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11/24/10 8:30 AM

Voice Leading –
• Introduction
• Voice ranges
o Bass – F to C
o Tenor – D to G
o Alto – G to D
o Soprano – C to G
o As choirs became more skilled, many composers extended
these ranges
o These parts are not only the basis for choral music, but for
orchestral music as well.
• Basic rules concerning voices
o Avoid crossing voices; sometimes justified if it improves
voice leading
o Spacing. The largest interval between S & A and A & T is
one octave. Try to keep the interval between T & B to an
octave and a fifth, but never greater than two octaves.
o Do not overlap voices by more than a whole step
• Unbreakable rules
o Avoid parallel perfect octaves, fifths and unisons.
o Never double the leading tone of the scale.
o Avoid the melodic A2 and A4 in all voices.
• General rules
o In the S and B parts avoid similar motion to a perfect
o Use unequal fifths (P5 to d5; d5 to P5) sparingly.
o The leading tone must move upwards to the tonic in the
Soprano or Bass voices
o Melodic diminished and Augmented intervals
 No melodic A2 and A4
 Melodic d5 occasionally appears in the B
 Melodic d4 may be used occasionally in the harmonic
minor (mediant to leading tone)
• Stylistic Practices – Follow these to avoid problems with the
above rules!!!
o Practice 1 – Root position, roots P5 or P4 apart
 Keep common tone, move other voices by step to
nearest chord tone
o Practice 2 – Root position, roots P5 or P4 apart
 Move all three upper voices in similar motion to the
nearest chord tome
o Practice 3 – Root position, roots a third apart
 Keep both common tones and move the remaining
voices by step.
o Practice 4 – Root position, roots a second apart
 Move upper three voices in contrary motion to the
bass to the nearest chord tone of the next chord.
EXCEPTION: V to (vi or VI). Here, double the third in
the VI. Only two voices will move in contrary motion
to the bass.

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