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This is in 4/4 time. To me this does not sound like parallel 5ths between the top 2 voices because there is a 3rd on beat 2 and the 5th is in the up beat before the chord. Can someone share their thoughts on whether or not they see something line this as perfect parallel 5ths or not?

  • Also watch for a similar issue between soprano and tenor, with the staggered D–C octaves.
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 14:03
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    A good rule of thumb -especially if you're painted into a corner like this- is to take advantage of the common tone F that is a member of both chords. It immediately simplifies your work by eliminating a potential improper parallel
    – nuggethead
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 0:55

2 Answers 2


This would be a case of what we’d call Akzentparallele in german or indirect parallel., where we make use of diminuition to mask a parallel. This not an uncommon thing to do. In your cases there are two points to make though:

Notice how all your voices progress downwards. This is usually considered as not being elegant (especially as not only the single notes all move down but the pivotal notes do the same, notice how in your case if you only take the 1 of the measure the second measure would be the same as the first, just shifted down a third, creating something like a parallel fifth between Bass and Soprano as well as a parallel octave between Bass and Alto). Also the movement of soprano into a C while the alto remains on the Bb calls for a strong resolution of the alto into the A. Jumping off into the F sounds a bit unelegant.

So how can we solve this? Progressing into C F A C is not really an option because the use of 4-6 chords is quite restricted in strict 4-part writing. If we accept all Voices moving into the same direction we can instead resolve to F C A C. But suppose you let the bass start an octave lower you can use the same resolution to achieve a cross movement.


Yes, as @Lazy says, the anticipation masks the parallel. But it's still there, and is emphasised by the overall parallel motion.

But @armani, you've been asking questions about 'textbook' 4-voice harmony around here for quite a long time now. Is this an actual piece of music? It's time it started to be. We're not in the year 1700 any more. You've got a nice jumpy little tune, why not back it up in the same style? Think 'Manhattan Transfer' rather than - well, whoever Bach's favourite vocal group was :-) Embrace the parallel motion, embrace the syncopated rhythm!

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    Laurence, yes it is actually the chorus to "can you feel the love tonight" from the Lion King :) I was trying to harmonize it
    – user35708
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 18:47
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    @armani In that case, why are you worried about the 'rules' of 18th century vocal writing?
    – Laurence
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 19:47
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    @armani Textbooks may emphasize the "harmonic style of 18th Century European Musicians" (as Adam Neely puts it), but may not explicitly state that music as a whole is no longer constrained by those rules. Depending upon the textbook, what you have may be as much a lesson in European music history as it is anything. Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 21:25
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    @armani Hm, it is not really the rules of 18th centurey vocal writing. Rather it is an academic analysis of what makes the music of the baroque masters sound great. And knowing this is still of vast importance today. Quite often you might think: This one passage just does not sound right. And with the knowledge of voice leading rules you’re much better equipped for trying to find the problem and to solve it. It is something you should know and ignore by intent, not by accident.
    – Lazy
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 21:32
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    I second the notion that centuries-old rules of polyphonic counterpoint are not overly relevant to modern homophonic pop music. Unless you're arranging this for an SATB choir, I wouldn't worry too much about the rules.
    – ibonyun
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 21:25

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