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NB: in many places throughout this handout, examples of stylistically sound progression
are given in the major key only. Nonetheless, the same applies for the minor key unless
otherwise stated.

Part I:         •Diatonic Gamut of chords
Part II:        •Chord Classification
Part III:       •Tendencies of Common Practice Harmonic Progression
Part IV:        •Voice-leading guidelines
Part V:         •Doubling guideleins

Part I: •Diatonic Gamut in major and minor-
       Major: I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, viio ~~~ I7, ii7, iii7, IV7, V7, vi7, viiø7
       Minor: i, iio, III, iv, (v)V, VI, (VII) viio ~~~ i7, iiø7, III7, iv7, (v7)V7, VI7, (VII7) viio7
(Note- • in minor keys: use VII instead of viio for circle of fifths progression;
       •„minor‟ v in minor keys occurs infrequently, usually in the context of the harmonization
       of a natural minor bass-line descent of 1-7-6-5. This is typically set by a i-v6-iv6-V
       progression, a favorite codetta-like progression used by Baroque composers to end a
       movement in a half cadence.

Part II: •Chord Classification-
Three diatonic chord classes are as follows:
Tonic or “T” class: I and vi (or i and VI in minor keys), all inversions and all 7ths*.
Subdominant or “S” class: ii (usually in first inversion as ii6 or ii6/5) and IV
        (ii06, iiº6/5 and iv in minor), all inversions and all 7ths*.
Dominant or “D” class: V and vii06 (note: vii0 triad is virtually always in first inversion), all
inversions and all 7ths*.
NOTE: The cadential 6/4 (I6/4 - V) is to be considered a single “D-class” event.
*Chord classification is not altered by inversion, nor is it altered by adding a seventh to a
chord. For example, a viiø4/3 chord is still a “D” class chord, and ii6/5 is still an “S” class

Part II: •Chord Classification, continued-
Questions and Answers regarding chord classification:
1. Why is vi a “tonic class” chord? For two primary reasons:
       a) it can be substituted as a „deceptive‟ chord of resolution from the dominant
       (V-vi instead of V-I); and
       b) it often serves as a means of prolonging root position I as it moves to r-p (root
       position) IV or ii6, as in the progression I- vi - IV (or ii6) - V - I instead of just I - IV (or
       ii6) - V - I. This progression is often used as a codetta-like closing progression to a
       phrase group or other larger section of music.
       (A famous example is offered to us by Mozart in his opera Don Giovanni, at the close of
       Scene One. Donna Anna and her beloved Don Ottavio sing a dramatic duet avenging the
       death of her father [who died at the hand of Don Giovanni]; here, the progression
       featured in the final phrases of their duet moves i - i6 - VI - iiø 6/5 - i6/4- V - i).

2. Why are both ii and IV “subdominant class” chords?
      The subdominant function is not merely suggested by the presence of a chord comprised
      of scale degrees ^4, ^6 and ^1, it is also characteristically felt by a move in the bass
      from ^4 to ^5, as part of an S-D motion. Since IV in root position and ii6 are both
      often part of this process, they are both considered to be “subdominant class” chords.
2a): What is the difference between a „subdominant‟ class chord and a „predominant‟ chord?
      Virtually nothing. Most „predominant chords‟ are either ii, IV or some chromatic
      alteration of one of those two functions (such as a secondary dominant of V or an
      augmented sixth chord on its way to V; we will learn about the augmented 6th chord later
      in the semester). In general, then, the term „predominant‟ is slightly less specific, in that
      it can refer to chromatically altered ii or IV chords and not just the diatonic ii or IV. In
      rare instances, the vi chord can also move to V as a predominant, but this is not very

3. Why is the viio chord also a “dominant-class” chord?
        Simply because it, along with V, harmonizes the leading tone (^7) in a way that creates a
desire for the leading tone to move to tonic. Historically, the chord - in Renaissance
counterpoint - comprised of ^2 in the lower voice, above which ^4 was a consonant 3rd and
^7 was a consonant 6th. The voice leading of this chord comprised of the sixth between ^2 and
^7 resolving out to the octave (^1 and ^8).
        Not every harmony that possesses scale degree 7 is a D-class chord. The iii chord, for
example, does not stylistically move to I, and the ^7 of a I7 chord, for example, usually resolves
down a step in the ensuing harmony. Both of these chords (iii and I7), however, are not terribly

4. What about the III chord? What class is it?
         The iii chord (or III in minor) is not very common, and is only infrequently used in
common-practice harmony, as either part of a circle of fifths progression following a viio chord
         (I - IV - viio - III - vi - ii - V - I),
or as part of a I-iii-V or I - iii - IV (or ii6) - V progression. It has something of a modal, folk-like
quality to it when used as such. Because of its rare use in common-practice harmonic grammar,
it is absent from the general T-S-D-T „grammatical‟ model.

