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enter image description hereI came across a 7-5 suspension for the first time today- as seen in the image. This is the first time I have come across a suspension which has a change of bass (that isn't an octave leap or fall) at the note of resolution.

Is it the case that when coming across suspensions like a 7-5 and 4-6, you take their first number as a cue that they will operate in the same way as their more conventional counterparts: 7-6 and 4-3, in terms of the bass note /inversion? Eg, If I see a 7-5 suspension, is it best to assume that, like the 7-6 suspension, the third will be in the bass, and the second of the chord will be the suspended note?

In the above example, as we are in A minor, my interpretation is that we have a chord of C major under the suspended note D, as I am treating the E in the bass as the third, the D as a suspended second, and the impending C as its root. Then, the bass note moves to F, exactly as the suspended note is resolved to C. In my interpretation, the harmony changes at this point to F major. In A minor, these would be chords III and VI. Is this correct?

Is it the case that with regards to suspensions whose bass notes change at the point of resolution, sometimes the bass will simply change to a different chord tone, continuing the same harmony, and sometimes the bass will change to a note that changes the harmony all together? Is it simply a case of looking at the rest of the progression and seeing what makes most sense?

The example is from a Figured Bass workbook. Online I can only find examples where the harmony stays the same, even if the bass note changes. Yet I couldn't interpret this example over one chord. so am I missing something?

Thanks for any time spent on this!

Ed

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Yes. A favorite progression of mine is...

enter image description here

All seventh chords. The upper voices are held over the root changes, but relative to the roots the upper voices change from thirds of the chords to sevenths, the sevenths resolve with a downward step.

That image comes from a modern edition of partimenti rules by Fedele Fenaroli at https://sites.google.com/site/partimenti/resources/mon_of_partimenti/fenaroli.

The dark numbers in circles give scale degrees. The additional numbers in grey indicate how Fenaroli each two chord progression to be "almost as ^1 passing to their respective ^4." My understanding of that statement (translated from 18th century Italian) is: each iteration of a harmonic sequence can be considered similar to the first iteration but centered on a temporary, local tonic. Of course the critical word is "almost." Unless the sequence is chromatic each iteration will not be a literal transposition to a new tonic.

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  • Can you remind me what the 1s and 4s below the staff indicate? – Richard Aug 15 '20 at 1:31
  • @Richard those are scale degrees – Michael Curtis Aug 20 '20 at 15:10
  • I thought that, but they don't seem to fit. The black numbers are scale degrees, but the gray ones don't always fit with the chords (like the "4" below the tonic chord). – Richard Aug 20 '20 at 15:33
  • @Richard, I added an edit, because the explanation is a bit long, and kind of unclear in the source. – Michael Curtis Aug 24 '20 at 14:33
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Can the harmony change at the resolution of a suspension?

Yes.

Is it the case that when coming across suspensions like a 7-5 and 4-6, you take their first number as a cue that they will operate in the same way as their more conventional counterparts: 7-6 and 4-3, in terms of the bass note /inversion?

No. For example, consider the suspensions below. The first two are 4-3; the third is 4-6. You can see with the 4-3 suspensions that the bass at resolution could be either the root or third of the chord. So the presence of 4-3 isn't sufficient to determine the movement of the voices. You need to observe, for example, whether it's 4-(5)3 (as in the score you presented) or 4-6/3 (as in the second example below).

X: 1
T: 4-3 and 4-6 Suspensions
M: 3/2
L: 1/2
K: Amin
R: A minor
[V:1](F|"4"F)"3"E z | z2 (F|"4"F)"3"E z | z2 (F|"4"F)"6"G
[V:2 clef=bass]D,|C,2 z | z2 D,|C,2 z | z2 D,|C,B,,
s: iv III iv VI(6) iv III VII

If I see a 7-5 suspension, is it best to assume that, like the 7-6 suspension, the third will be in the bass, and the second of the chord will be the suspended note?

If the third were in the bass, the figure would include a 6. A 7-5 indicates the root will be in the bass. If not, you'd be resolving into a dissonance (5 against 6 above the bass).

Is [my harmonic analysis] correct?

Almost. The chord at the beginning of the suspension is D minor. The D is then suspended over an E minor chord (so, v), which resolves to F major (VI).

In order to interpret the chord under the suspended D as C major, the figure would have to be 7-6, rather than 7 alone.

Is it the case that with regards to suspensions whose bass notes change at the point of resolution, sometimes the bass will simply change to a different chord tone, continuing the same harmony, and sometimes the bass will change to a note that changes the harmony all together? Is it simply a case of looking at the rest of the progression and seeing what makes most sense?

Exactly right.

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  • thank you! Forgive my shorthand to save space: Second 4-3 example: Are you saying this could be F major (VI) resolving to A minor (i)? Is this an ok place to have a second inversion VI? Or does this not matter as its just an example? Q: What do you mean by the 'rest of the figure'?- do you mean we can work out what the most likely chord is when looking at the suspension in context? 'A 7-5 indicates the root will be in the bass. If not, you'd be resolving into a dissonance (5 against 6 above the bass).'- not sure I follow here- clarification would be greatly appreciated! – EdB123 Aug 15 '20 at 11:54
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    @EdB123: The F moving to A is definitely strange, so yes, it's just to make clear that you can't assume all 4-3 resolutions will operate the same way. I've edited the post to clarify the rest. Please let me know if more is needed. – Aaron Aug 15 '20 at 21:30
  • Thanks so much for all this! Again forgive the shorthand, and me being slow on the uptake! I'm a novice really. In the second 4-3 example, unless I have misunderstood, I take it the ''(6)'' next to the Roman Numeral is what your'e referring to as the information that indicates that the C in the bass is the third of the chord at resolution? However, in the 7-5 example I posted, there is only '7-5' in the figure. So what part of that figure indicates the role of the bass note (in terms of root, third, or fifth)? – EdB123 Aug 16 '20 at 13:40
  • Hi Aaron, if you could answer that last question of mine on the previous comment, that would be great! Cheers, Ed – EdB123 Aug 18 '20 at 19:46
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    @EdB123 The '7' is shorthand for '7-5-3', so it's the implied '5-3' that tells you this is a root-position chord. – Aaron Aug 18 '20 at 19:52

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