Apparently the 3rd of the VI needs to be doubled but in this progression I have written the motion from V to VI with the normal doubling and it sounds great to me. I don't understand why they make these rules. Can someone please tell me what part writing error I have committed?

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  • 2
    "I dont understand why they make these rules": These rules are set up to teach a specific set of harmonic and melodic practices. The goal is not to sound good; the goal is to understand the rules for their own sake. The rules reflect the aesthetics of the classical and romantic eras. The modern ear accepts sounds as "good" that would have been considered quite jarring or ugly in those earlier times.
    – Aaron
    Sep 18, 2021 at 11:42
  • Aaron. Yes you are right But, most of the other practices make sense... I get it you know.. I see the benefit of learning it. Most of the rules I am following dont only apply to those eras... most music even today follows a lot of these rules. So I will learn the rules but fail to see the benefit in this particular case. Rules for the sake of rules is not practical.
    – user35708
    Sep 18, 2021 at 12:29

3 Answers 3


You have an augmented second between F♯ and E♭, and so that's the part-writing error that you have present. Moving this F♯ up to G will double the third of that VI chord, as you mentioned.

I always teach my students the following in a deceptive/interrupted resolution: the bass and leading tone go up, but everything else goes down. This is the only way to prevent parallel fifths, octaves, and improper augmented seconds.

And frankly, I also do this in major keys, even though it's not necessary. (There scale-degrees 7 and 6 are only a major second apart, not an augmented second, so the leading tone can go down to 6.)

  • This augmented 2nd drop from F# to Eb is only a problem for singing surely? Sounds great on the piano. I cant see the benefit of having the rule unless it is stricty for someone singing that one voice. Am I wrong?
    – user35708
    Sep 18, 2021 at 12:26
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    @armani - Quite a lot of voice leading rules are strictly for voices, as it were - including voices in polyphonic keyboard music. Voice leading starts to fall apart in solo homophonic music, but a lot of such homophonic music from the Classical era still bears the scars of the polyphonic tradition (e.g. minuets).
    – Dekkadeci
    Sep 18, 2021 at 14:16
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    @armani This exercise is clearly marked 'for SATB'. That's four VOICE parts. Yes, poor voice leading will often be less apparent when played on keyboard.
    – Laurence
    Sep 18, 2021 at 22:27
  • Laurence, I was under the impression that SATB is the way we learn harmony. I have no intention of writing music for 4 voices but was hoping to get good at writing chords and harmononizing melodies. The exercise is marked for SATB but the book is called Harmony in Practice. So far, learning SATB has had great implications for me in how I understand chord progressions, in that sense it has little to do with actually writing SATB. I think it is just a tool to help students learn harmony.
    – user35708
    Sep 19, 2021 at 5:28

I think the idea is that it's not just moving among chords, but it's a fake-out on the V-I resolution, with all that implies. The leading tone-tonic resolution reinforces that. Don't deny the leading-tone it's destiny! :D

  • not resolving a leading tone if it is in an inner voice is not considered an errror is it?
    – user35708
    Sep 18, 2021 at 10:19
  • Not if you're going V-I. In V-VI in a minor key, they like to follow the resolution, thus the doubled 3rd. A fall from F# to D is pretty forgivable for harmonic reasons, but F# to E-flat is an augmented interval, and dropping from an augmented interval is pretty rarely okay. It seems to me in a V-vi in a major key, it might be more forgivable-- maybe one of these guys can give a final answer on that. Sep 18, 2021 at 10:41

I think you're pretty much stuck with a unison G in the top two parts here. The leading note F♯ badly wants to rise. In a perfect cadence there's the 'fall to the 5th' exemption, in favour of a full final chord, but that's not an option in a V - VI progression. And while I LOVE the astringent quality of an E♭ - F♯ augmented 2nd in a melodic line (and it's not THAT hard to sing) it isn't textbook, and has no melodic virtue here anyway. Sing your alto line to see what I mean.

Doubling the 3rd of a minor chord is acceptable. Particularly when, as here, it's the tonic note of the key.

How about making the first chord a D7, with C in the tenor rather than D? Or a pair of 8ths, D and C? That could sound more interesting.

  • Thanks.. so if it not so hard to sing why did everyone make it a rule?
    – user35708
    Sep 18, 2021 at 16:11
  • The melodic minor scale smooths out the augmented interval between 6 and 7 of the harmonic minor scale. In a style based on smooth voice-leading, this is a big plus. Other styles consider such angular intervals interesting and attractive. But we're dealing with an inner voice in a Bach-style harmony exercise here. Play by THOSE rules.
    – Laurence
    Sep 18, 2021 at 20:46
  • @armani. It's called "voice leading," not "harmony filling." Sometimes you DO want that full harmony, but unless there's a very compelling reason, you're better off letting the voices go where they naturally want to. Sep 19, 2021 at 9:51
  • "harmony filling"? Is that a thing?
    – user35708
    Sep 19, 2021 at 9:57
  • @armani 'Harmony filling' isn't a term I've heard used. But I guess it's a good description of that thing where the leading note is allowed to drop to the 5th at a perfect cadence, in order to give the richness of a full final chord.
    – Laurence
    Sep 19, 2021 at 12:38

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