I have been working through Tchaikovsky's "Guide to practical harmony" and found the following example quite early in the book:

enter image description here

I am talking about the first measure. To me it seems that soprano and tenor are approaching the perfect fifth in similar motion, which Tchaikovsky strongly prohibits later in the book (giving some exceptions with harmonic sequences). But this example he represents as a correct voice leading for bass and upper voices move contrary to each other.

I have following guess:

It seems like that he only cares about hidden fifths where bass is one of the voices, but he does not articulate it explicitly. In upper voices he cares only about parallel (not hidden fifths).

Can someone give an explanation?

Edit: It can also be added that hidden fifth would have been completely ok, if we had the same tone in one of the voices (oblique motion), which we also do not have.

1 Answer 1


You can‘t join 2 neighbored chords without having hidden parallels. And they have no common tone! Most important is counter movement between bass and soprano.

Notice also example 27 on the next page: enter image description here

Hidden fifths can actually only be avoided by doubling the 3rd of the second chord like in harmonic minor V-VI.

  • Oh! You are right. I have overseen this. The "gut" examples do not have the same tone in the same voice, which actually is said to be a prerequisite for accepting a hidden fifth, octave. So should I avoid by doubling the 3rd or is it ok and we care only about hidden parallels with a bass?
    – NickQuant
    Sep 7, 2019 at 21:10
  • If I rephrase the previous question. Does my progression become "better" from some harmonic perspective if I drop the third or it is irrelevant for the contrary movement of bass?
    – NickQuant
    Sep 7, 2019 at 21:15
  • 1
    the 3rd in your example would be f of dm (tenor). This would be a "good" solution, but in my eyes Tchaikovsky is too strict with hidden fifths, I would ignore this. You always have to mind this rules are not taught to make you a better composer but to test your knowledge. ;) So you will look pretty smart if you can explain this conflict of voice leading in a test situation or exam. :) I would say:avoid hidden parallels between soprano and bass by countermovement. Sep 8, 2019 at 8:36

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