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In bar 3 I am trying to spell a chord that leads from a ii65 to a V64 chord. The intervals are in the figured bass but I am wondering if this chord should be a root position viidim7 chord with the B♯ changed to a C♮? Or perhaps yet another interpretation would be prefereble? enter image description here

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  • Please see: music.stackexchange.com/questions/107885/… Commented Jun 10 at 9:33
  • Thank you but that post does not talk about the discrepancy I am asking in my OP. Whether to write the chord as an inverted enharmonic viidim7 (as I currently have it) or a root position one.
    – armani
    Commented Jun 10 at 9:45
  • Well, your chord is clearly not a viio7, which would be g#o7. The answers in the other question present two interpretations of the chord: the first is viio7/V, which would suggest spelling C. The other is diminished common tone I, which from what I can see, people spell as they please. To me, in your case the first interpretation seems to have more sense, as the progression goes viio7/V–V64–V... Commented Jun 10 at 10:23
  • Yes it is a dimished 7th chord. Either a 65 dimished 7th chord or, a root position dimished 7th chord.. the root would obviously vary on which spelling was used. If you read the intervals above the bass I have a M6, a m3 and a D5... that is a 65 dimished chord! so in other words it is a B# dimished 7th chord. I could raise the B# to a C and then I would have another dimished 7th chord but this time in root position with a dim7th from the bass a dimished 5th and min 3rd from the bass. Do you know about inverted dimished chords? My question was which chord would be best to use.
    – armani
    Commented Jun 10 at 10:45
  • Functionally, it's a viidim7 of V (and the I64 should be viewed as a double appoggiatura of V), so in that sense you should spell C-natural. But psychologically, if this is being written for a singer or a violinist (or maybe a wind instrument - I don't know those as well), you probably want the intonation to actually lead to the C-sharp to emphasize that note as it seems to be the climax of the phrase. Commented Jun 11 at 4:42

3 Answers 3

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In A major, the #^4 is D#.

So, the diminished seventh chord on that root is D# F# A C♮.

But, I think the real question is whether you want to consider #^4/D# as a temporary leading tone. In that case, of course, you want to ask what temporary tonic would it be leading to? It would lead to a tonic of E.

The next two chords are an embellishing 6/4 resolving to 5/3, I6/4 to V, which I think works well to make the V, the E major chord temporarily tonicized.

I think that all makes sense, and you should use the C♮ spelling.

The spelling in the example notation is B# D# F# A, which technically makes B# the root and leading tone to tonic C#, which doesn't make sense with the follow 6/4 to 3/5 on root E. In other words B# is not the leading tone to E, so the spelling obscures the function of the leading tone resolution.


From comments:

I'm not at a piano to test the sound, but the other thought I have now is the changing role of the B# rising to C# versus C♮ as a member of D#dim7 which would descend to B. The former actually happens in the chromatic ascent. The later doesn't actually happen directly, as the 6/4 is inserted between. My question is whether, in the end, that works for or against the musical intent of a real composition, and whether you would eventually keep or abandon this idea. Otherwise the question seems purely academic.

So, after playing at the piano, I thought the three main musical actions are: D# as a leading tone, B# chromatically rising as a passing tone, and an appoggiatura chord preceding the V.

There is nothing "wrong" with example which uses the diminished seventh chord leading to the 6/4 chord. But, it did get me thinking. To the extent that the B# is chromatically ascending, but not as a leading tone, to C#, what kind of chord might do that as spelled B# D# F# A?

The target chord is A C# E, there is a common tone of A, the diminished seventh chord could be a common tone diminished seventh chord. But, that would change the role of the A major chord from one of embellishing - I6/4 decorating V - to the bona fide chord of resolution, which should therefore probably be root position I with no V following it.

To satisfy my own curiosity I worked the initial progression - I ii6/5 (appoggiatura chord) V - through several transformations that work out various possibilities, but without mixing the enharmonic cross relationship of B# versus C♮, and ensuring C♮ is used only for directly descending to B. These are my four transformations...

enter image description here

Parenthesis indicate the appoggiatura chords.

I'm not trying to say these are right, yours is wrong. I just wanted to work out some possibilities that retain your main idea, but avoiding the enharmonic ambiguities that lead to your question.

