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Topic: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

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  1. #1

    Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron St. Germain
    I hope you don't mind if I jump ahead a little but I read something in RK's book that has puzzled me. He states that the bass of a dominant chord should never be doubled in any of the upper parts. He adds that this applies to other chords of the seventh and diminished chords also . Can you explain the reasoning behind this rule? Thank you very much!!!
    Ron,

    There are several reasons why this rule applies. The main reason is that is causes the chord to become unstable. Let me explain. Let's say that you have a C7 chord (CEGBb) and you've decided that it wants to go to a tonic (we'll say F Major).

    The best way to look at this is to imagine it at a cadence point. The phrase is passing along and ends with a V7-I or authentic cadence. If you write the C7 as a root chord (CEGBb) that moves to F major (FAC), the cadence is going to sound more stable. The root movement C-F (5th or 4th depending on direction) is extremely strong and sounds "final".

    In common part writing rules, the root C is most likely to be doubled. It gives the chord more stability because it reinforces the root and makes it stick out.

    If you have a second inversion chord (BbCEG) and you try to double the root (Bb), the plagal movement, or "Amen", is less powerful. The stability is lessened because it briefly makes the Bb the pitch center or tonic.

    It leads to inproper part writing (ie. parrallel octaves, direct fifths or octaves)

    You also have to take into account the context in which this was written. The russians were busy trying to please a regime that disliked unorginazation. To their ears, the incorrect doubling would sound unorganized.

    In todays society, where tonality has lost it's monopoly on music, it usually sounds just fine.

    I hope this helps answer your question. If you have anymore or some follow up, please feel free to let me know. Also, if anyone else has any comments, corrections or question, let me know.

    Good luck and keep writing,
    Jonny
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  2. #2

    Dominant Chords, Doubling of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Sorry, make that inverted dominant chord. Same for other inverted 7th chords

  3. #3

    Re: Dominant Chords, Doubling of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Thanks! That helped answer my question. Good thing I'm up on my harmony so I can follow you. Whew!!!

    It's extremely valuable to have someone with your knowledge here and I really appreciate it. Thanks!!

  4. #4

    Doublings of active tones

    I'd like to qualify this answer a bit.

    RK's rule about not doubling the 7th in the bass is one example of a larger principle: Some notes, e.g. 7ths and leading tones, have strong tendancies to resolve in specific ways (call them "active tones") and others are more neutral. Doublings of active tones in general need careful handling because they create strong colors. Reinforcing them with octaves makes them even more noticeable. Also there is the problem of resolution: one of the doublings is likely to go the "wrong" way, to avoid awkward, momentary parallel octaves.

    When in the bass, a seventh, a leading tone, or any active tone doubled in the upper parts is particularly noticeable, simply because the octave doublings of fundamentals in the low register reinforce that note even more strongly, and can distort the chord's balance.

    Obviously this applies to tonal harmony, and needs re-thinking in non-tonal contexts.

    Btw: Bb,C,E,G is the THIRD inversion, not the second inversion of the chord.

    Alan Belkin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonny Lost
    Ron,


    There are several reasons why this rule applies. The main reason is that is causes the chord to become unstable. Let me explain. Let's say that you have a C7 chord (CEGBb) and you've decided that it wants to go to a tonic (we'll say F Major).

    The best way to look at this is to imagine it at a cadence point. The phrase is passing along and ends with a V7-I or authentic cadence. If you write the C7 as a root chord (CEGBb) that moves to F major (FAC), the cadence is going to sound more stable. The root movement C-F (5th or 4th depending on direction) is extremely strong and sounds "final".

    In common part writing rules, the root C is most likely to be doubled. It gives the chord more stability because it reinforces the root and makes it stick out.

    If you have a second inversion chord (BbCEG) and you try to double the root (Bb), the plagal movement, or "Amen", is less powerful. The stability is lessened because it briefly makes the Bb the pitch center or tonic.

