I have a melody in which I am trying to write a chord progression for. One of the rules of thumb is to finish a chord progression on the tonic if it precedes a chord of a 5th, and especially of a seventh. I find this to be true, as there does seem to be a nice resolve from some sort of tension to from the 5th or 7th to the tonic.

However, in both cases there is a consecutive 5th going downwards to the tonic, between the bass and the lead of both chords. For e.g a VI - I is


So, between C to G and G to D, the 5th jumps downwards (not by a 5th, the 5th, as in the 5th between C/G and G/D).

In your experience, does avoiding such consecutives actually make your music sound ANY better, or do you think this rule should be disregarded?particularly since this rule was created in the classical era. See, I can't find anyway what so ever to make the two chords sound nice AND logically connected without the consecutive, and I even feel that the consecutive itself it part of what logically connects the two chords, as well of course as the two notes being connected via note G.

  • What style is this? Are you just writing a chord progression, i.e. lead sheet? Then the voicings (that is what you are discussing) is up to the player. Or are you actually arranging the accompaniment? Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 9:42

3 Answers 3


The point of avoiding certain parallels is not that it would "sound bad". On the contrary, it sounds really good - so good that for centuries, this was the only kind of polyphony anyone ever used.

The point is rather that if you want to write a polyphonic piece of music (and that was a radically, heretically new idea at th time), you'd better not lead your voices so that they are virtually identical, otherwise you might just as well write an old-style organon and save yourself the bother.

So the rule makes sense in a particular setting with a particular goals, not the least of them being to distinguish yourself from what used to be the 'proper' way to perform music. When you learn counterpoint you're supposed to demonstrate that you can do this, so the rules are important. In other settings, e.g. strumming a guitar at a campfire, they are simply irrelevant.

  • Dunno -- leading voices in parallel fifths sounds kinda ugly to me :-) Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 14:15

It depends on what you are trying to do. If you are using the chords as harmonic colour, parallel triads work fine. If you need some independence between the voices, parallel octaves and fifths aren't so good. Both with and without are perfectly acceptable, and have been since the end of the 19th century, provided you accomplish what you are setting out to do.

Now, having said that, if your ambitions lead to something as diverse as, say, Jeff Beck's music, moving at need from power chords to lute-style solo music, then it doesn't hurt you at all to learn common practice voice leading. It becomes just one more tool in the toolbox, and honestly, it's not that hard to learn. I put up some examples on another somewhat related question, Chord progressions : which note resolves to which note.


The voicings you wrote are two root position chords, specifically V to I, resolving in parallel. This is the absolute most basic way to "voice" these chords and is generally considered cheesy and un-interesting, mostly because the sounds is boring, or maybe too strong of a resolution for the middle of the piece, maybe ok at the end. It is a very flat, final sound to the progression.

What gives it an open, final sound is, as you pointed out, the parallelism, all the notes moving in parallel, and in very open intervals, 5ths, or 4ths depending on the direction. It sounds like early chanting or something, organon someone mentioned, yeah. But that is very immature music, only because it was so early in development. Why write music like that now? It is not a modern sound.

The parallelism makes it sound abrupt and hokey, the opposite of modern harmony which should be smooth and hip.

Avoiding this parallelism doesn't necessarily make things better; it is more accurate to say that using other voicings makes the music better.

That's not to say strict parallelism has no place in modern harmony! Even parallel 4ths can sound really cool. But, specifically resolving V-I the way you presented looks like you are writing a children's My First Piano Book or something. I would suggest against that for a creative outlet such as arranging the accompaniment for your original melody.

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