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					Bach Chorale Harmony
The idea of these pages is to highlight how Bach has harmonized the chorale and to point out a few "problems" and stylistic issues. This version is number 281 in Riemenschneider. It also appears at number 25 and 331, although 331 is rather a special case. I have made 13 particular points about this chorale although I daresay I could have said more! I have split up the chorale simply for convenience. In the notes, JSB means Bach! As the music modulates to 3 different keys, I have written the chord labels on 3 different lines. Pivot chords have been given both labels.

NOTE 1 Tenor and Bass sing a 'G'. On the next beat they both sing an E -flat (albeit an octave apart). Now, although JSB has introduced an arpeggio B-flat in the Tenor part, no examiner is going to ignore the consecutive octaves (even though one is a unison). JSB could have done something else which might have helped him with Note 2 too! The quaver motion is not vital. After all, there is only one other quaver in this whole line. NOTE 2 The Tenor leaps down a diminished 5th. It is not an uncomfortable line although it surprising. NOTE 3 The 2nd beat of bar 4 really wants to be chord VIIb, but Bach has doubled the 5th of this diminished chord. Students ought to double the 3rd of a diminished chord. The reasoning is that VIIb is like the top three notes of V7. In V7 neither the 3rd nor the 7th should be doubled for obvious [I hope] reasons. The answer is in Note 4.

NOTE 4 The Alto 'G' was prepared in the previous chord so this is a suspension which correctly resolved (albeit rapidly) to an F#. In fact, this 2nd beat standing between Ib and I is weak and the Alto G is a common note, whereas all the other 3 could be regarded as passing notes. If you listen to this bar, the F# may actually sound like a lower auxiliary note. This is a piece of JSB's sleight of hand if you like. Notice that both the cadences at the ends of these 2 phrases are inverted. IVb-V and IIb-V.

NOTE 5 To bring about an abrupt modulation back to G minor JSB makes the Bass leap a diminished 6th. Bass parts can be quite 'energetic' and this kind of thing is not unusual. However, try to avoid other parts having such awkward leaps. NOTE 6 JSB has doubled the 3rd of chord I (of B flat) here. I suppose the justification is that he has done so in the outer parts which are moving in contrary motion. Also, our ears tell us that the Bass E-flat HAS to fall and the melody was given and cannot be changed! Another point for students is to note that they should write their bass parts first. If the Soprano and Bass sound good together, then there MUST be some harmony which will work. In any case, my ear tells me that the Bass is heading for its eventual destination, the low B-flat, and an intervening 'D' does not offend me. Doubled 3rds are quite common in JSB's vocabulary. On page 1 of Riemenschneider there are several instances in chorales 1 & 2. NOTE 7 The temporary absence of a 3rd here does not matter. It 'lives on' in our inner ear and we accommodate the moving Bass part which is highly typical. Had the Bass not moved it would have gone to the F anyway. NOTE 8 The Tenor, which has the leading note does not rise by step. Instead it jumps to the D so that the chord contains all 3 possible notes. JSB liked full sounding

chords and the 'rule' that the leading note should rise can be relaxed so long as students avoid silly situations. JSB could have had the Alto falling (via a passing note) to the D and kept his Tenor on B-flat; but he didn't! NOTE 9 Between the end of a phrase and the start of a new one, it is common to reposition everything and "start again". Hence when the same chord is respaced as it is here, there are no consecutives, similar motion or other 'nasties' to worry about. ["Similar Motion" is when two parts move in the same direction, at least one of them by leap, to a perfect concord]

NOTE 10 Top 'A' is rather high for a Tenor but not impossible. These days students balk at singing high anyway. The leap down of an octave is a displacement. NOTE 11 This chord Ic is produced by the passing notes in the Alto and Tenor. It is clear that this beat is harmonized by V7 because the cadential progression Ic-I does not exist! By using passing notes JSB has avoided awkward 'unreal' 5ths between Tenor and Bass. NOTE 12 A leap of a 7th is best avoided, but as noted above, the Bass can be energetic AND this is an octave displacement. Clearly JSB cannot keep going down. NOTE 13 The passing 7th in the Tenor is good. In the Alto, the F# is the leading note, but this need not rise. In fact Bach much prefers to drop the Alto to the dominant in order to obtain a full sounding chord. Beware! NEVER, NEVER put a passing note in the Alto between the F# and the E. It may look as if it is a good place to do so, but it sounds dreadful because it is a 20th century notion. Anyhow, the Tenor falls by step to a B natural. Minor chorales often end with a Tierce de Picardie, as it is called.


