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Part-writing in Chorales Crossing Parts – Don’t do it!

Overlaps  An overlap occurs if two neighbouring parts, such as tenor and bass, move so that the lower part in the second chord is higher than the upper part in the first chord, or vice versa, as shown in Example 6.11.1 (i) and (ii) below. This is best avoided by choosing a different note to double. Some overlaps are acceptable, such as the cadential progressions shown in (iii) and (iv) below, but even here the overlap could be avoided by taking the bass down to a low G. Note that an overlap from the end of one phrase to the start of the next, as shown in (v), is perfectly acceptable. It may even be desirable when, as here, the new phrase doesn’t start with a change of chord, and so needs a different layout of notes in order to sound distinct.

Doubling – Follow earlier notes Dissonances    The effect of a suspension or 7th chord is spoiled if the resolution of the dissonance is sounded at the same time in another part. All suspensions, along with the 7th in chord ii7b should always be prepared and resolved. When using the cadential 6/4 (aka Ic-V-I) ensure that the 6th and 4th above the bass in chord Ic fall respectively to the 5th and 3rd above the bass in chord V. Bach regarded a 4th above the bass as dissonance, so it should be prepared in the preceding chord whenever possible – failing that, it should be approached by stepwise movement from above.

Consecutives   Consecutive 5ths, octaves or unisons between any pair of parts must be avoided. A perfect 5th followed by a diminished 5th in the same pair of parts is usually best avoided, especially between the bass and an upper part.

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A danger of too much similar motion between soprano and bass is the creation of exposed 5ths and exposed octaves. These can only occur between the outer parts, and only within a phrase (not between the end of one phrase and the start of the next). They happen where: o The soprano leaps and the bass moves in the same direction (by step or leap) so that the two parts arrive on a perfect 5th or an octave Exposed 5ths and octaves, shown in Ex.6.11.2, sound poor because the perfect intervals concerned are too prominent, too ‘exposed’. In the outer parts it is also preferable to avoid consecutive 5ths or octaves even when produced by contrary motion. These 5th and octaves by contrary motion are shown in (iii) and (iv) below.

Because of these special points about the outer parts, never add A and T until you are sure there are no consecutive 5ths or 8ves (including any by contrary motion) or exposed 5ths or 8ves between S and B. Then complete A and T, aiming for as much conjunct movement as possible, and finally carry out checks on all six pairs of parts. Sometimes it isn’t easy to remove consecutives. If they exist between S and B before passing notes have been added, the choice of chords is faulty, so choose one or more different chords. If consecutives arise between other pairs of parts, the doubling in one or more chords may be unsuitable. Too much similar motion between soprano and bass sometimes makes it difficult to avoid consecutives between other parts. They are far less likely to arise if the bass moves in contrary motion to the soprano as much as possible.

In the following two passages, there are a number of mistakes, including awkward partcrossing, incorrect doubling, poor chord-spacing, overlapping and consecutives. Find and label each mistake – the first one has been done for you.