# How to harmonize a bassline with a scalar soprano

Here is an exercise I am working on and I can't figure out the second bar that has a bass that goes ^4 ^6 ^5. If I am right, the scalar soprano should start on ^6 and work its way down to ^3 over the last beat of the 1st measure but then I get totally stuck. The only chord in my current list of available diatonic chords built on scale degree ^4 of bar 2 that fits with a ^2 would be a ii6 chord. But then that needs to go to ^1 on the next chord and I dont know what that could be. In fact the pattern ^4 ^6 would be like a iv chord with a voice exchange and then descending to V or V64 but that doesnt work with my scalar soprano. What chords could I use to accomodate a continued descent in the soprano in bar 2?

• Well, the bass is descending in scalar motion in the first measure. Mightn't it be easier if the soprano is ascending? Like, maybe starting on a B and taking it from there? At any rate, this might not be a universal opinion, but I imagine it's better to take this bass line, add the soprano line (at least for the first two mm) and then ask yourself what chords fit, rather than picking chords first and trying to finegle a line out of them. I mean, know the big picture of where you're headed (does the second bar end in a V 6/4?), but... Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 18:01
• Yes.. my first guess was to go in contrary motion but I dont see how ^4 ^5 ^6 ^7 can be harmonized with the given descending bass of ^4 ^3 ^2 ^1. The harmonization for the 1st bar I provided (^6 ^5 ^4 ^3) is very idiomatic and I thought I must be in the right direction with it. The bass is unfigured so the second bar end with V or V64 but the V6 in the following bar tells me that it must be V since how can V64 go to V6? It might but I have not seen such a progression yet in my voice leading book so I dont think they would try and stick it in.
– user35708
Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 18:39
• in fact even the 1st beat of bar two I would do a ii6 chord there with ^2 in the soprano but it is at that point where I get to a roadblock because iv6 or VI should not come after the ii6 and those are the only two chords that could then descend to V...hmmm
– user35708
Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 18:44
• (Actually, I was talking crazy-talk when I said V6/4. I have the hardest time looking at this and not thinking about B minor. It would probably be easier if I actually sat down at a piano.) Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 18:48
• I haven't digested all the detail of your questions, but I asked a similar question about harmonizing a scale in soprano: music.stackexchange.com/questions/99731/… Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 14:09

Since the segment ends with a descending D–C♯, this suggests to me that the soprano likely wants to ascend to be in contrary motion with this bass. (This isn't necessarily 100% true, but it will work.)

This D–C♯ is the bass for a Phrygian half cadence, which often has scale-degrees 4–5 (B–C♯) in the soprano. So let's take that as a given and work backwards.

We end with C♯ preceded by B. Continuing the scale, the downbeat of m. 2 could be an A, but that doesn't quite work; why not repeat this B? (Or if you think a repeated note messes with the scalar aspect, why not have the soprano be a half note B here?)

With that B on the downbeat of m. 2, the end of m. 1 ends up pretty clear: with a voice exchange with the bass, and thus F♯–G♯–A on beats 2–4.

Lastly, the downbeat of m. 1 could continue the scale backwards with an E♯ harmonized with the bass B as a V42 chord. Admittedly, this means the bass leaps into the chordal seventh, which is a little odd. You could also just have an F♯ on the downbeat.

• This is fantastic Richard. Thank you for sharing your thought process. Regarding your suggestion about the Use of 8th notes well, this wont work because I need to harmonize one chord per bass note. Having double B works but I wasnt aware that this would be possible to be honest as the instruction is "scalar" so I thought no repeated notes. Am I overthinking? The leap to V42 is fine and such leaps appear in my harmony book so that doesnt worry me at all... I should have seen that V42 as an option :). NICE! I did something different (SEE ABOVE) on my end and would be nice to see what you think.
– user35708
Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 10:25
• @armani I think your solution works great, and I actually like it better than mine! You should add it as an answer. Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 20:48
• :) Ok I will. Thats great and very reasuring to hear. Thanks for your help Richard
– user35708
Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 9:17

I had a similar solution as yours, Armani.

Basically, when looking at the given descending bass, and assignment to add a scalar soprano, by first though for most obvious thing to do was: harmonize in thirds, then fill in the middle voices. Mine was...

I also tried this...

...but it's mostly inverting the voices and the soprano part ends up with not much scalar movement.

Here is my solution with a descending soprano.... would be nice to hear some feedback as I might be wrong to go from ii°6 to ii°43 but I know that ii°43 does lead to V as does iv6 so maybe it could work :)

• I vaguely remember you're not supposed to have that E sharp and B in the upper staff, when the movement toward it is parallel. Maybe someone else will have a better idea about that, though. / Personally I think that when an instructor gives such specific instructions, they're actually asking you to read their mind and be a clone of them, and I would encourage you to depart slightly from the instructions in order to write something that follows the basic rules of harmony and sounds pleasing to you. Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 4:24