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"Voice-leading" implies the "smoothest" or least amount of note change from one chord to the next. This would subsequently involve searching for all the "common-tones" between those chords. If few or no common-tones can be found, "chromatic motion" is the next best voice-leading vehicle.

Of course, occasionally you'll have to settle for whole-step or wider motion, and these sounds might even prove better or more appropriate at times. The following displays just some of the line possibilities over the given progression. Emphasis is given to common-tones and chromatic motion with the occasional use of whole-step motion.

Now I'll pick two of the above lines and harmonize each note. I'll begin by placing the notes of each line in the top voice of each one of my chords. Later you might experiment with placing lines in the middle or bottom voices. You can also add your own voicings to the lines I've picked if mine don't thrill you.

Example 1

Example 2

Probably the greatest benefit derived from voice-leading is "phrasing". Voice-leading groups two or more chords together into a single phrase and this phrase is then heard as one sound instead of all the different sounds each chord individually possesses.

Be patient! Harmony and voice-leading constitute a lifetime of discovery and commitment, and "a little at a time" goes a long way.

If you'd like to continue studying these along with additional harmonic concepts, check out my 275-page book entitled "Mel Bay's Complete Book of Harmony, Theory, and Voicing".

Bret Willmott

About the Author
Bret is a highly acclaimed professor at Berklee College of Music and a noted educator, author, and performer world-wide. His musical history would include studies and performances with Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Mick Goodrick, Bill Frisell, Wolfgang Muthspiel, and Jeff Berlin, as well as guest appearing on CD's with Mike Stern, Dan Gottlieb, and Bob Moses. Bret has achieved world-wide recognition with his first major publication, an impressive book entitled "Mel Bay's Complete Book of Harmony, Theory, and Voicing".

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