Partwriting Conventions and Definitions
Distance Between Voices
Maximum distance between S and A is an octave.
Maximum distance between A and T is an octave.
Do not cross voices, either in the same chord or in
Do not leap more than an octave.
A leap greater than a 4th should be followed by a
change of direction.
Avoid most dissonant leaps (e.g., augmented 4th,
major 7th, augmented 2nd, etc.).
intervals are permitted if the melody changes direction by step
immediately following the interval.
Never write parallel P1's, P5's, or P8's.
Do not move by contrary motion from a P5 to a P5;
these are to be considered unacceptable parallel 5ths by contrary
When moving in similar motion in the outer voices to
a P5 or to a P8, avoid a leap in the soprano (called "hidden,"
Avoid moving from a o5 to a P5 above the bass.
(P5 to o5 above bass is OK).
Tendency and Active Tones
Never double a LT (primary or secondary).
Resolve the LT, when in the soprano or bass, to
tonic; when in an inner voice, the LT may fall a third, but it's best
if "covered" by an upper voice.
Never double a chord 7th.
Resolve the chord 7th down by step except in the
"rising resolution" idiomatic progression.
Chromatically inflected notes
become active tones.
Resolve active tones in the
direction of their inflection.
Resolve an augmented 4th out to a
Resolve a diminished 5th in to a
Resolve an augmented 6th out to
an octave (very relevant for augmented 6th chords).
Second Inversion Triads
Use only in idiomatic cadential and passing formulas.
In the cadential 6/4, double the bass, let mi
or me fall to re and do fall to ti.
In the passing 6/4, make sure the bass actually
Avoid the arpeggiated 6/4 in choral style.
Use the pedal 6/4 rarely.
Doubling (The most frequently doubled tones
are do, fa, and so.)
In diminished triads, double the 3rd.
Diminished triads should be in first inversion to begin with.
Double root in root position triad.
In the progression V(7) - VI, double the 3rd of the
VI (exception to root position doubling rule).
In 1st inversion triad, most preferred doubling is
sop w/inner; secondly, bass w/inner; thirdly, outer voices; don't
double inner voices.
Double the bass in a second inversion triad.
(Diminished triads should not be in second inversion).
Try to avoid doubling active tones, because they
pressure you to write parallel octaves.
In the progression V7 -I, both
chords cannot be complete if the leading tone and chord 7th are
resolved correctly; here are some possible solutions:
1. Leave out
the 5th in the V7 (double the root); resolve to a complete tonic triad
2. Use a
complete V7; resolve the leading tone up to the tonic, omitting the 5th
in the tonic triad.
3. Use a
complete V7, but resolve the leading tone (when in an inner voice only)
down a third.
Keep chromatic movement (e.g., F - F#) in the same
voice. That is, avoid false (cross) relations.
Harmonic Vocabulary Restrictions
Avoid the submediant triad in first inversion.
Use diminished triads in first inversion only.
THESE RULES ARE FAIRLY STANDARD; BUT THEY ARE NOT AGREED UPON BY ALL
TEACHERS. BE FLEXIBLE.