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Thread: Four-Part Harmony Exercise

  1. #1
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Post Four-Part Harmony Exercise

    This is continued from the previous "Figured Bass" thread which can be found here.

    The following is an exercise designed to test the "rules" of four-part harmony, which largely come from the practice of J.S. Bach in the first half of the 18th century, but many of the basic principles continued to be followed by later classical composers throughout the tonal era.

    This is not jazz, nor is it intended for other "modern" or "popular" styles of music. However, the completion of such exercises may nevertheless be useful to help hone a general musical technique, although you should respect the style in question - turning the exercise into something it isn't is not likely to be fruitful. Anyone who wishes to do so is invited to have a go at the exercise. I will offer feedback on solutions that respect the "Bachian" style (and how well they succeed in doing this).

    Remember; it is not just the chords that are important, but voice leading (AKA part writing) too.
    The relevant "rules" can be found in any decent harmony book; I recommend this one.

    So, here is the first exercise:
    Below are two phrases of the Soprano line of a chorale. Your task is to add parts for Alto, Tenor, and Bass to complete a four-part setting in the style of J.S. Bach. Use diatonic chords in root position and first inversion. Change chord (or position of chord) on each note.
    Tip: Work out the key first, then work backwards from the cadence points.

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Just letting you know this hasn't fallen on stony ground...
    I plan on having a crack at this once school term has finished (not long now...)

    EDIT: in fact, I just had a quick stab at it! A parallel 5th slipped into attempt #1, so this is #2:
    JJ_ex1.jpg
    (I immediately see something I don't like, but I'll let you offer your comments first.)
    Last edited by JonR; 07-16-2014 at 09:31 AM.

  3. #3
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    I just had a quick stab at it!
    Generally good, some comments:

    Don't forget the key signature!!

    Chords 1-2: Parallel octaves between soprano and bass.

    Chord 3: The leap up to the seventh isn't particularly stylistic, but not the worst sin in the book.

    Chord 4: You have a doubled major third here, but they move nicely in contrary motion, so you'd probably get away with it (Bach certainly did!)

    Chord 7: The second inversion doesn't work here.
    Also, more than an octave gap between alto and tenor.

    Chord 8: Cadencing on a root position chord would be more stylistic.
    Also you're missing a fifth; inversions should always be complete.

    Chord 9: Doubled fifth in a root position chord. Not the worst sin, but best avoided.

    Chords 9-10: Parallel fifths between alto and bass.

    Chord 10: Is there a typo here?
    Otherwise this chord is definitely to be avoided (and the seventh needs to fall).
    If you make it I 6/3, the next chord would work as a passing 6/4.

    11 Second inversion, doesn't work unless you make the previous chord I 6/3.
    (Even then, not very "Bach", but it works in the general harmonic style).

    Otherwise, fine.

  4. #4
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    Just letting you know this hasn't fallen on stony ground...
    Right, I haven't quit too...
    I just need more time to complete it...a mix of short available time and lack of knowledge make it longer.

    I use a scheme like the one bellow to help me get an overview of the intervals involved between two adjacent chords (in this case between a Cmaj 5/3 and a Gmaj 6/3).

    SemTiacutetulo_zps88ad2ef2.jpg

    I can find a lot of mistakes or issues with a high potencial for problems in the future.

    I'm now in the middle of my exercise... I hope to post it soon.

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    Generally good, some comments:

    Don't forget the key signature!!
    Oops.
    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    Chords 1-2: Parallel octaves between soprano and bass.
    Ah I didn't know that applied in contrary motion too. Makes sense.
    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    Chord 4: You have a doubled major third here, but they move nicely in contrary motion, so you'd probably get away with it (Bach certainly did!)
    The old cheat!
    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    Chord 7: The second inversion doesn't work here.
    Ah yes. I realised later I forgot your injunction about root position and 1st inversion only. Can you explain why it doesn't work?
    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    Also, more than an octave gap between alto and tenor.
    Oh yes....
    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    Chord 8: Cadencing on a root position chord would be more stylistic.
    OK, but is it wrong exactly?
    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    Also you're missing a fifth; inversions should always be complete.
    Right.
    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    Chord 9: Doubled fifth in a root position chord. Not the worst sin, but best avoided.
    OK
    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    Chords 9-10: Parallel fifths between alto and bass.
    Oh yes. I think I removed one other error there, but obviously substituted another ....
    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    Chord 10: Is there a typo here?
    Otherwise this chord is definitely to be avoided (and the seventh needs to fall).
    ...er, and another!
    Quote Originally Posted by JumpingJack View Post
    If you make it I 6/3, the next chord would work as a passing 6/4.
    Right, thanks.