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  • Hi Michael. It was established in one of my other posts music.stackexchange.com/questions/135596/… that enharmonic spellings need not respect voice leading logic, your answer argues one spelling over another based on voice leading
    – armani
    Commented Jun 11 at 10:10
  • I think your point is to say the B# shows the ascending chromatic step between B and C#. There is a certain logic to that. But is suppose if that's the case, the passing motion might be thought of as a non-chord tone, and just label it viio63/V, no seventh chord. Commented Jun 11 at 20:56
  • At this point I'm not sure what we are after. I just gave the spelling of a diminished seventh chord rooted on #^4. That isn't a voice leading issue. It's just basic spelling. Commented Jun 11 at 20:59
  • I'm not at a piano to test the sound, but the other thought I have now is the changing role of the B# rising to C# versus C♮ as a member of D#dim7 which would descend to B. The former actually happens in the chromatic ascent. The later doesn't actually happen directly, as the 6/4 is inserted between. My question is whether, in the end, that works for or against the musical intent of a real composition, and whether you would eventually keep or abandon this idea. Otherwise the question seems purely academic. Commented Jun 11 at 21:05
  • @armani, I made an addition to my answer. Commented Jun 11 at 23:00
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Such enharmonic respellings, determined for the ease of the reader, are relatively common. The logic here is that the motion from B-sharp to C-sharp is in some sense less cumbersome (and ideally less confusing) than the move from a C-natural to a C-sharp. This is especially true because the C-sharp, since it appears at the beginning of a measure, would need an additional courtesy accidental to clarify that it isn't still a C-natural. All of this said, the chord is technically a leading-tone seventh of the ensuing E and should be spelled with a C-natural.

There are more advanced examples of this enharmonic respelling. If that chord at the end of m. 3 were a German augmented-sixth, for example, it would be very common for the same C-natural to be spelled as a B-sharp to clarify its movement up to C-sharp.

And one last bit of voice-leading clarification: remember that chordal sevenths must always move down by step. Sometimes these resolutions are delayed (i.e., the pitch can't move down yet), but that tendency to move down remains until the pitch can move down. In this case, that B-sharp/C-natural is the chordal seventh, but we "allow" it to briefly move up to C-sharp before ultimately resolving down to B. Just know that, although this may look like an error at first, this is absolutely acceptable in this style.

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  • THank you. I am trying to understand your German 6th example. If the chord at the end of bar 3 was a Ger augmented 6th as you say, the chord would have F♮ in the bass and the D# would be in the top voice.
    – armani
    Commented Jun 12 at 8:01
  • @armani Correct. And somewhere in that German augmented-sixth there would be a C-natural that, on account of its resolution to C-sharp, may well be spelled as a B-sharp.
    – Richard
    Commented Jun 12 at 12:06
  • Oh ok I understand, thank you!
    – armani
    Commented Jun 13 at 7:04
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Please see this quote from Wikipedia, which bases on Kostka and Payne:

The cto7 chord, whose function, "is simply one of embellishment," most often spelled ♯iio7 when embellishing I or ♯vio7 when embellishing V, is distinguished from the viio7/V chord by common tone chords resolving to I or I6 while viio7/V resolves to V or I64.

In your case, the following chord is indeed V64, sometimes called I64. Whatever it is called, it is not a stable form of tonic. It is a chord which leads to an actual dominant (the last chord in your example line). That's why I believe it is the best to write your chord as D#o7, or viio7/V: D#-F#-A-C. Apparently, spelling with B# would be preferable if the following chord was a root position or first inversion of the tonic, which is not the case. As a side note, IV #IVo7 I is a common figure in blues/gospel/jazz, and people don't really bother writing it as some inversion of #iio7, perhaps for good!

Your first example may help to understand the origin of viio7/V. I wonder, why you didn't call the third chord B7/D#, that is V65/V? Again this gives a logical sequence: V/V V64 V...

If you add b9 to that chord, making it B7b9/D#, the added note would be C. If you then remove the root, you end up with the second example. Not always, but quite often diminished chords can be understood as dominant b9 chords without root, and I believe this is what we see here.

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  • THank you. I didn´t write the chord as B7/D# because that description does not show the relationship between the chord and the one that it resolves to.
    – armani
    Commented Jun 10 at 14:01
  • @armani - You can essentially throw out I6/4 from the list of chords that any chord resolves to. Only respect the chord immediately after I6/4.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jun 11 at 6:18

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