I am currently working on Harmony 9 in the new Royal Conservatory of Music Celebrate Theory curriculum, and I keep getting overlaps for SATB voicing (voice crossing) when I try to harmonize a melody. How do you avoid them? I keep on doing it and I am so frustrated that I can't do it right.

  • 'Overlaps'? Sorry, I don't understand. Can you try another descriptiopn please?
    – Laurence
    Jul 24, 2017 at 23:29
  • Which (book?) is RCM? What is contained in Harmony 9? Is this a question about 4-part chorale writing, and if so, are you possibly referring to crossed voices or parallelisms?
    – Ben I.
    Jul 25, 2017 at 4:02
  • Royal College of Music, U.K. or Royal Conservatory of Music, Canada? Harmony 9? haven't a clue...
    – Tim
    Jul 25, 2017 at 7:13
  • Are overlaps voice crossings? Unisons between voices? Incorrect doublings? Maybe even parallels?
    – 11684
    Jul 26, 2017 at 0:08
  • Yes they are voice crossing. I study using the new Royal Concervatory of Music book. Harmony 9 refers to Basic Harmony I guess.
    – Yudi Wang
    Jul 26, 2017 at 20:02

2 Answers 2


Try giving the voices some space. Use wider voicings, with the bass tending towards the lower end of its range and soprano tending towards the upper end of its range.

When you do find voices crossing, go back a few beats or measures and look for alternative voicings which won't result in overlap.


Well, if you don't want voice-crossing, don't write voice-crossing. Difficult to give detailed advice without seeing the exercise you're working on. Sometimes this can mean tolerating static inner voices with lots of repeated notes instead of interesting melodic lines. But I'm afraid that's the way with 'harmony exercise' style writing. In the real musical world you probably won't be writing hymn tune style for SATB choir all that much and you'll be able to explore the possibilities of counterpoint between contrasting sounds rather than aiming for a homogeneous sound.

  • From what I recall of my Royal Conservatory of Music Harmony lessons, voice leading can get pretty strict--"we provide you the notes you must start with", "all leading tones must rise one semitone", "the seventh degree of a dominant seventh must fall to the third of the key", etc. Thus, voice crossing is harder to avoid than you'd think.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jul 29, 2017 at 17:10
  • Yes, it's 'Bach chorale' rules. But I can't really picture how dom 7th and leading note voice leading would cause problems with voice crossing?
    – Laurence
    Jul 30, 2017 at 18:17
  • OK, maybe not precisely dominant 7th and leading tone. But say the soprano voice is pre-defined as D-G (falling), and you've already written a B in the alto voice at the D...leading tone voice leading dictates a voice crossing here already, and you pretty much have to take that path if the G is the last note.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jul 31, 2017 at 13:21
  • Is this a real example? Soprano voice wouldn't normally go as low as G below Middle C. But if that's the melody, you aren't really at liberty to obscure it. Of course, if the soprano is an octave higher, there's no problem.
    – Laurence
    Jul 31, 2017 at 17:19
  • I was assuming the G above Middle C and the D above that.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jul 31, 2017 at 22:00

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