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...

enter image description here


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?
    – armani
    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?
    – armani
    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?
    – armani
    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

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.