I understand that the sense of resolution is strongest with the root movement of a rising fourth/descending fifth. However, is the important thing that the chords be a fourth/fifth apart (i.e. Cmaj - Fmaj/Gmaj - C maj) or is it important only that the bass tone be a fourth/fifth apart (i.e. C (pitch) - F (pitch)/G(pitch) - C (pitch)) regardless of what chord actually accompanies these tones?

Here is an example:

enter image description here

Notice that the chords do not follow a progression that moves in upward fourths/upward fifths, but the bass note follows that movement. Is this a useful way to move the bass, or does the theory that I have described not really apply here?

  • I edited your title to reflect "bass" movement instead of "root"; feel free to roll it back if I've mistaken your intent!
    – Richard
    Jun 1, 2019 at 18:45

1 Answer 1


The suggestion of descending-fifth motion is definitely referring to the root motion, not the bass motion. Your I–vi–IV–V progression is very common, but not in these inversions.

Depending on what style you're in, creating bass motion of a descending fifth (like you have) can result in "illegal" uses of six-four chords, non-resolved tendency tones, etc.

Interestingly, trained ears tend to focus on the bass. This would mean that a trained ear very well might assume your bass is right, thus resulting in them thinking something is wrong with the upper voices. In other words, even though the real "error" is the bass, trained ears may think the error is in the upper voices because we tend to assume the bass is correct.

Lastly, even though your example was just for illustrative purposes, doublecheck your vi and IV chords: the vi is missing the root (!) and the IV is missing the third.

  • Thank you for the response—where can I read more about illegal inversions?
    – 286642
    Jun 1, 2019 at 20:45
  • @286642 Really, the main "illegal" inversions are with second-inversion triads. Historically speaking, there are only four types (sometimes distilled down to three) that are legal. Look for discussions on six-four chords to see if that may help!
    – Richard
    Jun 1, 2019 at 20:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.