MUSICAL EDUCATION 3. Voice-Leading from chord to chord


3. Voice-Leading from chord to chord

The basic principle of “voice-leading” is to blend one chord to another without a radical spring. This gives a wished effect especially for accompanying because a melody should come forward and the chords should move smoothly and support the melody.

In the first blog (UNDERSTANDING BASIC HARMONY) I presented all of the three-note chords (triads) in each of their three positions. The basic three-note chords (triads) in C major or A minor look as such. C major is (C-E-G or E-G-C or G-C-E) D minor is (D-F-A or F-A-D or A-D-F) E minor is (E-G-B or G-B-E or B-E-G) F major is (F-A-C or A-C-F or C-F-A) G major is (G-B-D or B-D-G or D-G-B) A minor is (A-C-E or C-E-A or E-A-C) B diminished is (B-D-F or D-F-B or F-B-D). We call the first position the root position; (C major example C-E-G). The next position is the first inversion; (C major example E-G-C) The third position is the second inversion; (C major example G-C-E).

Now I will show how we use these various positions to bring about good “voice-leading”. Say we have our first chord progression from the first paper (C-G-Am-F). Using our three different chord positions we can obtain a smooth movement. Say we begin with the root position (C-E-G). We then look at the chord G and search for the position that best blends with (C-E-G). G major has these three positions (G-B-D or B-D-G or D-G-B). If we look at the second position of G major we see that G is also at the top of the chord. This is perfect in that (C-E-G), the root position of C major, has the G also at the top. Therefore the movement will look like this (C-E-G to B-D-G). This is much better than jumping to the root position of G major. So if it is possible to have a common note, in this case G, we mostly try to join the chords with this common note. This is the general practice for practical “voice-leading”.

We will now look at the two other positions of C major and connect them to the following chord G major. From the first inversion (E-G-C) we see the common note G in the middle of this position. Therefore we look for the G major with G as the middle note.The result is (E-G-C to D-G-B).The last position from C major is (G-C-E). We see here that G is the beginning note so the root position of G major will follow resulting in this movement (G-C-E to G-B-D).

The next movement in the chord progression is G major to A minor. When we look at these chords we will notice immediately that there are no common notes. We then simply move each note to the following note in the scale. For example (G-B-D to A-C-E) or (B-D-G to C-E-A) or (D-G-B to E-A-C). In classical music the movement from (G-B-D to A-C-E) was not used. Therefore the other possibility (G-B-D to E-A-C).

Now I will connect the three chords with this technique of voice-leading. Firstly starting with the root position of C major (C-E-G to B-D-G to C-E-A). Next starting from the first inversion of C major (E-G-C to D-G-B to E-A-C). Then starting from the second inversion of C major (G-C-E to G-B-D to A-C-E) or the classical variant (G-C-E to G-B-D to E-A-C).

Lastly we will connect the chord A minor to F major. As we look at these two chords we see that they actually have two common notes to help us move smoothly. We will start with the root position of A minor (A-C-E). Both the notes A and C are found in F major. The voice-leading from the root position of A minor to the chord F major will appear like this (AC-E to AC-F). Then from the first inversion we move as such (C-E-A to C-F-A) and from the second inversion we have (E-AC to F-AC).

The entire chord progression in all three variations stands so. From the root position of C major (C-E-G to B-D-G to C-E-A to C-F-A). From the first inversion of C major (E-G-C to D-G-B to E-AC to F-AC). Then from the second inversion of C major (G-C-E to G-B-D to AC-E to AC-F). With the classical variant we have (G-C-E to G-B-D to E-AC to F-AC).

We have now gone through the basic principles of voice-leading with three-note chords. Of course with the addition of the four-note chord we have even more possibilities. In the next blog I will be presenting the seven related keys in music. This will greatly expand our harmonic knowledge. An analysis of a Beatle song will also be there.