Part III: •Tendencies of Common Practice Harmonic Progression
The following is a basic model for common-practice harmonic progression:

                T      S      D       T

Basically, this model states that
1) any chord may follow the tonic (I)
2) S-class chords (ii, IV) most often proceed to a D-class chord, usually V, less often viiº.
3) S-class chords rarely follow D class chords; this is known as a retrogression.
4) The two S-class chords that can proceed to T in a stylistically sound manner are either IV
(usually in root position) or - less often iiø7, usually as iiø 6/5. Both of these suggest “plagal”
motion, and the latter is only part of Romantic composers‟ harmonic vocabulary.

IIIa): Typical and less typical root movement:
What is root movement? Root movement is the distance between the roots (be they in the bass
voice or any other voice) of two successive chords in a harmonic progression. Conventionally,
root movements are referred to by either 2nds, 3rds, or 5ths, even if the bass line suggests an
inversion of one of these intervals (such as a 7th, 6th or 4th). Thus, an „ascending 4th‟ is generally
referred to as a „descending 5th‟ in music theory lingo.
Stylistically sound root movements:
1. The most common type of root movement is by descending 5th. There is not a single
descending 5th motion in all of diatonic harmony that is stylistically odd.
2. Two other quite common type of root movement are-
        a) the ascending 2nd (as in I-ii6, IV-V, V-vi or viio6-I), and
        b) the descending 3rd (as in I-vi, vi-IV, IV-ii or [not as common] viio-V)
Stylistically unsound root movements:
1. Generally, with the exception of I-V motion (the I chord can move anywhere), or the plagal
IV-I motion, root movement by ascending 5th is not very common.
2. With the exception of I moving to viio6 (again, the I chord can move anywhere), descending
2nd progressions are fairly rare and unstylistic.
3. Root movement by ascending 3rd is usually unstylistic. The only (fairly rare) exception is the
progression I-iii-V (sometimes as I-iii-IV-V).

Chord Progression oddities (things to avoid when constructing a chord progression)

-avoid retrogressions (a D-class chord moving to an S-class chord). D-class chords invariably
         move to T-class chords. One exception to this is the IV6 chord, which sometimes follows
         V and bridges the bass motion between V and V6, resulting in an ascending 5-6-7-1 bass
         line (V6 invariably resolves to I).
-the ii chord should generally not move to a T-class chord. Instead, it usually proceeds to a
         D-class chord. One exception is iiø6/5 or iiø42 moving to i (a sort of plagal motion).
-as mentioned, avoid use of the iii chord, unless it is used as follows: I-iii-V or I – iii – IV. It
         may also be used as part of a circle of fifths (      ) progression (I-IV-viio-iii-vi-ii-V-I),
         in which case it would be preceded by vii (VII in minor) and followed by vi (VI in
         minor). In general, the iii chord is rarely used in major. In minor, it is the key area of the
         relative major, and it appears more frequently, but usually in the context of a suggestion
         of tonic in the relative major key rather than as a harmony functioning in the tonic key.

Part IV:       •Voice-leading guidelines

Most voice-leading issues center around 4 primary topics-
1. the proper resolution of leading tones in the primary key or „local leading tone‟
functions in secondary dominant functions,
2. the proper resolution of chordal sevenths
3. the avoidance of parallel perfect 8ves or perfect 5ths, and
4. the avoidance of augmented or diminished melodic intervals between two successive
notes of a single voice part.

1. Leading-tone resolution: Leading tones (or leading-tone functions in secondary dominant
progressions) virtually always resolve up to their tonic. The one exception to this is the ^7-^5
inner-voice resolution option in a V-I progression, which states that
       -if the leading tone is in an inner voice, and
       -if their is ^2-^1 motion above that leading tone, then
the leading tone can resolve down to ^5 rather than move up to ^1.

2. Chordal 7ths. The seventh of any 7th chord must invariably resolve down by step.
Two special cases:
1. In certain situations, the chordal 7th may not be able to resolve immediately (in the very next
chord), but that 7th is still obliged to do so in the same voice in the next succeeding chord. The
most common example of this is the ii7 chord (usually as ii6/5) moving into a cadential I6/4 - V.
The seventh of the ii6/5 is ^1, which must resolve down to ^7. However, it cannot do so until the
“V” portion of the cadential 6/4 is sounded, since ^7 does not exist in the “I6/4” portion.

