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 adjacent chords.

Melodic Intervals

    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.).
        Exception:  diminished intervals are permitted if the melody changes direction by step immediately following the interval.

Parallel Motion

    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 motion.
    When moving in similar motion in the outer voices to a P5 or to a P8, avoid a leap in the soprano (called "hidden," "direct," "covered").
    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.
    Generally,
        Chromatically inflected notes become active tones.
        Resolve active tones in the direction of their inflection.
        Resolve an augmented 4th out to a 6th.
        Resolve a diminished 5th in to a 3rd.
        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 passes.
    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 (very good solution).
        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.

Chromatic Movement

    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.

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