TonalityGUIDE - basic tonal music theory and analysis for undergraduates
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Introduction to tonality More about the TonalityGUIDE analysis tool kit Clefs, note labels, intervals and transposition
chord identification understanding voice-leading style awareness

The ToolKIT, which is accessible from all pages of the site, outlines the three main analytical skills that aims to develop. It also links to a short introduction to the study of tonality as well as a reminder of some basics (note and interval labels, clefs and transpositions).

Understanding Voice-leading
introduction general characteristics interval succession resolution of tension embellishing progressions

The various resolutions of tension and successions of intervals discussed on the following pages concern specific progressions in particular situations. Those outlined here, on the other hand, are of a more general nature. This page lists some general voice-leading characteristics of a Bach chorale, the sort of considerations that you should keep in the back of your mind when looking at music. In this way, you can begin to build up a picture of the general patterns underlying different styles.

Some general voice-leading characteristics can be inferred from this short extract:

  • all the notes of the triad are present in each chord
  • the voices avoid moving all in the same direction (even in bar 1 beats 3-4, the alto voice stays on the same note while the other voices descend)
  • leaps larger than a fourth in the upper three voices are rare
  • the direction of motion within each voice is varied (e.g. the downwards motion from bar 1 beat two is balanced by upward motion in the next bar)
  • it is generally the root that is doubled
  • the chords at the cadence are in root position
Note that the convention is to name the voices in chords as if the music was for choir:
top voicesoprano
second from topalto
second from bottomtenor
bottom voicebass

The Tonality GUIDE tonal music analysis tool kit
information and orientation as you browse around
chord identification
understanding voice-leading
style awareness

© Copyright Thomas Pankhurst

TonalityGUIDE - Tonal Harmony and Voiceleading - Table of Contents