I wrote a bassline and melody and tried to harmonize it today in 4 parts. I came up with two different harmonizations.

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In the first harmonization (mm. 6 - 9) I have assumed that the melody will be played by the soprano. In the second example (mm. 10 - 13)the melody is taken by both top voices.

Which of these two harmonizations is a more real representation of my bass and melody composition?

I understand the voice leading is very flawed in the second harmonization (mm. 10 - 13) but according to one of my harmony textbooks (Harmonic Practice in Tonal Music Gauldin, Robert ) when you hear a melody like this one with chord tones it is actually perceived as two melodic lines with the top note being the soprano and the lower note being the alto a.k.a compound melody. So according to this principle, the voice leading would be closer to the second harmonization. Which of the two harmonizations best represents the voice leading of this bass and melody?

1 Answer 1


Mm. 6-9 looks like an outline of 4 parts, but mm. 10-13 looks more like three parts where the top "two" parts are showing a compound melody condensed into two parts, at least in m. 10 and m. 12.

So, I think "yes", your two reductions 6-9 and 10-13 seem to show your understand the distinction about compound melody.

The only other thing I can add is I usually think of compound melody as involving to implied lines which are contrapuntally distinct with regard especially to contour.

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Eighth notes like that could sound like a compound line implying the quarter note passage, because the separate contours help provide a sense of two separate lines.

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Eighth notes like that could sound like a compound line implying two parts in parallel thirds, but it could also just sound like single line with embellishing tones.

Your line seems more like a tremolo effect than a compound line.

Reducing as a compound line, I think would look like this...

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But I think what's going on is more of an embellishment with tremolo and lower auxiliary of this...

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In other words, if your line is really compound melody, what happened to the Eb in your reduction? Is it not part of the lower voice's line?

  • Thank you. Which of the two mockups I did best represents the voice leading of the 2 part counterpoint in your opinion.
    – user35708
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 18:10
  • Do you mean 2 part compound melody? That would be better shown in the second mockup. Commented May 8, 2023 at 18:39
  • I revisited my textbook yesterday and I think the compound melody idea is just for analysis not for harmonization. Meaning that you still harmonize the melody like the 1st example with the top soprano voice being the melody but if you wanted to analyze the "melodic motion" you would stem both chord members in the reduction (F and Ab) and say that the top note Ab as the real melodic starting tone even though the melody actually starts on F. So in other words compound melody is only for analysis, not harmonization and I think this is where I was getting confused
    – user35708
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 8:21
  • Take your first example which is a good example of a compound melody. If you were to harmonize this line would your top two voices look like they do in the second bar or is this only for analytical purposes to reveal the melodic top line Db C Db Eb? In my example I have done both because I wanted to know how to harmonize melodies such as these.
    – user35708
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 8:28
  • Generally, I would treat my second bar as what to harmonize, but I would also watch out for any undesirable outcomes from the actual compound line, things like bare fifths without thirds, or forbidden parallels, etc. Sometimes when you go from harmonic skeleton to final embellished form, those problems can creep in. Commented May 9, 2023 at 14:39

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