I am harmonizing this figured bass

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Please look at the E note where the blue arrow is pointing. I have raised this note because otherwise there would be an aug 2nd leap to the F#. Can someone please explain if raising this tone should appear in the figured bass symbols because in my exercise there is no figured bass symbol. Initially I wrote a Cm chord because the figured bass didnt say anything but the ^6 must be raised in this progression right?

3 Answers 3


It should be an E flat, not an E natural. To avoid the augmented second, the E flat should be in a different voice from the F sharp.

(The melodic diminished fifth between the B flat and the E natural that you have in the soprano voice is also, in general, to be avoided.)

  • My voice leading book says the melodic dissonant leaps can be used to good effect so long as a change of direction smooths things out. Can you please explain why specifically you say that a d5 is to be avoided?
    – armani
    Oct 2, 2021 at 14:03
  • @armani it's one of those things that you have to be careful about more than that must be avoided at all costs, but melodic tritones are very rare and difficult to sing correctly.
    – phoog
    Oct 2, 2021 at 14:25

Since there are no alterations for that chord in the figured bass, this pitch should definitely be an E♭, not an E♮.

You're right, though, that that creates an augmented second between E♭ and F♯. The solution is not to change the first pitch to E♮, but rather to move the soprano down from E♭ to D. Doing so will likely necessitate moving all three upper voices down; this will put a leap of a third in the alto (C down to A), but that's 100% acceptable.

If you're worried that the soprano is getting too low on that D, then good news: it can hop back up to a G on the succeeding i6 chord.

  • I would argue that changes are needed earlier in the exercise than on the first beat of the sixth measure. But perhaps suggesting changes up front isn't the most effective way to answer, from a pedagogical standpoint.
    – phoog
    Oct 2, 2021 at 13:32
  • Thanks for the fix.. So the figured bass would show a natural sign if I was supposed to raise the ^6? And the fact that it doesnt do so, means I am not allowed to voice the chord with the E in the soprano. Right?
    – armani
    Oct 2, 2021 at 14:12
  • @armani Correct. The E-flat can be in the soprano, but without the natural in the figured bass, there's no E-natural in this chord.
    – Richard
    Oct 2, 2021 at 23:12
  • Now that I think about it, after the leap down to E, if I take the soprano down to D then wont it be wrong because the melody doesnt change direction after such a big leap?
    – armani
    Oct 3, 2021 at 6:28
  • @armani In a very strict style, perhaps that would be unideal, but I wouldn't exactly consider it wrong. It sounds stylistic to me when I look at it. But if you're worried, move the soprano from B-flat up to C, and then everything else should work out.
    – Richard
    Oct 3, 2021 at 13:33

If no alteration was mentioned, than it shouldn't be raised.

In addition, that tritone leap between the Bb and the E♮ in the soprano is not really ideal and should be avoided (usually melodic tritones are avoided in the soprano parts), and it is better to start a melodic minor melodic line with the 5th degree instead of directly with the raised 6th. It is also better to avoid using the leading tone in the soprano (since in sometimes it might force you to solve it into a no 5th tonic). All are just suggestions.

I think the best solution for this issue would probably be taking the soprano to Eb and then to D, while the C (Alto) would go down to A and the G (Tenor) to F#. It would force you to get some of the voices a little low, but it is a proper solution for this situation, and it is very common to make a leap after a 4/2 chord. You could fix it with replacing the Bb in the soprano before, but it would require you some more changes.

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