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I am trying to compose some music and practice my 4 part harmony skills. I have been taught that a leading tone as shown here in my soprano should ascend or be harmonized with a iii if descending but I cant understand why I cant use a dominant chord here. Perhaps this is something that is just a rule in the early stages and as I carry on learning it will become clear when the leading tone should ascend and when not? In this context I really cant see how it sounds odd.

  • 1
    Your chord symbols at the end are inconsistent, with both F/A and Dm being labelled as i chords with no key change indication in between.
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 4, 2022 at 13:11
  • Sorry,I wasnt finished... can you just not look at that now? It is not relevant to the post anyway
    – user35708
    Feb 4, 2022 at 14:55
  • That's probably why @Dekkadeci posted it as a comment rather than as an answer.
    – phoog
    Feb 5, 2022 at 10:28

2 Answers 2


Without wanting to get into a discussion about whether it's acceptable, or, more precisely, under which conditions it might be acceptable, I will offer the example of Bach's setting of Ach Herr, laß dein lieb Engelein from the St. John Passion:

The melody, in movable do, begins do-ti-la-sol, and the corresponding chords are I-V-vi-iii.

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    YouTube's thumbnail image is not the beginning of the music where the melody descendings 8 7 6 5, be sure to start the video to see the example passage. Feb 4, 2022 at 15:34
  • This harmonization of ^8 ^7 ^6 ^5 is beautiful. Why on earth does my harmony book say that the sopranos leading tone needs to resolve? These seem like silly rules to me now.
    – user35708
    Feb 5, 2022 at 10:02
  • @armani there may be some context in which that rule does apply, and this context may be different for some reason. Or maybe it's just a poorly formulated rule.
    – phoog
    Feb 5, 2022 at 10:22
  • phoog, that is why I created the post to try see if anyone could maybe show an example where you really do want to resolve the LT.. maybe at a cadence it is necessary and at other times should be discarded. This is how I am making sense of it.
    – user35708
    Feb 5, 2022 at 11:00
  • @armani if it's a cadence then the following note wouldn't be ^6. In a chorale harmonization, the melody is given. If all instances of ^7 in a melody had to resolve upward, there'd be no such thing as a descending major scale.
    – phoog
    Feb 5, 2022 at 17:38

Your question is about harmonizing the scale descent ^8 ^7 ^6 ^5.

I had a question about the same in How to complete a scale harmonization using Quantz' Versuch and @Athanasius gave a nice detailed answer to my question which I think will be helpful to you too.

The special treatment of the descending melodic line ^8 ^7 ^6 ^5 is when all of the tones are true harmonic tones.

In your specific example I would point out that your line involves passing motion and is essentially a decoration and voicing change of the tonic chord.

The reduction would be this...

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Then some possibilities to fill that in rhythmically...

enter image description here

In the second option, the change of G4 to F4 in the tenor essentially makes the soprano E5 D5 all passing motion between F5 and C5.

The third option uses your original tenor, but then has the soprano move back up to F5 which makes E5 a chord tone and the D5 a kind of escape tone. Obviously that changes the top line, but it still treats the larger harmonic structure as a revoicing of the tonic chord.

Given the fact that you can find parallel and direct perfect fifths and octaves occasionally in the works of the great masters, I think it's safe to say that all three of those examples above are OK, and more or less the same thing.

  • Nice! ok so the fact that there is a passing motion I suppose the leading tone is kind of hidden away between the other notes which is why I wasnt getting a need to resolve it. Well my textbook annoyingly says that a leading tone in the soprano must resolve. It does not give exceptions yet. Perhaps this is still coming in a later chapter (im only half way)
    – user35708
    Feb 5, 2022 at 8:28

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