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Artemy Biryukov
Artemy Biryukov

Harmony Voice Leading (4th Edition)

Harmony & Voice Leading is a thorough, well-written and well-illustrated book. It deals extensively and exhaustively with the basic musical theory necessary to understand harmony; more advanced topics are then covered, such as dissonance and chromaticism as part of a wider discussion of voice-leading. This fourth edition (it's a volume with a venerable history), published this year, now contains detailed coverage of species counterpoint.

Harmony Voice Leading (4th edition)

Voice leading (or part writing) is the linear progression of individual melodic lines (voices or parts) and their interaction with one another to create harmonies, typically in accordance with the principles of common-practice harmony and counterpoint.[1]

Rigorous concern for voice leading is of greatest importance in common-practice music, although jazz and pop music also demonstrate attention to voice leading to varying degrees. In Jazz Theory, Gabriel Sakuma writes that "[a]t the surface level, jazz voice-leading conventions seem more relaxed than they are in common-practice music."[2] Marc Schonbrun also states that while it is untrue that "popular music has no voice leading in it, [...] the largest amount of popular music is simply conceived with chords as blocks of information, and melodies are layered on top of the chords."[3]

The score below shows the first four measures of the C-major prelude from J.S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1. Letter (a) presents the original score while (b) and (c) present reductions (simplified versions) intended to clarify the harmony and implied voice leading, respectively.

Schenker indeed did not present the rules of voice leading merely as contrapuntal rules, but showed how they are inseparable from the rules of harmony and how they form one of the most essential aspects of musical composition.[6] (See Schenkerian analysis: voice leading.)

Western musicians have tended to teach voice leading by focusing on connecting adjacent harmonies because that skill is foundational to meeting larger, structural objectives.Common-practice conventions dictate that melodic lines should be smooth and independent. To be smooth, they should be primarily conjunct (stepwise), avoid leaps that are difficult to sing, approach and follow leaps with movement in the opposite direction, and correctly handle tendency tones (primarily, the leading-tone, but also the , which often moves down to ).[8] To be independent, they should avoid parallel fifths and octaves.

Contrapuntal conventions likewise consider permitted or forbidden melodic intervals in individual parts, intervals between parts, the direction of the movement of the voices with respect to each other, etc. Whether dealing with counterpoint or harmony, these conventions emerge not only from a desire to create easy-to-sing parts[9] but also from the constraints of tonal materials[10][vague] and from the objectives behind writing certain textures.[vague]

A Schenkerian analysis perspective on these roles shifts the discussion somewhat from "outer and inner voices" to "upper and bass voices." Although the outer voices still play the dominant, form-defining role in this view, the leading soprano voice is often seen as a composite line that draws on the voice leadings in each of the upper voices of the imaginary continuo.[26] Approaching harmony from a non-Schenkerian perspective, Dmitri Tymoczko nonetheless also demonstrates such "3+1" voice leading, where "three voices articulate a strongly crossing-free voice leading between complete triads [...], while a fourth voice adds doublings," as a feature of tonal writing.[27]

For example, viio6 often substitutes for V43, which it closely resembles, and its use may be required in situations by voice leading: "In a strict four-voice texture, if the bass is doubled by the soprano, the VII6 [viio6] is required as a substitute for the V43".[19]

In a four-part chorale texture, the third of the leading-tone triad is doubled in order to avoid adding emphasis on the tritone created by the root and the fifth. Unlike a dominant chord where the leading-tone can be frustrated and not resolve to the tonic if it is in an inner voice, the leading-tone in a leading-tone triad must resolve to the tonic. Commonly, the fifth of the triad resolves down since it is phenomenologically similar to the seventh in a dominant seventh chord. All in all, the tritone resolves inward if it is written as a diminished fifth (m. 1 below) and outward if it is written as an augmented fourth (m. 2).

The following information on voice leading is excerpted from the Berklee Online courses Harmony 2, authored by George Russell, Jr. and Steven Kirby, Music Application and Theory, authored by Eunmi Shim, and Music Theory 101, authored by Paul Schmeling. All three courses are enrolling now.

The term voice refers to a melodic line as part of a harmonic progression. Although the term implies singing, it can be either sung or played by an instrument. The standard four-part harmony consists of four voices: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, often abbreviated as SATB, according to their range from the top to the bottom. Please note that in voice leading, the term bass indicates the lowest-sounding voice.

This shows that voice leading can be a result of placing chords in various positions, which can make the movement between the chords smoother. In particular, the concept of the common tone, the same note shared by two chords, is very important, because if you repeat the common tone in the same voice, there is no movement, which is the smoothest way of voice leading.

This is a fascinating aspect of harmony: a series of chords, vertical structures in themselves, can produce linear melodic lines through effective voice leading. Because of the smooth motion, effective voice leading will make it easy to sing the notes or play the chords on a keyboard.

In traditional music theory, standard four-part harmony is notated on a grand staff with the soprano and the alto written on the upper staff, and the tenor and the bass on the lower staff. In Berklee harmony, chords are notated differently in that the upper staff contains three voices, while the lower staff contains only the bass. This type of arrangement is called three-way close voicing with independent bass.

The theory section is divided into five parts: 1) Part Writing; 2) Analysis; 3) Form; 4) Counterpoint; 5) Twentieth-century techniques. For the first, be able to demonstrate, in written fashion, the suggested voice leading, part writing and figure bass skills. For the other parts, be able to identify items when you see them in musical excerpts, and be able to provide appropriate analyses of given musical examples.

An introduction to the elements and processes of voice leading during the period of triadic tonality through the study of species counterpoint and diatonic harmonic processes. Students are expected to attain a sound understanding of the elements and processes of voice leading and diatonic harmonic function within the Western musical tradition, and be able to demonstrating this understanding through regular assignments in analysis and composition. Students should also gain familiarity with the Western canon through set works for listening and study.

Other information: Students will not be permitted to use a piano for assistance on any part of the exam. In preparing for the exam, students may use for study and reference the latest editions of these widely-available theory texts: Benjamin, Horvit, Koozin and Nelson, Techniques and Materials of Music: From the Common Practice through the Twentieth Century, (on voice-leading theory and practice and twentieth-century materials); Aldwell and Schachter, Harmony and Voice Leading (on voice leading theory and practice); Robert Gauldin, A Practical Approach to 18th-Century Counterpoint; Douglass Green, Form in Tonal Music; Stefan Kostka, Materials and Techniques of Twentieth-Century Music. For more information and a sample exam, see tkoozin/theory/diagnostic-exams.html 041b061a72


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