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How can I harmonize this cadence? V-I? It causes parallel octaves between bass and soprano


There is no way to write a V to I cadence with both chords in root position without creating parallel octaves with that melody.

So your options are to either:

  • Put one of the chords in inversion. It's best to end on a root-position tonic chord, so I recommend putting the V chord in first inversion. The chordal third, E, will be in the bass. One way of doing this is to have C C D E eighth notes in the bass as E E D C is happening in the melody. This creates a nice "voice exchange" between the outer voices.
  • Or, you could rewrite the melody so that it doesn't end with C to F. That way you could have a V to I cadence with both chords in root position.
  • Actually, you can write a V to I cadence with that melody, with both chords in root position, without parallel octaves: the bass needs merely to move in contrary motion to the melody, from G up to C. – Scott Wallace Sep 23 '17 at 18:00
  • @ScottWallace I'm not sure I understand what you mean. What G and C? And the melody is also going up, no? – Richard Sep 23 '17 at 18:07
  • @Richard- urk, sorry, looking at the wrong place. Melody moves from C up to F- bass moves from C down to F. No parallel. – Scott Wallace Sep 23 '17 at 18:12
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    @ScottWallace Changing the connection from parallel octaves to contrary octaves doesn't fix the underlying error. In common-practice, the distinction is all but nonexistent. – Pat Muchmore Sep 24 '17 at 13:46

Try V6-I, which doesn't make parallel octaves between the bass and the soprano.

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    I think you're right though it might help to be a bit more descriptive. I'm not sure everyone is familiar with that description. – xerotolerant Sep 22 '17 at 15:34

You could harmonize the two final Fs as IV-I. There is no "rule" that says the final cadence must be V-I.

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    True, but as long as you don't care about non-common-practice progressions like V–IV–I, why worry about parallel octaves in the first place? I assume if the OP is concerned about parallel octaves then they're also trying to write cadences that conform to common practice as well. – Pat Muchmore Sep 23 '17 at 2:45

You can have the bass drop a 5th instead of raise a 4th, which will allow both the soprano and bass to move 5 --> 1 without parallel octaves.

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    In common-practice music, contrary octaves like that are not considered to fix the underlying doubling problem. It might be subtly better than true parallels, but the ultimate issue is the same. – Pat Muchmore Sep 23 '17 at 2:43
  • @ Pat Muchmore - I don't know what "common practice music" is, but at UC Berkeley we were taught that contrary motion does not create parallels and is thus allowed. – Scott Wallace Sep 23 '17 at 18:04
  • "Common-practice music" is European notated music of the 17th–19th centuries, in other words, the music in which prohibitions on parallel motion are relevant. The general (though not absolute!) prohibition on both parallel and contrary octaves is absolutely standard, to the point where I think you must have misunderstood. I've taught at several schools from many different textbooks and have never seen contrary octaves allowed in basic voice leading. If you can refer me to a textbook that makes this claim or a composer that seems to believe it, I'd be very interested. – Pat Muchmore Sep 24 '17 at 13:52

Was a V-I cadence specified? The repeated F suggests a plagal IV-I instead.

If it MUST be V-I, perhaps this? If the (not strictly prepared) suspension in the penultimate bar is out of style, it could be changed. But rather nice, isn't it?

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