Still writing four part. I have found that, even if dissonances are prepared and resolved by the book, they can still be quite jarring. So, I was wondering if it is normal to take extra factors into consideration when dealing with dissonances. From my previous question, I have learned that it is important to take into consideration natural accents created by syncopation and duration. Here I examine two other areas:

  1. Does the type of dissonance matter (eg tritone, Maj 2)
  2. If the non-chord note is dissonant with more than once voice before resolution, does this have to be taken into consideration?

In my example here, bar 18 has two simultaneous escape notes: A (highlighted) alto, and C top. The C is dissonant with both the tenor (minor 7th) and bass (minor 9th) before resolving. The bass is also doubled here which I'm sure won't help. The A (alto) below is only dissonant with the bass before resolving.

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It does sound a bit jarring. I have tried to soften the blow by giving each note only half a beat, but it doesn't totally mask the problem.

So, this brings me back to my initial points: in four part writing, is it a no no to be dissonant with more than once voice at once ? And are some dissonances to be totally avoided, even with proper preparation and resolution?


  • Which do you think sounds more jarring in Bar 18: the A escape note or the C escape note? I think your answer to that might help you answer your questions in this web page.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 14:23
  • I think it would be better to post a screenshot rather than a photo of the screen. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 6:51

2 Answers 2


There is nothing wrong with music being jarring per se. The only problem arises if the composer doesn't intend a figure to highlight itself. Dissonances are often used to mark "regions of interest" in the music. For example, cadences tend to have dissonance followed by consonance. Some listeners are sleepy.

One can soften the effect of a dissonance by decorating the approach, dissonance, and the resolution; this procedure does call attention to the dissonance though not necessarily as jarringly.


In measure 18 the chord is G, while soprano sings avoid note C. That's for sure something to pay attention to.

Other than that, pay attention to voice crossing and voice overlapping. In measure 16 soprano and alto cross. In measure 18 soprano and alto start with a unison on note G, and then alto moves up to A, above the note G sung previously by soprano.

  • this is an interesting point. I have obviously heard about avoid notes with regards to jazz, but when it comes to four part writing, i have only heard people talk about how to prepare and resolve dissonances, regardless of the actual quality/ interval of the dissonance in question.
    – EdB123
    Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 15:00
  • @EdB123 that's a bit different language, but refers to the same phenomenon. I guess your textbook mentions dominant 6/4 – 5/3, or just 4–3, which is what you have here. Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 16:00

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