    I'm going to have another (more considered) go at it...

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    Chord 4: You have a doubled major third here, but they move nicely in contrary motion, so you'd probably get away with it (Bach certainly did!)
    About this one... when you say they move nicely in contrary motion, iis it also true if, for ex, you have a similar motion between chords 3 and 4, and then contrary motion between chords 4 and 5?

    Here is my take on the first phrase... I've used the program checker (only after my own evaluation, on which I've found some errors, mainly parallel ocataves and crossed voices) and I noticed it's so much easier when one uses mainly primary chords.

    EXERC_2-1stphrase_zps5906f504.jpg

    Not the most imaginative piece, I know... but I'm considering to change it... the possibility of using a vi 6/3 followed by ii 5/3 (in chords 4 and 5) is tempting me.

  7. #7
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Can you explain why it doesn't work?
    In this style, second inversion chords are only used in a handful of specific ways.
    The two most common are "Cadential" which is basically I6/4 moving to V5/3, or "Passing" which could be I6/4 between IV5/3 and IV6/3, or V6/4 between I5/3 and I6/3 (either way round).

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    but is it wrong exactly?
    Not wrong per se, no. But it isn't "in the style of J.S. Bach".

    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    About this one... when you say they move nicely in contrary motion, iis it also true if, for ex, you have a similar motion between chords 3 and 4, and then contrary motion between chords 4 and 5?
    It depends really, but contrary motion is always advisable in any case.

    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Not the most imaginative piece, I know... but I'm considering to change it... the possibility of using a vi 6/3 followed by ii 5/3 (in chords 4 and 5) is tempting me.
    I wouldn't advise it. What you have done is very good, and don't worry at this stage about not being "imaginative", that comes later.

    Your first chord however has a doubled fifth instead of a doubled root, which is somewhat astylsitc for a root position chord. Also, you've crossed parts; the tenor is higher than the alto - this is to be avoided. Otherwise it works well.

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    Your first chord however has a doubled fifth instead of a doubled root...
    Opss, my mistake.

    Also, you've crossed parts; the tenor is higher than the alto - this is to be avoided.
    In the first chord, the soprano is in a very low register when compared with the "average" register of the piece. How to avoid this? Is this something the I must be aware of when writing the piece? Or is there another way to "fix" this, for ex, after the piece is finished?

  9. #9
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    In the first chord, the soprano is in a very low register when compared with the "average" register of the piece. How to avoid this? Is this something the I must be aware of when writing the piece? Or is there another way to "fix" this, for ex, after the piece is finished?
    In this case it's easy; all you have to do is make the tenor into a G (top space). That solves both the problems at once!
    It's a good idea to have this in mind when you're writing, but it can usually be corrected afterwards - though sometimes it will be more complicated than others.

    By the way, when you begin with two tonic chords like this (where there is an anacrusis), it is good to have the bass leap up an octave; so make the first G in the bass an octave lower. Bach began like this a lot, and this kind of thing will get you lots of marks for style.

    Edit: I forgot to mention that it would be more stylistic for your penultimate chord (V) to be in root position. This would be more "Bach" (though as I said to Jon above, it's not wrong in itself).
    Last edited by JumpingJack; 07-16-2014 at 09:57 PM.

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    In this case it's easy; all you have to do is make the tenor into a G (top space).
    I'm not sure if I understood...the G is already occupied by the bass...unless I do that after lowering the bass one octave, as you've sugested.

  11. #11
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    I'm not sure if I understood...the G is already occupied by the bass...unless I do that after lowering the bass one octave, as you've sugested.
    It is perfectly possible to have two notes together like this; it's called a unison.
    If you think about it, the bass(es) would sing one and the tenor(s) the other, so it's fine.

    Just don't move from one unison to another because it's the same as parallel octaves (as is moving from a unison to an octave).

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    So, these are the two possibilities, right?

    SemTiacutetulo2_zps4370afc3.jpg

  13. #13
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    So, these are the two possibilities, right?
    Yes.
    As I said, the second one is best

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    Ok, thanks. Let's go for the second phrase... tomorrow 'cause it's bed time now.

  15. #15
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    OK, here's attempt #2...
    JJ_ex2.jpg
    not totally confident....

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