It is basically saying that dominant must go to tonic or to the vi chord in a deceptive resolution but what about V - IV? This is a common chord progression too right? So why is it not in my voice leading book?

  • As suggested previously - speak with ABRSM. They're amenable, and should give valid reasons.
    – Tim
    Sep 27, 2021 at 13:29
  • If your books is from the ABRSM, are you specifically prepping for some ABRSM purpose? Sep 27, 2021 at 14:15
  • 1
    If the textbook is old-school, and many are, the progressions used by Bach and his contemporaries form the basis of the many rules proposed. V-IV is very uncommon in this era.
    – cruthers
    Sep 27, 2021 at 15:38
  • I am learning from several books. One is ABRSM but this particular one is Harmony and Voice Leading 5th edition.
    – armani
    Sep 28, 2021 at 5:00
  • We might think this comes from studying common-practice harmony, however it is actually a problem with non-theoretical theory text books, and even more so with monist models of music theory. If this problem were the result of having too narrow a view of the common practice then how would we explain real theory books which do contain this progression? Riemann for instance does theorize the so called V to IV which for him would be termed dominant to subdominant (in the minor mode).
    – Ootagu
    Sep 28, 2021 at 19:23

3 Answers 3


...It is basically saying that dominant must go to tonic or to the vi chord in a deceptive resolution

That's just basic functional harmony: pre-dominant to dominant to tonic.

Depends on how the book defines "deceptive" cadence or progression, but the dominant moving to any chord not the tonic in a cadence is by some definitions a deceptive cadence.

The book may have an example of a passing IV chord, like V IV V. From the functional perspective that would not really be a progression but a prolongation of a V chord.

When the functional flow of pre-dominant to dominant to tonic is backwards - like V IV it can be called a retrogression instead of a progression.

...This [V IV] is a common chord progression too right?

Bars 9-11 of a typical 12 bar blues will go |V|IV|I| that's pretty common.

Lot's of people get bent out of shape that functional harmony would label that a retrogression, some kind of "wrong" progression. But they also fail to point out that the completion and repetition of the 12 bar form (bars 9-12 and back to bar 1) is very commonly |V|IV|I|V:|:I which conforms to functional harmonic progression.

If your textbook really does not show an example of V IV - even an example to show that while rare in common practice music it can be found if you look long and hard enough - it's probably just a matter of the book presenting the most common, idealized style of classical harmony.

Piston's Harmony covers the V IV progression in two places: one is about avoiding the cross relationship of the tritone, and the other is the irregular resolution of V7. In a nutshell, to avoid the cross relationship, when the progression is root position V IV don't put the leading tone of V in the soprano. And regarding irregular resolution Piston says: "more often the subdominant is found in first inversion." He then gives Mozart K. 279 as an example (no measure number given) in F: | ii6 I6/4 V7 | IV6 V6/5 I |. The seventh of V7 can be a held, common tone when it becomes the root of IV.

  • "it's probably just a matter of the book presenting the most common, idealized style of harmony." Just noting there should probably be a qualifier here: the most common, idealized style of "CLASSICAL" harmony. V-IV progressions are all over pop and jazz in a lot of contexts. They're perfectly normal. They just tend to be "outlawed" in textbooks trying to teach classical or pseudo-classical styles and norms.
    – Athanasius
    Sep 28, 2021 at 1:09
  • Thanks, V7 to IV6 is covered but then again isnt IV6 more related to vi than to IV?
    – armani
    Sep 28, 2021 at 5:07
  • @Athanasius, thanks, I put in that edit. Sep 28, 2021 at 12:49
  • @armani, of course the bass is the same for IV6 and vi, and functionally both a pre-dominant, so there is a similarity. I think the subtle difference is vi will provide that minor, modal region of the key that IV6 does not. I think it's good to develop a sensitivity to that difference. It's a personal choice of "color" which to use. Sep 28, 2021 at 13:04
  • @Athanasius and indeed the progression was not entirely unknown in the period, for example at the end of Praise the Lord with Harp and Tongue from Handel's Solomon.
    – phoog
    Sep 28, 2021 at 16:32

The "classical" problem with this sequence occurs when the chords are in root position. It's difficult to move chords in parallel without producing parallel fifths or octaves. The sequence V-IV does occur with both chords in first inversion; V7-IV6; there are no parallel fifths or octaves.

  • Those two chords in particular or any two chords a step apart?
    – armani
    Sep 27, 2021 at 16:05
  • Any two chords a step apart can be connected in 63 positions (complete chords, no parallel problems.) As mentioned in other answers, the V-IV sounds "backward" from the usual IV-V but is fine if the voice-leading is good.
    – ttw
    Sep 27, 2021 at 20:06
  • In fact, it seems like V-IV might even have better voice leading since the leading tone B in the G chord can move up to a C as long as another voice completes the chord. That's basically what you brought up in V7-IV6, although note that your V7 is not in first inversion (for that, should be V65, no?). Good perspective on the question.
    – user45266
    Sep 27, 2021 at 21:36
  • The two chords in root position do pose a problem, but it is not insoluble; see, for example, the end of Praise the Lord with Harp and Tongue from Handel's Solomon.
    – phoog
    Sep 28, 2021 at 16:34

Your textbook is telling you how to write 'safe' harmonies in the particular style required for elementary theory examinations.

You have noticed that there are other styles. Good!

  • In fact, however, the sequence IV-V may occur even in common practice styles.
    – phoog
    Sep 28, 2021 at 16:35

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