I harmonized a short melody using block string chords. I used voice leading technique so the notes progress at stepwise motion. It sounds good. But it doesn’t sound good when I give the melody to piano. Exact same notes. Are my ears wrong or is this an issue? If it is an issue, how do you go about it?

I intend to have piano play the melody, add arpeggio and use this string background music. Looks like I can't have it.Example

  • The first thing that comes to mind is that the piano might not be playing in the same octave as the Violin I is currently written. So I wonder if you'd double-checked that.
    – Aaron
    Apr 23, 2023 at 23:56
  • It would also be helpful to know if the entire melody sounds bad to you, or just specific notes or measures.
    – Aaron
    Apr 23, 2023 at 23:58
  • Thanks. Aaron. The entire thing sounds not ideal. Not really bad, but not ideal.
    – Yi Ming
    Apr 24, 2023 at 15:14

2 Answers 2


One problem is the presence of parallel unisons, fifths, and octaves.

For example, in mm. 5–6, the melody, Violin II, and Cello II all move from B to C. At the same time, Violin III and Cello I move in parallel fifths from G-D to A-E. This is an unexpected, even harsh sound when writing in traditional major/minor tonality. When heard only with strings, the natural blend of the instruments' timbres can help make the sound gentler, but when adding a different timbre, like a piano, the sound stands out more starkly.

The same problem exists in mm. 9–10 but with slightly different doublings.

  • Thank you very much for pointing them out. I will look into it.
    – Yi Ming
    Apr 24, 2023 at 15:12

I do not think your string arrangement sounds good, and it has the very same problems the piano version has: It quite homogeneous. All your voices generally move in the same direction at the same rhythm (causing occasional parallels, as Aaron pointed out). If you want an interesting voice leading you should avoid this. Instead of this:

enter image description here

you could do something like this

enter image description here

(I’ve colored the changes). Hear for yourself:

Try to make your arrangement more interesting. Making step movements is only one thing of voice leading, and not even always good.


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