    It leads to inproper part writing (ie. parrallel octaves, direct fifths or octaves)

    You also have to take into account the context in which this was written. The russians were busy trying to please a regime that disliked unorginazation. To their ears, the incorrect doubling would sound unorganized.

    In todays society, where tonality has lost it's monopoly on music, it usually sounds just fine.


    I hope this helps answer your question. If you have anymore or some follow up, please feel free to let me know. Also, if anyone else has any comments, corrections or question, let me know.


    Good luck and keep writing,
    Jonny
    Alan Belkin, composer
    Professor of Composition
    University of Montreal

    http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/pers...n/e.index.html (links to examples of my music, as well as my online textbooks)

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Hey, guys,

    I have enjoyed checking out what has been done in this section. It's nice to see how the text which once tortured my poor young soul has been expanded and illustrated by so many examples and annotations.

    I notice you're talking about voice leading, and we have had numerous discussions about it here over the years. It is sometimes hard for people to grasp why these arbitrary "rules" have any meaning, and the explanations that Jonny and Alan have provided are very good.

    I have a more general explanation that may also be helpful.

    When you read any of the "rules" of voice leading, they can seem out of touch with what you have heard in film scores or some of the other musical applications we are exposed to on a daily basis.

    That's because their basis is drawn from the evolution of diatonic music...that which is designed around the gravitational force of the traditional western scales and modes. There is no doubt that all of the common voice leading and doubling rules are valid. They come from years of highest and best practice, and were formed as a result of what "worked," rather than being arbitrarily applied.

    HOWEVER...

    It's important to note that even very "tonal sounding" music may not be Diatonic in nature. And that, I think, is where the disconnect occurs...when we hear things that sound "tonal," but they are not following the traditional ruleset.

    Here is how I typically explain the way to approach voice-leading rules:

    Say your wife walks into the room wearing a new outfit. She asks you, "Does this look good on me?"

    What is the right answer?

    YES, of course. This is the highest and best answer. It is the answer that men have relied upon since the dawn of civilization, in order to keep the love flowing.

    So, can you break that rule?

    Of course, but only if you have an overwhelmingly better experimental choice:

    "Baby, I don't think that outfit looks good on you..."

    "WHAT?" (tears forming in corners of eyes)

    "No, that outfit looks AMAZING on you!!!"

    See, you have broken the rule, but you have managed through your artistic cunning to increase the level of tension, then resolve it to even greater success by taking a calculated risk.

    This is how voice leading rules work, especially in modern music. By ignoring highest and best practices derived from the history of western music, you take a gamble on destabilizing the gravitational flow...therefore engaging risk...in order to utilize the resulting instability to even greater effect.

    The simple rule, then, is that the traditional voice leading rules will keep you safe, and keep your musical thoughts flowing. Break them only with extreme intention, and no one will ever have a negative thing to say about the results. But if you DON'T break them with boldness of intention, and the results are merely a destabilized line with no saving virtue, then people will merely say, "That's poor voice leading."

  6. #6

    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Since Professor Belkin mentioned parallel octaves, I'd like to follow up on that with a question. It seems that parallel octaves are used quite often in the symphony---An oboe an octave below a flute or a trumpet in octaves to lend power and so on. It seems octaves are premissable sometimes, but not others. Can you explain the difference?

  7. #7

    Smile Re: Dominant Chords, Doubling of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron St. Germain
    Since Professor Belkin mentioned parallel octaves, I'd like to follow up on that with a question. It seems that parallel octaves are used quite often in the symphony---An oboe an octave below a flute or a trumpet in octaves to lend power and so on. It seems octaves are premissable sometimes, but not others. Can you explain the difference?
    I'm not Belkin but will answer this one anyway.

    When we talk about parallel octaves in voice-leading, we are looking at "real" parts.

    See following image (Brahms 4th symphony 1st mov. bar 21-24)...



