Four-part harmonization modulating from E minor to A minor

In this chord progression I wanted to modulate to the minor subdominant (Em to Am) but instead of just using a V7/iv I wanted to see if I could arrive to the V/iv in different ways and perhaps by introducing iiØ7 before the V. Here I chose a bII chord which acts as bVI in the original key and from here it descends by diminished 5th to a iiØ7 chord for a iiØ7-V-i in the new key. I realized after however, that I wrote an augmented second in the soprano. In a diatonic setting, I would be advised to avoid this progression and use a different soprano line but does this apply here as well?

NB, the V in the cadence is not a V7

4 Answers 4


I think the way to consider the problem is not so much about the line F♮ G♯ A and the A2 being "awkward", but rather the issue is about tendency tones and the tendency is for F♮ to descend to E and the G♯ to ascend to A.

The problem is you are not following the tendency of the lowered sixth degree in minor to descend to the fifth scale degree.

Not ♭^6 ♯^7 ^1 in one voice but ♭^6 ^5 and ♯^7 ^1 in two voices.

So, get the F♮ out of the soprano and into the alto, and have the soprano handle just the A G♯ A...

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I don't mind the melodic aug 2, though it's not 'by the book' if you're trying to imitate Bach.

I'm more worried about the part-writing generally. You plonk the F♮ in very abruptly, in two voices. Then a rather clumsy F♮-B leap in the bass. And a lot of similar motion in the penultimate bar.

  • The F natural is the root, usuall we double the root in 53 chords no? Also why is F natural to B clumsy? Is it because it is a diminished 5th?
    – user35708
    Sep 19, 2022 at 13:10
  • Yes, because it's a diminished fifth. It is awkward and difficult to sing (well).
    – nuggethead
    Sep 19, 2022 at 22:08
  • @armani You don't NEED to double the root. If there's a good reason not to, then don't!
    – ibonyun
    Sep 20, 2022 at 5:08
  • @ibonyun What good reason is there not to do it?
    – user35708
    Sep 20, 2022 at 5:59
  • @armani To avoid voice-leading trouble, obviously. There is a general preference -- not a rule set in stone -- for doubling the root (although there are exceptions such as with diminished chords because it leads to parallel octaves). The order of preference is root, 5th, 3rd. Don't double a 7th because you'll end up with parallel octaves. This is style-dependent of course. If you were imitating Stravinsky instead of Bach, you'd want to overload the 3rd.
    – ibonyun
    Sep 20, 2022 at 17:15

Given that you wish to follow the rule of avoiding an augmented second in the soprano in a diatonic setting, then yes, the rule applies here.

By the time the augmented second occurs, the progression has already modulated. The previous chord (bII of Emin; bVI of A minor) is the pivot chord.1 Thus, having modulated to A minor, the augmented second is within a diatonic context.

1 The Vmin7b5 (that follows the bII) has no functional meaning, and, even leaving that aside, then, as @MichaelCurtis points out, if you're going to follow the "rules", the F must resolve downward to E.


This is why the melodic minor scale exists. You could avoid the augmented 2nd by re-sharpening the 2nd F-natural. That chord would become ii7 in A minor. To avoid that nasty tritone in the bass, you could move the bass from B to D, making it IV in A minor.

And I think Michael Curtis and Laurence make good points as well. This is just another option.

  • Is a triad ii chord in minor even a thing? Doesnt the ii chord in minor have to be diminished?
    – user35708
    Sep 20, 2022 at 11:57
  • No, it doesn't need to be anything. Keep in mind you're coming from a key with F# so I don't think it would sound out of place. You could look at it as a secondary dominant if that makes you more comfortable. It's V/V in A minor. Or call it chromaticism or modal mixture or Susan. Whatever label lets you sleep at night.
    – ibonyun
    Sep 20, 2022 at 16:56

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