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Thread: Four Part Writing Questions

  1. #1
    Registered User TheAristocrat's Avatar
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    Question Four Part Writing Questions

    Hi,
    I have some quick questions that have been bugging me over the past few weeks.

    Direct/Hidden Octaves & Fifths
    I have seen that you cant approach a P5 or P8 by contrary motion. I read that online, but it's not in my harmony book (Piston's 5th edition). Is it correct? Or just not part of the common practice period? Also, I'm confused about approaching P5 and P8 by similar motion. I've see some conflicting information on this:

    1.You can forget this rule altogether in 4 part textures.
    2.It is only restricted to the outside voices, Soprano and Bass.
    3.You must check for this in all voices, like when you check for parallel P5s/P8s/PUs.

    Which one is right? Should I just continue checking for it in all voices?

    One last thing? Does every voice have to be followed by the closest note? From V-I the D can ascend a M2 to E or descend a M2 to C. Any particular preference here? Or just go with whichever fits the situation?

    With regards to parallel motion, are parallel 2nds ok? They arent mentioned anywhere I've been. I know that 3rds, 6ths, 4ths and tritone are all ok, but just curious why 2nds/7ths are not mentioned.

    Thanks for your time.

    regards
    TheAristocrat
    Last edited by TheAristocrat; 10-03-2009 at 05:31 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User TheAristocrat's Avatar
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    Does anyone here know anything about voice leading at all?

  3. #3
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheAristocrat View Post
    Does anyone here know anything about voice leading at all?
    Well, I can play voice lead progressions. I use voice leading all the time when writing rhythm guitar parts. However I am completely oblivious to any of the, so called, "rules of voice motion". I wouldn't consider these to be firm rules anyway:
    1.) If you want to play pop/rock/jazz/metal/blues (basically any modern style), use your ears to decide which voice movements work and which don't. I appreciate this doesn't really help a lot.
    2.) If you need to pass an exam, I can't help you at all, sorry.
    3.) If you need to characterise a certain classical composition style: I am completely clueless.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheAristocrat View Post
    Hi,
    I have some quick questions that have been bugging me over the past few weeks.

    Direct/Hidden Octaves & Fifths
    I have seen that you cant approach a P5 or P8 by contrary motion. I read that online, but it's not in my harmony book (Piston's 5th edition). Is it correct? Or just not part of the common practice period? Also, I'm confused about approaching P5 and P8 by similar motion. I've see some conflicting information on this:

    1.You can forget this rule altogether in 4 part textures.
    2.It is only restricted to the outside voices, Soprano and Bass.
    3.You must check for this in all voices, like when you check for parallel P5s/P8s/PUs.

    Which one is right? Should I just continue checking for it in all voices?

    One last thing? Does every voice have to be followed by the closest note? From V-I the D can ascend a M2 to E or descend a M2 to C. Any particular preference here? Or just go with whichever fits the situation?

    With regards to parallel motion, are parallel 2nds ok? They arent mentioned anywhere I've been. I know that 3rds, 6ths, 4ths and tritone are all ok, but just curious why 2nds/7ths are not mentioned.

    Thanks for your time.

    regards
    TheAristocrat
    Ugh!

    I never paid attention to that stuff in my orchestration classes. When In doubt play in unison !!!

    I recall there are some rules about major 2nd's and P5's in Bass Clef for trombones/Bass sax. Cant help you though.. Does it sound bad? Usually that's an indicator. Your ears are your friend.

    Maybe if you post a few bars and a midi of the areas in question we can find an answer together

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheAristocrat View Post
    Hi,

    One last thing? Does every voice have to be followed by the closest note? From V-I the D can ascend a M2 to E or descend a M2 to C. Any particular preference here? Or just go with whichever fits the situation?

    With regards to parallel motion, are parallel 2nds ok? They arent mentioned anywhere I've been. I know that 3rds, 6ths, 4ths and tritone are all ok, but just curious why 2nds/7ths are not mentioned.

    Thanks for your time.

    regards
    TheAristocrat
    There are numerous choices for voicing's such as 'close' and 'drop'. With close voicing's usually you keep the harmony blocked up so each note will follow its closest neighbour(assuming it gives you the sound your after) You have the answer though. Unless your being told(if its for a class) to use certain voicing's. Go with what ever suits your taste.

    Your going to need to be more specific about your parallel 2nd's and 7th's. Once again, post an example of something your having trouble with. It will help tremendously.

  6. #6
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheAristocrat View Post
    Does anyone here know anything about voice leading at all?
    I never studied this stuff I'm afraid. I read a bit, but not enough to answer your question properly.
    (Jazz voice-leading is different from the kind of counterpoint questions you're asking.)

    There are people who can probably help you on these sites:
    http://www.thegearpage.net/board/forumdisplay.php?f=30 (no more knowledgeable than this site on average, IMO, but a hell of a lot more subscribers- definitely many who will be able to help)
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/forumdisplay.php?f=34 (jazz, but many of them classically qualified)
    http://forum.emusictheory.com/list.php?5 (not many contributors, but classical bias and well trained)

  7. #7
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    the 4ths and 5ths are the ones you have to look out for the most. Make sure you don't have any large leaps that you shouldn't. Your 7ths resolve correctly (downward I believe). If you want more info I will try and dig it up for you.

  8. #8
    The Riff Master zog's Avatar
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    You do not want to approach consecutive P5's or P8's by contrary motion.
    As far as I can remember parallel 2nds are ok, but everything really depends on the voicing of the chords and which notes are in the soprano voice.

    If you are really serious about learning correct SATB rules then I might recommend that you check out the book Basic Harmonic Progressions by John Clough and Joyce Conley. This book is expensive (about 50 dollars) but if you can work your way through it then you will have accomplished a lot. Don't let the title fool you, it is a college level book.

  9. #9
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    The standard four part theory is only a guideline and Bach himself didn't follow it all the time. First of all you have to keep in mind, that the soprano voice is the melody so to speak and you shouldn't write anything without considering this first. My theory teacher always told me that my voice leading was good but my soprano melody was lame and that was putting the cart before the horse so to speak.

    As you know the bass voice is predetermined.

    Therefore the point is with your two middle voices, alto and tenor.

    It doesn't matter how you approach octaves, 4ths and 5ths theoretically. You just want to avoid parallel motion regarding these.

    Avoid large jumps.

    If possible keep common tones and the rest will work out.

    Also, keep in mind, all the theory we are talking about is regarding the baroque period and is not universal to present day voice leading to some extent.

  10. #10
    Registered User SkinnyDevil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    The standard four part theory is only a guideline and (1) Bach himself didn't follow it all the time.....

    (2) keep in mind, all the theory we are talking about is regarding the baroque period and is not universal to present day voice leading to some extent.
    Chris - Thanx for making these points.

    Aristocrat - I have Piston's book, but my question is why do YOU have Piston's book? Are they still using it at university, or are you studying this on your own? 5th edition? Wasn't that last printed in the 1980s?

    Piston taught me a lot, but there are probably better books available now.
    Last edited by SkinnyDevil; 11-15-2009 at 01:23 AM. Reason: clarity
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