I've learned the existence of voice leading chords; passing chords, anticipation chords, and such, but I'm having a hard time understanding them. I know they need to have a so-called "voice leading function", but that's a bit of a vague concept. In what contexts are voice leading chords "allowed", and how are they used in practice?

  • 3
    Where are you getting this terminology? Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 13:50

2 Answers 2


"Voice-leading chord" is just a generic term for a chord (i.e., notes that happen simultaneously) that doesn't fit any particular functional label, but serves to help the various voices move from one place to another.

  • So something moves by step or oblique motion. What function do leaps have? Where can our voice leading chords have a voice that leaps? Does it only require the bass to move by step? I'm slightly confused on the function of leaps to and from these chords.
    – OprenStein
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 5:30
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    @OprenStein Each individual note within the chord would follow appropriate voice-leading rules, and so would each pair of voices with in the chord, etc. So any of the voices (notes) in the "voice-leading chord" can be leapt to or from as long as the general rules of voice leading are followed. There's nothing special about the voice-leading that occurs to and from a "voice-leading chord". The rules would be the same as moving from any chord to any other: say, V-I or I-IV. The designation "voice-leading chord" only means that there's no specific functional role (no Roman numeral designation).
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 6:05
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    @OprenStein It's a bit of a misnomer to call them "chords" at all. The point is, we're looking "horizontally," at how the voices behave, and that's more important than trying to put a name on the vertical stack of notes. Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 0:28
  • @AndyBonner exactly. If you write a C triad going to a G triad going to a G triad 2nd inversion, and move the E to G via an F, OK, technically there is Csus between the two but you probably wouldn't write that on the part of the rhythm guitarist.
    – danmcb
    Commented May 14 at 7:35

I've never even heard of a "voice leading chord".

As I understand it, "voice leading" is an aspect of writing harmony or counterpoint passages whereby the individual voices each have a melodic quality which is pleasing of itself, while still fulfilling the function of taking the desired place in the overall harmony.

(Don't confuse this with the "voicing" of a chord which is the choice of how exactly assign notes of a given chord to the voices - a related but slightly different concept.)

Achieving good voice leading is a matter of trying various voicings of chords (and possibly even making changes to the harmonisation) so that the individual lines themselves sound satisfying to the ear. You could say that it makes the experience richer for the listener, as focusing on each voice individually becomes a musically enjoyable experience.

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