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Example of "incorrect" soprano movement from G to A#

Here is just one example, but all throughout my textbook they seem to be saying that it is bad voice leading using aug 2nds. However, I tried to play a lot of the examples and they sound ok on piano. Is this a crazy outdated rule?

2 Answers 2

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The rule comes from an older musical aesthetic in which augmented intervals sounded very strange to the ear. Also, they were considered difficult for singers to sing, and thus forbidden (or, at least, highly discouraged).

Aesthetics have changed, and so has the training and experience of singers. In a voice-leading exercise, an augmented second would be considered wrong, but in real-world music, it wouldn't be a big deal.

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  • I might be better off asking a new question but here goes: why are augmented 2nds harder to sing if they are enharmonic to a m3? in voice leading, the m3 is a small very common leap.
    – user35708
    Sep 3, 2021 at 7:16
  • It's more that augmented 2nds are more difficult to read than they are to sing, IMO. However, there may be tendencies to slightly mis-tune each note in a sung augmented 2nd (along the lines of sharpening sung leading tones).
    – Dekkadeci
    Sep 3, 2021 at 12:44
  • @armani Although a2 and m3 are enharmonically equivalent, they sound very different in context, which is why the naming and spelling differentiations are important. You and I might find a2's easy to sing, but a few hundred years ago they were considered strange and difficult. In fact, augmented intervals in general were just "defined" as hard to sing.
    – Aaron
    Sep 3, 2021 at 13:10
  • ok and these aug 2nds are a result of the raised 7 in harmonic minor only right?
    – user35708
    Sep 3, 2021 at 20:35
  • @armani That's certainly the most common source, but one should allow they might arise in some other situation as well.
    – Aaron
    Sep 3, 2021 at 20:46
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In particular (as mentioned by Aaron), the problem is primarily with vocal music in a contrapuntal setting. There was little problem in using augmented seconds in instrumental music. Augmented intervals generally expand and chromatically sharpened intervals tend to move upward (like a temporary leading tone).

Augmented seconds are fine in arpeggiations of a dominant ninth (D-F-G-Ab-B in C minor for example.) I'm not sure about the example as the last two chords are an F#-b with a rising F#-G-A#-B soprano line. The trouble (to me) is that the VI -> V chord has "covered" or "hidden" or "direct" parallel octave movement (GG to F#F#). In addition, there are parallel fifths (GD to F#C#). While these parallels are created with different pairs of voices, the involvement of the bass does make them stand out. The VI-V (parallel chords in root position are often difficult to connect nicely.

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