    The doubling, for example, of fl, kl and fg are just to reinforce the 1st part (sopran) of 4-part harmony. As you can see there are no parallels in the real-parts (under the orchestrated version).

    So parallels in real-parts are still quite no no even today, but as doubling tool they are exellent.

    Hope this was an clear answer.
    Sincerely,
    Falcon1


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  8. #8

    Re: Doublings of active tones

    Quote Originally Posted by belkina
    Btw: Bb,C,E,G is the THIRD inversion, not the second inversion of the chord.

    Alan Belkin

    True, stupid seventh chord inversions!!

    I stand corrected!


    Jonny
    For more information, check out www.jonathoncox.com/intro.html

    "The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music they should be taught to love it instead." - Igor Stravinsky

  9. #9

    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron St. Germain
    Since Professor Belkin mentioned parallel octaves, I'd like to follow up on that with a question. It seems that parallel octaves are used quite often in the symphony---An oboe an octave below a flute or a trumpet in octaves to lend power and so on. It seems octaves are premissable sometimes, but not others. Can you explain the difference?
    This is how I understand it myself as a music student with the disclaimer that I might be explaining incorrectly given that I am still learning:

    David Huron in his paper "Music Perception" wrote:

    Tonal Fusion Principle. The perceptual independence of concurrent tones is weakened when their pitch relations promote tonal fusion. Intervals that promote tonal fusion include (in decreasing order): unisons, octaves, perfect fifths, ... Where the goal is the perceptual independence of concurrent sounds, intervals ought to be shunned in direct proportion to the degree to which they promote tonal fusion.

    In other words, parallel unisions, octaves, and 5ths cause two voices to seem as one in the mind of the listener.

    If two voices are meant to be independant from each other, and move independantly (i.e. no tonal fusion), they should move independantly for their entire existance (i.e. they should never have parallel unisions, octaves, 5ths).

    If two voices are supposed to be dependant and "tonally fuse" together (done for orchestration purposes to make a voice stand out more), then they should move in parallel unisons, octaves, or fifths for the duration of their existance and never move independantly.

    The thing that confuses the ear is if two formerly independant voices suddenly tonally fuse together and sound as one, or two dependant voices suddenly split apart.

    Of course in instrumental textures, voices can be created or destroyed pretty much at any time.

    4-part Harmony is based on 4 independant voices that are created at the fiirst note of the piece (the chorale) and exist all the way through to the final note, where they all terminate. This prohibits parallel unisons, octaves and fifths in 4 part harmony through the entire piece.

    In instrumental textures, to "change" a voice from dependant to independant or vice versa, it essentially has to be destroyed and recreated, which can be done by clearly delineating that the voice has changed or is gone, through a sufficient pause, different rhythm, texture, a cadence, or some other major change in the music... It is largely up to the ear to determine whether the listener thinks of it as the same voice or regards it as a new voice. If the listener thinks of it as the same voice, it must remain as it was before, independant or dependant, otherwise it will confuse the listener's ear and mind so to speak.

    Orchestral music tends to have anywhere between 2-5 different independant voices at once, with many more dependant voices providing re-inforcement for those independant voices in either parallel octaves or unisions.

    Now I must ask the theorists in this forum - did I explain that correctly or are there inaccuracies in what I said?

    Mike

  10. #10
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Dominant Chords, Doublings of Active Tones, Voice-Leading, etc.

    I won't claim to be a theorist, at least as far as Academia might define it, but I think you've broken down that particular approach sensibly and accurately.

    Paul Hindemeth applied this same basic approach to melody.

    The much less technical guideline is that parallel motion is neither good nor bad. It's simply static from a tension-producing standpoint, therefore, you lose the listener if you don't use it artfully.

    The only other point I see floating somewhat ambiguously in the discussion is the fundamental difference between a doubled melody or part, versus a doubled or parallel harmonic function. It's not the same thing. The rules of voice leading apply to only the functional harmony parts. If the soprano part is an octave spread between an oboe and a piccolo, it's still one functional "part."

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