Voice-leading exercise

I am struggling to make this progression work in the measure marked with the red arrow. The soprano I ended up on at the cadence in measure 4 was ^3. From there I thought the best soprano would be ^2 ^1 ^1 in measure 5 but that didn't work for me in measure 6. That progression from iv6 to V6 is really hard. The progression outlined in my book is always shown using V65 NOT V6 with the soprano ^4 ^4 for both iv6 and V65 chords. This doesn't seem to work here, and most voicings I tried just don't work. Are there some options for this progression that someone can show me to give me a fresh look? I seem to be stuck in a rut :(

  • 1
    Without looking very deeply, it seems that the marked measure calls for a descending line in the soprano; perhaps a voice exchange with the soprano going C#-B-A, and filling in the rest.
    – ttw
    Dec 12, 2021 at 15:08
  • Is part of your problem that your book page is partially misprinted? I see that the sharp in your affected area is written in, and so is the top of the second 6 (and a lot of other figures are partially in pencil).
    – Dekkadeci
    Dec 12, 2021 at 15:17
  • Dekka. No... That is not part of the problem. Are you having difficulty reading the page?
    – armani
    Dec 12, 2021 at 16:56
  • Thanks for your suggestion ttw... will try that for sure and post some solutions when I have them
    – armani
    Dec 12, 2021 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


Speaking as an early music specialist, a succession of first-inversion chords is a common feature in Baroque repertoire and, it seems, in modern theory exercises too. Other than the alternate doubling (a solution also mentioned by Baroque theorists, like in Michel de Saint-Lambert's "Nouveau traité de l'accompagnement" [quoted at length in JB Christensen, "Die Grundlagen des Generalbaßspiels im 18, Jahrhundert", Kassel: Bärenreiter 1992]); another possibility, notably given by Händel (search for "Continuo playing according to Handel : his figured bass exercises") is to temporarily drop to three voices (especially if there is an extended passage). To avoid parallel fifths in the upper voices, this obliges a voicing with the root of the chord (the sixth in respect to the bass) on top: enter image description here

Given that this kind of falling back to three voices is present in the first measure of your theory exercise, it shouldn't pose problem here either. You can (and I assume, for a class exercise, probably should) go back to a four voice realisation as soon as practicable.

Another alternative solution would be to follow the Baroque practice (i.e. the "rule of the octave"), which would imply, on the seventh scale degree (and here, we're in D minor, so C# is indeed the seventh degree) assume that a 6 (figures are often incomplete) also implies a 5, that is, a full dominant seventh chord, in first inversion, so: enter image description here

This would also be a interesting possibility, especially when like here it is indeed (as opposed, to, say, a deceptive cadence) followed by the tonic immediately after (n.b. Baroque theorists do not have much of a problem with which chord tone is doubled in this situation, so long voice-leading is otherwise acceptable). Of course, if this is for a theory class, it might be better to stick to the figures as written.

  • In this case 6 means just 6... there is another place in the exercise where it specifies 65 and that is the most used harmony in my text book for the rising ^6 ^7 ^8 progression.. I guess they want to force me to try to work with a plain 6 chord too.
    – armani
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:59
  • isnt the soprano leading tone supposed to go up to the tonic? That is what my voice leading book says should happen if ^7 is in the soprano
    – armani
    Dec 16, 2021 at 11:33

Moving between adjacent first inversion triads can be done directly. It's a common technique for moving sequentially through a series of chords. The doubling alternates between doubling and not doubling the third. (SOURCE: Robert Hutchinson's "Music Theory for the 21st-Century Classroom", "26.8 Voice Leading First-Inversion Triads")

Example of IV6 to V6

Putting the leading-tone in the soprano can be problematic, since it doesn't resolve normally. In that case, the leading-tone can be moved to another voice. Should the voices move lower than desired, they can be shifted in the next measure when the inversion of the i chord changes.

Re-voiced example

  • Aaron this is great.... will it still work an octave lower?... my soprano ends on F4 at the cadence in measure 4 so obviously it is downhill from there and I will end up with A3 on the soprano not A4 as you have
    – armani
    Dec 12, 2021 at 19:15
  • @armani I'm not aware of any limitations on the range of the right hand, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. IMO, the better option is to rework the preceding part of the exercise.
    – Aaron
    Dec 12, 2021 at 19:17
  • I tried but the first few chords are given and in the second bar certainly should go lower not higher... Then there is pretty much one bar left to go up but I am not seeing where this is possible.
    – armani
    Dec 12, 2021 at 19:33
  • @armani Soprano in m. 2 = G-A-A
    – Aaron
    Dec 13, 2021 at 2:41
  • This solution is not acceptable because the leading tone is in the soprano and does not resolve. In the next chapter of my textbook it speaks for the first time about ^7 moving to ^6 using the iii chord but for now I am unable to use this descending line but it does sound great :)
    – armani
    Dec 16, 2021 at 11:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.