Let's say we have this chord progression (keyboard and SATB voicing): b: i-V-i

If I understand it correctly, we have to use harmonic minor in chord progressions. Thus, we never use natural minor for chord progression? Would this chord progression be ok and allowed: i-v-i?

Moreover, would it it be wrong if I moved the B note up in the bass on octave?

Is there any way I can learn to improvise/compose music using this kind of theory instead of just making it only theory? enter image description here

  • In a four part harmony context number 1's tonic chords is very bad seeing as the distance between the bass and tenor is way above a tenth.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 23, 2015 at 13:38
  • What exactly do you mean by a harmonic minor in chord progressions?
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 23, 2015 at 13:38
  • 2
    @NeilMeyer there is no real restriction in the interval between bass and tenor vocal parts, except for the practical limits of the compass of the different voices. Bach often wrote a twelfth, see for example the first chorale here (which even has a 13th): imslp.org/wiki/Special:ImagefromIndex/318293 (and many of the other chorales also)
    – user19146
    Aug 23, 2015 at 16:09

3 Answers 3


The reason for the "major" dominant chord in common practice harmony is the general principle that "the key is defined by its leading note." The progression i-v-i is perfectly musical, but it doesn't strongly define "i" as the tonic chord of the key. A minor-chord progression like i-v-iv can make good musical sense if the voice-leading follows the descending melodic minor scale.

Both your examples are OK for SATB, though in the first one you have the tenors relatively high on F# compared with the other three voices more in the middle of their range. The second one is more "balanced" in that respect. But the important point is not "which is best", but firstly "do you recognise that they will sound different", and second (and more important) "which sound did you intentionally choose to write".

The way to "learn to improvise/compose music using this kind of theory" is: just do it. But test everything you read in a textbook or on the web against what your ears tell you, and then write music that sounds the way you want it to sound, not music that follows somebody else's arbitrary set of "rules".

Of course if you want to pass an exam whose purpose is to demonstrate that you have "learned the rules", then common sense says that you should "follow the rules" when answering the questions. But "composing" and "passing an exam" are two different things.



As for the distance between Bass and Tenor in your first example - I wouldn't worry to much about that when played on a keyboard.

As Neil already mentioned above - when applied to a choir SATB setting this could be problematic - but in my point of view not so much because of the distance but rather that amateur Tenors do have their confy-zone between f and f1 - so you push them towards their limits. Professional Soloists or Pro-Choir-Tenors will not have any issues with that of course.

And also when you work with children the Tenors are more likely to be the low Altos - so this wouldn't be an issue either. Here the problem would rather be the Bb of the Basses, but usually the youngsters like to SHINE by showing off in the low ranges (I'd call it rather breathing out hot air).

And you can always avoid problems by letting a view of them going for the low ones and the average sing the Bb one octave higher. So you'll please everyone and it produces a nice color anyways...

The second example is what you would call an open voicing - to be more precise a 'DROP-TWO' as opposed to the first example which is a closed voicing. Drop-Two just means take the second voice from the top and put it one octave lower -> drop two...

Here it comes all down to a question of taste and style. The DROP version will sound more equilibrated because a broader spectrum of frequency range is used. But on the other hand - Closed Voicings especially in 3 part harmonies do have their very own charm.

I am sure you remember the Jenkins - Adiemus Project (Miriam Stockley / London Philharmonic Orchestra) - Here you can feel the purity of closed voicings in every piece...



Just imagine a chord progression in a modal scale like DORIAN. In the context of all the white keys of a keyboard (C scale) you would find the dorian scale when you start from D.

The typical end sequence of a phrase (cadence) would be I-VII-I -> Dm-C-Dm

But also I-V-I -> Dm-Am-Dm

So there you've got your i-v-i ;-)

I guess there is not a single Irish song without this pattern ;-)))

Perfectly exotic - perfectly nice - perfectly correct!!!

  • I like that - somebody is giving me bad reputation all over the place. Must be a real PRO... - Do you dare to give a comment on what you don't like or find to be incorrect? Maybe I expressed myself not clear enough. Give us the chance to learn from each other and make the best of out this forum... ;-)
    – mramosch
    Aug 23, 2015 at 21:32

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