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Why does the leading tone (G#) go to E rather than A in this example?

  • 1
    In the middle voices, leading rules are often not as important as they are in the soprano and bass. Sep 22, 2019 at 9:04
  • 1
    Near Dupe
    – user45266
    Sep 22, 2019 at 20:52
  • 1
    A couple of points in addition to the ones made in the answers: (1) The tenor line, taken as a whole, would be extremely boring if it went back up to A. I guess this is piano music, but the ideal is for every line to have some life of its own and some melodic interest. (2) The style is not contrapuntal. A lot of the motion is parallel. At the end, there are three voices doing direct 5ths and direct octaves, which in a contrapuntal texture could make it sound as though several voices had suddenly disappeared. But the sound of independent voices isn't really what they're trying for here.
    – user9480
    Sep 22, 2019 at 21:50
  • Isn't it just parallel tenths and sixths? Are those still problematic? And where are the direct fifths?
    – user20754
    Sep 23, 2019 at 10:53
  • Also the motion of all the other notes is downward, so it would make sense that the G# would also move downward.
    – Duston
    Sep 23, 2019 at 14:16

2 Answers 2


If the G# had risen to A, the pause chord would have three As. It sounds better with all the notes of the triad, including E. It's not good for the leading note to fall, but here is a situation where making it fall like that is considered an acceptable compromise. Bach made the leading note fall in a lot of his chorale harmonisations.

  • 2
    In isolation a leading note going anywhere except to tonic doesn't sound so good. However, when it's in amongst other notes, rather than being the top one, it's o.k. I guess.
    – Tim
    Sep 22, 2019 at 8:47
  • 1
    Those are really more guidelines than actual rules anyhow. More modern music doesn't necessarily bother with them anymore, but even back in Bach's day there were many exceptions to be found. Sep 22, 2019 at 18:36

As Tim says the leading tone has to lead to the root tone of the tonic (in major and minor) when in the discant (Soprano) or Bass. But in the final chord, it is often - in purpose to have a full 4 voices harmony - lead down to the 5th in Alto or Tenor.

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