In polyphonic writing, you aren't supposed to use parallel octaves or fifths, but does that apply to, say, this situation(inner voices are not yet filled in for the second shown bar):

partial SATB harmonization with B-A-G-F soprano and G-F bass

Where there are technically parallel octaves between the basses and sopranos, but they aren't rhythmically aligned. Does the rule against parallel octaves and fifths apply when they are not rhythmically aligned, like in the example above?

  • 4
    Could we buy a clef?
    – nuggethead
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 11:36
  • 1
    @nuggethead Top two lines in treble clef, bass in bass clef, tenor in treble clef transposed an octave lower, as is usually done with SATB.
    – OprenStein
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 2:39
  • A key signature would help, too.
    – nuggethead
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 3:18
  • 1
    @nuggethead I'm not sure why that's relevant, this question was exclusively about the "parallel" octaves, but if you must know, it's in common time.
    – OprenStein
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 3:26
  • Not only is this forbidden, but it would be forbidden if the soprano had a B (or B-flat) half note moving directly to the F sharp (or F natural).
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 3:30

1 Answer 1


Yes those are still considered forbidden parallels. Fux, whose book is the basis for most modern textbooks on the subject, explicitly addresses this situation. The fact that the onsets of the notes occur at different times does not affect the fact that they move in parallel from G to F.

This reasoning behind why a soprano move from B down directly to F and a G-F move in the bass is also forbidden in Fux. The idea is that, based on the performance practice of the day, the soprano would fill in the "missing" A and G between the B and F, thus creating a parallel octave.

  • My copy of Fux isn't handy, but I'll update when I can.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 6:01
  • The point (as in all "forbidden" parallels) being to keep the voices independent.
    – ttw
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 14:15

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