY that rule was in place. Badly done, rising resolution of suspensions is just bad music-making.

Likewise the idea of the Aug4th within a dominant 7th chord always resolving "inward" is a great way for the student to understand the role those two notes play within the tonal and harmonic context of a passage. It makes the student more aware of the rising nature of the leading tone. It makes the student more aware of the manner in which the dissonance of an augmented 4th wants to be treated.

So yes, rules are there to be broken... by a student who has finally assimilated the material in question.
And some of us need all the help we can get in assimilating the material.  The rules help, but really only as reminders of the musical effects that underlie those rules.

Pat

Michel.R.E

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2011, 09:06:56 AM »
quick correction to my initial post: it's the Passacaglia in C minor. not the toccata. it is most definitely Bach.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2011, 09:48:57 AM »
My comments were about the Toccata and Fugue in D minor.  I have no idea if the comments are valid.


Michel.R.E

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2011, 10:33:23 AM »
no problem.
I had accidentally typed "toccata" while thinking "passacaglia"... it happens. I suspect it's called senility!
(my initial post mentioning it has since been corrected)
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Shevek

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2011, 11:56:43 PM »
My composition teacher Rick Lesemann likes to say that rules in music are just a particular way of viewing what might be otherwise understood as conventions or choices. Each of these three perspectives has its place, but it is important always to be cognizant that none is correct in any sort of objective sense. The only rules that are objectively unbreakable are the physical properties of sound and the practical capabilities of instruments. Insofar as the goal of practical voice leading is to aurally differentiate independent voices, avoidance of parallels is an intuitive consequence of an acoustic phenomenon: when voices sound in the same intervallic relationship, especially if that relationship is harmonic (from the harmonic series), they aurally merge into a single voice with a complex timbre. Which intervals may be written parallel and which may not is a question partially of musical language: in tertian harmony, parallel fifths reduce voice independence, but parallel thirds are acceptable; in the harmonic language of many of my pieces, however, the primary consonances are fifths, and so parallel fifths are allowed, while parallel thirds create some problems.

In general, allowing varied qualities of the same interval can help remove the sense of voice merging. Diatonic parallel thirds, for instance, since they alternate between major and minor thirds, create an impression of an acoustic fundamental moving not in parallel with the voices, which makes it difficult to perceive the voices as merged. Parallel minor thirds or especially major thirds, on the other hand, in particular if they are tuned pure and/or spaced out as tenths or larger, can create such a strong impression of voice merging that transpositions utterly inharmonic to the prevailing tonality can be employed as doublings. On the other end of the spectrum, parallel octaves where some of the octaves are diminished or augmented tend not to come across as independent voices, but rather as colorfully inexact doublings. The reason for this, I think, is that on the one hand augmented and diminished octaves are heard, especially in equal temperament, as minor ninths and major sevenths, while on the other hand perfect octaves have a powerful acoustic effect of subsuming the higher pitch into the lower. When this technique is used with instruments of similar timbre, an effect is often created where a second voice seems to pop in and out of existence whenever the music switches between perfect and imperfect octaves.

The essence of harmonic counterpoint (as opposed to inharmonic counterpoint, like in some Xenakis works) is to write a sequence of intervals that imply a sequence of acoustic fundamental notes moving not in parallel with the voices themselves. Since this effect is weakened by many octave leaps in the implied fundamental, rapid switching between harsh dissonances and perfect consonances must be carefully managed, or else the effect of counterpoint is lessened: the voices either sound like they have nothing to do with each other, or they sound like an inexact doubling.

These principles, applied practically with an understanding of the acoustic relationships of each interval, can also make sense of parallel motion in various other intervals.

vivies

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2012, 06:28:24 AM »

Liatz's 1st rule doesn't even appear in this list (unless it is part of this list's rule 6): Resolve tendency tones by a step (except for the leading tone in an inner voice).  He particularly points out that the seventh of a V7 must always resolve down.  (I'm a bit sensitive about this rule because I think I've violated it all over the place.)

Pat

Well the downwards resolution of the 7th by step is called "Natural resolution" that occurs when the harmonic progression goes from a dominant chord to a tonic chord. But when the dominant chord does not resolve to the tonic chord, the 7th may have exceptional resolutions such as : ascending 1 step or remaining in place, or changing by enharmony..

Don't consider rules like a divine word. The rules depends on the period, languages, styles, composers.
Did you know J.S Bach never wrote a "school fugue" ? exception is often the trademark of genius !  ;)

Michel.R.E

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Re: Voice Leading
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2012, 06:32:14 AM »
the resolution of a "dominant 7th" is ALWAYS down.

if it resolves otherwise, it is not a dominant 7th, but simply a 7th on V.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"