Author Topic: 4-part writing: first inversion chords  (Read 12542 times)

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calebrw

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4-part writing: first inversion chords
« on: December 11, 2011, 11:40:12 PM »
A quick question on four-part harmony. I had always thought that when a chord was placed in first inversion, you doubled the third note of the chord, but I was reading in a book that it common practice to double the soprano voice, no matter which note of the chord it is. I would rely on the book, but I thought a music professor had taught me to double the third note of the chord, so which is the common practice?

See the example. The first two are doubling the soprano part, while the third doubles the third note of the inverted chord and the fourth example does both.

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RJB54

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2011, 06:25:14 AM »
Take what I have to say with a grain of salt; but, my understanding is that you will find these dicrepancies due to the orientation of a given author/theorist.

Some will say to double the third because it is the bass note of the chord and to them emphasising the fact that the root tone of the chord is not the current bass is of primary importance.

Others will say to double the soprano note, even if it is the third, because they wish to reinforce the main melodic note (which the soprano usually is).

Others are strict adherents of the never double the third school of thought regardless of the situation.

In all cases, however, smooth voice leading is always of importance.

At the end of the day, in situations such as this where there doesn't seem to be a single, universal, rule/guideline you have to make the decision based upon the current musical situation and do what makes the most sense and sounds/feels the best at that moment in both the vertical (harmonic) direction and the horizontal (contrapuntal/melodic) direction.
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winknotes

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2011, 07:30:24 AM »
I totally agree with RJB54 about smooth voice leading.  I think that is paramount.  In my opinion it sounds better if the 3rd is not doubled, but I believe one of the movements of Symphony of Psalms by Stravinsky is an example of lots of doubling of the 3rd.  And that's not an inverted chord either. 

So I suppose I'm saying that I don't know of a specific rule, but that it depends on the sound you want to achieve and as said before that the voice leading is smooth. 
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Ron

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2011, 07:52:55 AM »
The only "rule" you need is: What achieves the sound you want to produce? Most of the rest of the "rules" are personal opinions and preferences that depend on time and place context; in other words: what was "correct" in mid-19th century Vienna is not necessarily "correct" in 18th century Italy. The same applies today, even more so. Some old harmonic rules sound dreadful to contemporary ears.
Ron
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RJB54

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2011, 09:06:02 AM »
As Ron said the context is important.

Some reasons why in common-practice diatonic theory there is a bias against doubling the third is (1) the third is the definer of mode (major/minor) and therefore is, by definition, a strong tone in the chord and doubling it could weaken the chord's identity by possibly overpowering the fifth and weaking the root/fifth relationship, and (2) often, depending on context, the third is a tendency tone wanting to resolve in a particular way, such as in the dominant where the third wants to resolve up to the tonic pitch. Doubling the third in the dominant and following the third's natural tendency to resolve up will result in parallel octaves (assuming the two voices are independant and one is not a simple octave double of the other, which it should not be in contrapuntal exercises).

On the other hand, in jazz and rock contexts movement in parallels is actually often desired so doubling of the third in the counterpoint of your sax section soli is no problem.

On yet another hand, as Ron mentioned, in contemporary theory such diatonic ramifications of the third are often ignored to create specific effects either harmonically or contrapuntally.
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Michel.R.E

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2012, 04:51:44 PM »
it is important not to get too bogged down in "the rules".

that doesn't mean not to learn them.
It means to learn them «within their originally intended context», and to understand WHY they were first established.

Many times, the fundamental reasoning behind these old "rules" is quite logical. For example, the avoidance of parallel octaves is easy to explain once you start doing some basic counterpoint. And once you've understood its application within that context, it is easy to see where it applies completely outside of a common-practice tonal context. However, you also come to understand that the rule against parallel 5ths comes from a completely different reasoning, and realize that that particular rule is far more difficult to justify outside of that common-practice context.

So two similar rules, yet one actually does have a justification for finding application in contemporary music, while the other does not.
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Ed Sharpe

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2012, 11:40:49 AM »
A quick question on four-part harmony. I had always thought that when a chord was placed in first inversion, you doubled the third note of the chord, but I was reading in a book that it common practice to double the soprano voice, no matter which note of the chord it is. I would rely on the book, but I thought a music professor had taught me to double the third note of the chord, so which is the common practice?

See the example. The first two are doubling the soprano part, while the third doubles the third note of the inverted chord and the fourth example does both.

For "standard Hymn harmony"  What I remember from my theory classes (from the Stone Age :)  )  is that we always doubled the root, except when in first inversion the third was doubled IF the chord was a minor chord (ii iii iv), Major chords in first inversion still doubled the root.

The only other thing I will add is that in this "style" you probally will want to never double the fifth.  Omit the fifth and triple the root yes, but double the 5th never.

vivies

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2012, 06:35:14 AM »
A quick question on four-part harmony. I had always thought that when a chord was placed in first inversion, you doubled the third note of the chord, but I was reading in a book that it common practice to double the soprano voice, no matter which note of the chord it is. I would rely on the book, but I thought a music professor had taught me to double the third note of the chord, so which is the common practice?

See the example. The first two are doubling the soprano part, while the third doubles the third note of the inverted chord and the fourth example does both.

Well it depends on the chord...

-If you have a perfect triad (major or minor), classical harmony advice is :

1. double the root
2. double the 5th
3. double the 3rd

-if you deal with a diminished triad, try to double the 3rd

-If you have an augmented triad, double the root or the 3rd

Now, on 1st inversion you can double the bass note on chord IV only.

Jamie Kowalski

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2012, 08:32:12 AM »
Context disclaimer:
Theory has always followed from existing composition, not the other way around. It should be studied to learn how things were written, not how to write.
/disclaimer

In traditional 4-part writing, if you're following good voice leading this particular problem almost always solves itself. As long as you never double the leading tone, everything else will fall into place for you. The rules of harmony follow from the rules of counterpoint, and not the inverse as most people suppose.

Michel.R.E

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2012, 09:23:48 AM »
Context disclaimer:
Theory has always followed from existing composition, not the other way around. It should be studied to learn how things were written, not how to write.
/disclaimer
...snip...
The rules of harmony follow from the rules of counterpoint, and not the inverse as most people suppose.

/sigh

will you marry me?
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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Jamie Kowalski

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2012, 09:35:53 AM »
will you marry me?

Thank you for asking, but my wife would not approve.  :o

Michel.R.E

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2012, 09:56:58 AM »
will you marry me?

Thank you for asking, but my wife would not approve.  :o

LOL

neither would my better half.
"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"

Jamie Kowalski

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Re: 4-part writing: first inversion chords
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2012, 11:28:12 AM »
On second thought, if it got us into Canada she might actually sign off on that!

But back to the topic at hand (mostly)...


I've always found the idea that counterpoint lead to harmony a wonderfully enlightening subject to broach with anyone studying theory (or, gasp, counterpoint!). It's the sort of idea that is easy to miss, but is quite plain and easy to accept once you start looking at examples of very early music. For me, it begged the question: What does harmony look like if you change the rules of counterpoint? I spent a number of compositions examining that question, and it was a very fertile time for my music.

At Oberlin I took a class in 2- and 3-part Renaissance Counterpoint, and it was a real eye-opener. I was already completely versed in traditional counterpoint, and this was a different animal all together. The first assumption to go out the window was that the rules would be simpler by virtue of the fact that the music sounds simpler. Boy was I wrong!