 This chorale contains no diminished 7ths.  The key relationships are straightforward and logical. Both pivot chord and abrupt     
modulations are used. The typical quaver movement which characterizes Bach's chorales is largely confined to the Bass. There are no really unusual chord spacings (you'll find plenty in Riemenschneider). The stock progression II7b-V-I occurs three times. In two of these the Alto and Soprano clash with the major 2nd which needs to be resolved, but the 7th can also appear in the Tenor as it does in bar 9. The second inversion chords get a 'look-in' and you will need to look at various chorales to see how Bach employs it. In the main, the voices stick to the vocal ranges you will have learnt.

An Alternative harmony for phrase 1. It is safer for exams!

AS Level Harmony - Summing up and moving on! What you have covered in Term 1
1. Writing Chords
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. Vocal ranges of S.A.T.B. Primary Triads I, IV and V in major and minor keys. Some secondary triads: II and VI in a major key and VI in a minor key. Do not use chord II in a minor key until you are taught how to do so. Raise the 3rd of chord V in a minor key. Space chords correctly: there can sometimes be a large gap (e.g. a 10th) between T. & B., but never more than an octave between other parts. Do not use T. & B. low in their range, close together. Do not be afraid to take T. & B. fairly high if necessary (but do think) There must be a root and a 3rd in every chord, but the 5th can sometimes be left out. Do not double the 3rd in a major chord except in special circumstances. (see later) The 3rd can be doubled in a minor chord if you need to do so for a good reason. Do not cross parts over (e.g. don't have tenor below bass) even if Bach does so.

C. Ashworth - December 2003

2. Writing Progressions
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. You know how to write cadences Perfect V-I, Imperfect "anything"-V; Plagal IV-I and Interrupted V-VI (Here you were shown you need to double the 3rd see 12) Do not let any part jump more than a 5th without good reason Move parts as little as possible. Avoid consecutive Octaves and 5ths. The Leading Note should rise (this rule will be relaxed later) Try not to 'overlap' parts. If a note does not need to move, don't make it do so. Do not jump an augmented 2nd or augmented 4th You can jump a diminished 5th if you are careful that happens next. Check your work. Watch out for 'similar motion': two parts moving in the same direction (at least one them by a jump) to a 5th or 8ve. In the progression V to VI (Interrupted Cadence) the 3rd of chord VI is doubled in most cases. The chord just before a cadence is the approach chord. Ideally, cadences should not be approached by the chord with which they will end. e.g. I-V-I is poor. [Ib-V-I is OK] IV-V-I and II-V-I are 'stock' progressions for perfect cadences.

3. Miscellaneous
1. A Tierce de Picardie is when a piece in a minor key ends with a (Tonic) major chord. 2. Cadences are weak to strong. If they are strong to weak they are called "feminine" - these are not likely to occur in Bach Chorales! 3. Do not write harmony using 'rules'. LISTEN TO WHAT YOU WRITE!

4. First inversion chords
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 1st inversion chords make harmony sound less naïve. They make it easier to avoid consecutives. They are known as six-three chords. Whereas in a root position chord the root is the best note to double, in a six-three chord the root or 5th can be doubled to good effect. Chord II of a minor key MUST ONLY be used in 1st inversion When writing a first inversion of a diminished triad (II in a minor key or VII in either major or minor) the 3rd MUST be doubled. This will be explained. There is a 'special' way of writing two or more six-three chords in succession. Do not start using six-three chords instead of root chords just because you now know about them. Root chords provide stability and clarity to harmony; six-three chords lend variety. You will be shown (eventually) how to use six-three chords in cadences. Such cadences are known as 'inverted cadences', not because they are upside-down, but because an inverted chord is used. Don't start writing inverted cadences everywhere; you need a good reason to do so. I-VIIb-Ib and Ib-VIIb-I are stock progressions. Bach does use the "passing six-four" but he liked the "passing VIIb" much more. The bass line [for example, in C major] F-G-C which gives the stock progression IV-V-I, can also be harmonised IIb-V-I.

10. 11.

5. Dominant 7ths
1. 2. 3. 4. The Dominant 7th is just one of the 7th chords you will need to use. SEVENTHS MUST FALL LEADING NOTES MUST RISE (for now) Hence, to write a correct progression in root position, V7-I, you may have to omit the 5th from one of the chords. 5. 7th chords can be used in Root, 1st, 2nd and 3rd inversion. The 1st and 3rd inversions are particularly useful. 6. Do not jump to a 7th if you can avoid doing so.

To be continued.....

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