I am currently doing part writing, and have come into a bit of a conundrum. I want to use a sharp 4 dim 7 (Fsharpdim7), to link up my IV chord (FM) to my V7 chord (G7).

I know that 7ths should usually be prepared in the previous chord, or approached by leap if this is not possible. However, when I adhere to these rules in this case (particularly approaching the dim7th by leap), the end product sounds terrible. So, in the pictured example, I have tried to move the voices as little as possible, only moving by step and maintaining all common notes. When I play this as all 7th chords (FM7, Fsharpdim7, G7) it sounds great, but here my first chord is an FM triad, so we move from F (doubled root) to Eflat (dim7th) then to F (7th of G7). It doesn't sound as good, but is this none-the-less the correct/ best way of voicing this progression? Is there anything else I should know about voicing these passing dim7th chords?

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You're correct that these sevenths should be prepared (by step or by common tone) in the same voice! But also remember that we need to resolve those sevenths down by step, too.

Thus the E♭ in your middle chord, since it's the chordal seventh, needs to resolve down to the D of the next chord.

Regarding preparing the seventh of the G7 chord, there are a few options:

  1. One is to acknowledge that it's mostly impossible to prepare this by step, since there's no G in the prior chord. Thus you could resolve to a V triad, and then a G (probably in the soprano, coming from the A) can quickly move to F to turn this V triad into a V7.
  2. Or you could go the full Beethoven route and have the F♯ in the bass slide down to F, making this V7 a V42. But if this is for a theory class, maybe wait to do this; your teacher probably hasn't talked about this yet.

My preferred solution would be #1 above: when you resolve your alto E♭ to D, you'll see that it's likely best for your tenor C to resolve down to B instead of doubling that D. And since we can't double the leading tone (B), let's also move that soprano down to G before moving it to F to make the V7.

  • thanks for such a great answer! Am trying out all these options. – EdB123 Mar 13 at 14:41
  • Regarding the Beethoven option, I think i have run into a problem in the tenor and bass voices. Chord IV- F-C, chord sharp 4 dim -Fsharp C, chord V42- F B. thats two dim 5th/aug 4th intervals in a row (F sharp and C and then F to B).I can get rid of this problem by doubling the D (5th) in the V 42 chord, but then the chord has no root, and if I move the G to the tenor voice, the Fsharp C interval moves to a 9th interval between F and G., so doesnt resolve. I have a picture but I dont know how to send it on comments! thanks for any help given. – EdB123 Mar 13 at 15:12
  • Those two consecutive tritones are exactly how Beethoven did it. (In fact, in some sequences he just had a string of tritones in one hand.) You've done it exactly right! – Richard Mar 13 at 15:26
  • okay, brilliant- I'll give it a listen! Also, this is the first I've heard of 7ths being prepared by step. It was my understanding that 7ths can only be prepared by common tone- or- if this isn't achievable, by leap. I'm fairly new at this so very much willing to be educated! – EdB123 Mar 13 at 15:31
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    @EdB123 In my experience, preparing a chordal seventh by a descending leap is actually the least preferable; an ascending leap is more common. Typically, however, we opt for preparing it by step or by common tone. – Richard Mar 13 at 20:23

Rather than think of the diminished chord as #IV, consider it as viio/V. In that case, scale degree 4 (relative to V: i.e., C is 4 of G) should resolve downward to B. That allows the Eb (chordal 7th) to also resolve downward, to D.

From there you have a choice. If you want a root position V7 chord, then the soprano A moves down to F (you could have the soprano play G either as a passing note or as a resolution before continuing to F). Alternatively, the bass moves to F and the soprano moves to G.

  • Hi Aaron, thanks yet again for your help. The V42 option works fantastically well. The other option, using G as a passing note, also works really well. However, I'm a bit confused about something. I have learnt that 7ths should either be prepared by leap or common tone. Therefore, in theory, it should be fine for the 7th of V7 (F) to move by leap from the A in the previous chord. However, I have tried this and it sounds jarring. This seems to suggest a gap in my knowledge, can you shine a light? Thanks! – EdB123 Mar 13 at 16:05
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    @EdB123 I'm just using my ear for this comment -- rather than looking up "the rules" -- but I think the issue is the irregular resolution of the Eb-A tritone in the diminished chord. Having the A (a dissonance against the Eb) "resolve" to another dissonance (the F in the G7) chord is jarring. My suggestion to move to G first works better. – Aaron Mar 13 at 16:53
  • Ah yes- this makes sense. As the tritone E flat (alto) A (sop), resolves to a minor third D (alt) F (sop), I thought this should be fine on paper. But that 7th is still dissonant with the bass so may well be the explanation! – EdB123 Mar 26 at 16:23

I know this isn't exactly what you asked, but Eddie Lang would often move from the IV chord to a diminished chord a whole tone below the root of the IV, and the resolved up to the first inversion of the tonic skipping the V chord altogether, which is a half step above that.

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Sorry, I am not a pro at SATB voice leading but I tried my best.

You can hear it here

I set the video to start on measure 20 of this song.

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  • Thanks for this interesting new perspective! Ed – EdB123 Mar 14 at 16:19

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