Was working on the following exercise in RCM Harmony 9 - it seems like there's no solution if you follow all the SATB rules.

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It's in F# minor, so looking at the second note, we see that it's tonic (RR35) and it needs a F# and an A. The lower A in the tenor would cause voice overlap by crossing the previous B in the bass. The higher A in the tenor would make the alto have no spot. Thus, it must be a F# in the tenor and an A in the alto.

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Now, the alto must descend from the A to a note below. The highest note it can go to is the F#. But then the tenor, in the position in the F# must descend as well, causing parallel motion.

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What am I doing wrong? Am I missing something? Can one of these rules be broken at times?

  • 1
    Consider that crossing voices is "against the rules", but overlapping, i.e. two voices keeping the same note, is OK. Of course if two voices overlap, they should not both arrive and leave in the same direction, as that would cause crossing. Perhaps that's a solution you're looking for? Jul 25, 2022 at 14:59
  • 1
    The tenor could double the bass in the first chord.
    – phoog
    Jul 25, 2022 at 17:30
  • Better yet, building on phoog's comment, give the tenor a voice exchange against the soprano. Tenor sings B-C#-D
    – nuggethead
    Jul 26, 2022 at 0:10

2 Answers 2


Your logic in the first two paragraphs is 100% correct. In your third paragraph, you mention parallel motion as an error. But note that the alto A and tenor F♯ create a third, and parallel thirds are completely correct—indeed, even encouraged—in this style. It's typically parallel perfect fifths and octaves that create troubles; parallel thirds and sixths are only problematic if you have several of them in a row (just how many depends on the curriculum).

The following solution should work fine; note the stylistically correct parallel thirds A/F♯ moving down to F♯/D in the latter two chords.

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And, PS: the outer voices really suggest a i–V–i in the key of B minor, so it's interesting that there are three sharps in this key signature!

  • That's still very one-way descending – ok, but creates a quite peculiar effect. And I agree it looks like the piece has modulated to B minor at this spot. I'd consider B-A♯-B in the alto. Jul 25, 2022 at 21:03

Similar motion is not prohibited, except for consecutive perfect 5ths and octaves.

Here's a couple of possibilities.

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