22 votes
Accepted

Is two singing voices occasionaly being unison "allowed"?

First off, everything is allowed in music. Whether it's appropriate can be another question, but especially in rock most people basically go by “if it sounds good, it's ok”. Even by the ...
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19 votes
Accepted

"Only open voicing below middle C!" Really?

There are acoustical reasons for not wanting close voicing in the lower register; in short, the upper harmonics muddy each other up and fog up the sound. But in my experience, C4 is a really high ...
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  • 78.8k
17 votes
Accepted

How do you voice extended chords?

Anything over a 7th must contain that 7th, be it major 7th or minor (b) seventh. It's been well established that the 5th (perfect) can be dispensed with, as its sound is contained in the root note. ...
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  • 174k
16 votes

How can I distinguish between a full 7th chord and a 7th chord without a 5th in figured bass?

Traditionally, this isn't specified. A single "7" in the figures could be performed either complete (with the chordal fifth) or incomplete (without). Rarely, though, the figures can specify ...
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  • 78.8k
15 votes

What is Voice Leading?

Wheat gave a very good explanation of voice leading and I thought I'd just add a bit about counterpoint. Up until relatively recently (1600s/1700s) the concept of a chord wasn't around - composers ...
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13 votes
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Chord voicings used by backup trios in Motown girl groups?

This vocal style comes from the American traditions of close harmony. As popular music (and the radio) came into being in the 20th century, it took influence from the styles of its times, just as any ...
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  • 12.1k
11 votes

Voice-leading and Composition

If I understand Pat's answer he seems to be saying that composers of the era were not consciously writing music that obeyed these principles. So am I to take it that at no point was a composer ...
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  • 25.1k
11 votes

Do 4-part harmony rules also apply to piano arrangements?

They don't fully apply, no. But it depends on what you're trying to do. Remember that the voice-leading rules for four-part harmony are to mimic eighteenth-century chorale procedures. Piano ...
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  • 78.8k
10 votes
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chord voicing to improve overall sound

The lack of "richness" — the "tinny" sound — is largely due to the absence of thirds in your harmonies. Also, the parallel octaves, parallel & direct fifths contribute significantly to the ...
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9 votes

Are these parallel octaves?

Just to add to Patrx2 answer there are a total of four types of motion in counterpoint. They are: oblique - one note moves while the other doesn't contrary - the notes move in the opposite direction ...
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  • 46.1k
9 votes
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Are parallel octaves okay in other styles of music?

The rules about parallal octaves only apply when writing Bach chorale-type harmony where the aim is rich harmony with no one part "sticking out" disproportionately. Because this is often the first ...
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9 votes
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What is the proper chord interpretation for the intro to Stairway to Heaven?

The second chord is a chromatic passing chord: the bass line is descending (A -> G#) whereas the top line is ascending (A -> B). It doesn't really have a name which describes it properly (CaugMaj7 is ...
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  • 1,623
9 votes

Doubling the third of a root position major chord in four-part harmony

Perhaps this is a non-answer, but I wanted to state that there's very little musical reason, in my opinion, for that rule; it really sounds like a rule that will prevent you from making other errors (...
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9 votes
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What’s the voice leading error?

The error is a so-called "hidden fifth", or, "direct fifth". Your outer voices are moving into a perfect consonance by similar motion. Even in strict voice-leading this is often allowed except in ...
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  • 156
9 votes

"Only open voicing below middle C!" Really?

Closed vocings aren't bad, but you need to be aware of the register you are in no matter what you compose. In lower registers, having notes close together isn't always what you want. Specifically ...
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  • 46.1k
9 votes

How do you voice extended chords?

Conventionally, the most often skipped notes in any remotely extended chord are the 5th and any degrees above the 7th that aren't included in the chord name. For example, V13 chords in classical music ...
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  • 11.6k
9 votes

Can the leading note resolve down?

You're absolutely right! The typical rule is that the leading tone must resolve up to tonic when it is in an outer voice (that is, the soprano or bass). If the leading tone is in an inner voice, it ...
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  • 78.8k
9 votes
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Expanding the I-IV progression

Root progression by descending third like I vi IV ii is a standard thing in classical and pop music. I think you should not consider it a retrogression. Technically harmonic retrogression means not ...
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9 votes
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Should the comping instrument ever double the bass player?

I agree with the answer and ideas provided by @Tim and would like to add a few of my own. The thing about group accompanying is unless the music is completely arranged you can’t predict what the other ...
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9 votes

Is staggering fifths a good way to avoid parallels?

If by "staggering 5ths" you mean alternating between a perfect fifth and another interval to break up their consecutive nature, then composers absolutely do this! One of the most common ...
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  • 78.8k
9 votes

Why does the 7th of a dominant 7th chord have to resolve down in voice leading?

The current answers have already addressed the issue, but I want to present a way of thinking about it that may be new: The leading tone wants to resolve up, and the chordal seventh resolves down. ...
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  • 78.8k
9 votes

Can 16th notes cause parallel octaves?

Yes, it unfortunately doesn't matter the note value; no matter how fast or how slow, two consecutive intervals of a perfect octave (or perfect fifth) between the same two voices results in unstylistic ...
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  • 78.8k
9 votes

Why do the parallel fifths work in Schumann's Op. 15 No. 1?

The reason that parallel fifths are bad is that the 5ths end up sounding like overtones of the roots, rather than individual notes of their own. In four-part harmony, this is undesirable, because two ...
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  • 3,893
8 votes

Common Practice Music Theory - Easier method to memorize 4-part harmony doubling rules?

My Music Theory professor pretty much distilled it to 3 bullet points of do's and dont's Don't: Ever double tendency tones (notes that must resolve a certain way like the leading tone, notes outside ...
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  • 46.1k
8 votes
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Does the rule regarding consecutive octaves/fifths actually hold any weight?

The point of avoiding certain parallels is not that it would "sound bad". On the contrary, it sounds really good - so good that for centuries, this was the only kind of polyphony anyone ever used. ...
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  • 6,833
8 votes

Tonality and Rules

tl;dr: Yes, there are probably relatively simple underlying principles, but we're still working on what they are. You make a really common and really valid criticism of music theory. Nothing seems to ...
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  • 608
8 votes

Counterpoint with more than 4 parts

Counterpoint can be written for basically any number of independent parts greater than 1. (And even for a solo instrument, there's something called compound melody that can simulate counterpoint as ...
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  • 11.9k
8 votes
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Voice leading: is it allowed to move from a perfect fifth to an augmented fourth?

Basic answer As long as you are writing in a style that permits dissonance: Moving from a perfect fifth to an augmented fourth does not present a problem. Moving from a perfect fifth to a diminished ...
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  • 56.6k
8 votes

Is staggering fifths a good way to avoid parallels?

Yes, and this is my favorite example... ...Leopold Mozart, from the Nannerl Notebook, no.30 or 34, depending on the edition. I think the idea is the down stroke of each beat is a third, so on a basic ...
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8 votes

Why does the 7th of a dominant 7th chord have to resolve down in voice leading?

To amplify some of the comments: resolving the 7th downward uses a half-step movement between diatonic tones. Traditionally (for Western music over the last Millenium), the half-step movement has been ...
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