2. If two 7th chords of the same roman numeral function (usually V7) sound successively, then it
is possible to „pass‟ the 7th (somewhat like a „hot potato‟ game) to another voice (from tenor to
soprano, for example). Whatever voice possesses the 7th as the chord resolves (to I), that voice is
required to resolve the 7th down by step. This „passing‟ game usually occurs between upper
voices, and rarely if ever involves the bass voice. Usually, once the bass voice sounds the 7th (in
a 4/2 inversion), it will resolve it into an ensuing (tonic) chord in first inversion (I6).

3. Avoiding Parallel perfect 5ths and 8ves:
         This rule speaks for itself. However, there is one very important thing to regard when
attempting to rid your part-writing of such parallelisms, and that is to use proper doubling
(which is discussed in more detail below). In fact, I find that most parallel 8ves and 5ths are
usually always the result of some improper or atypical doubling. Thus, it pays to nurture a keen
sense regarding the relationship between proper doubling and the avoidance of unwanted
         Also, when writing an ascending second progression with two successive chords in the
same position (inversion), move the upper three voices down in contrary motion to the bass to
avoid //5ths and //8ves. For example, a IV in rp followed by a V in rp will result in parallels unless
this is done.

4. Avoid melodic augmented or diminished intervals
a)•An exception to this general rule is in situations where the bass voice descends (descends
only, not ascends) into a leading-tone function. In these situations, diminished melodic
intervals are allowed. For example, in a minor key, a harmonic move of i6 -V6 would result in
a descending diminished 4th (Eb to B natural, for example, in the key of c minor).
b)•99% of the time, errors regarding this rule result from a melodic move from b6 to #7 in minor
keys, which usually happens in an S-D progression, such as iv-V or iio6- V. Thus, whenever you
are in a minor key and are writing an S-D progression, flag the ^6 and make sure it moves down
to ^5. Usually, it is taken down to ^5, but can also be taken town to ^4 if the D-class chord is a
V7 (its chordal 7th will be ^4). Taking it to ^2 would result in a tri-tone melodic motion.

Part V: Doubling Guidelines

Remember, good doubling leads to the avoidance of //8ves and 5ths. The following is a
basic list of doubling guidelines.

•Basic Rule #1: Never double a tendency tone (leading tone or chordal 7th). These notes
have specific obligatory stepwise motions; when they are doubled and both voices resolve
properly, the result is parallel 8ves.
•Basic Rule #2: If you decide to do an atypical doubling, do so for a good reason (melodic
activity or desired vertical sound of a certain chord), and take extra care that the atypical
doubling does not result in any undesired // motion.

1. In a major or minor triad in root position, double the chord in this order of preference:
        root = best       5th = OK          3rd = least common.
 Don‟t double unless after a desired melodic motion or vertical sound.
If you decide to double the 3rd, make sure it creates no undesired //‟s into the next chord.
Note: NEVER double the 3rd of a V chord, because it is the leading tone.

2. In a major or minor triad in first inversion, usually double the soprano, which should usually
either be the root or fifth of the chord. If the soprano is not doubled, it is best that the voice
doubled is either the root or the 5th of the chord. Doubling the 3rd (which would be doubling the
bass in this situation) is possible, but results in a darker or „warmer‟ sounding chord. Such
doubling is rare, especially when the 3rd of the chord is in the bass.

3. Diminished triads are virtually always in first inversion, with a doubled 3rd. Hence, this is one
situation where doubling the 3rd IS the best solution. The root and fifth of a diminished chord
form a tri-tone, and are typically not doubled.

4. In a deceptive harmonic motion (V7-vi or V7-VI in minor), double the 3rd of the vi chord.
Also, note that deceptive harmonic motion will usually always involve a „complete‟ V7 (rarely if
ever a V triad) in root position, moving to a vi chord in root position.

5. In different types of 6/4 major or minor triads, especially the cadential 6/4, the 5th of the chord
(which will be the bass in this situation) is to be doubled.

Seventh chords:

If necessary or desired, the 5th of a 7th chord may be omitted, with a doubled root taking its place.
This is necessary in circle of fifths progressions, where generally every chord of the progression
alternates between being complete (Root, 3rd, 5th, 7th) and incomplete (Root, Root, 3rd, 7th).

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