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

introduction | parallel fifths | parallel octaves | similar motion

Anyone who has had to write pastiche Bach chorales will have been nagged by their harmony teacher about parallel fifths. Students of counterpoint over the last couple of centuries, including many of the great composers, have undergone a similar schooling, often under the influence of J. J. Fux's famous book on counterpoint. Perhaps partly as a result of this, common practice tonal music largely avoids consecutive parallel fifths.

Theorists have offered various explanations for this, but what is clear is that consecutive parallel fifths stand out in chord progressions in a way that other parallel intervals do not. You can hear the difference they make in the two examples below. The first contains parallel fifths between the tenor and bass parts (highlighted in red) while the second uses the same harmony but avoids the parallels. There is nothing inherently unpleasant about the sonority created by parallel fifths, it is simply it was considered inelegant or clumsy:

Notice 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