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Linear Writing - 2


Similar to any music theory, Linear Writing techniques enhance the work
flow in arranging-related mechanics, in order to allow the creativity,
musical ideas and other non-tangible aspects of musical creation to be
prioritized. Using Linear Writing in creative work is not a purpose or a
musical achievement by itself. However, it certainly advances the
awareness for an historically important sound, namely that of jazz
arranging in the 1950’s and 60’s, but actually helps a musician develop
new ideas when creating music in any genre. Although Linear Writing is
mostly suited for a large ensemble or “big band” setting, the way in which
the course affects the process of learning could be applied to any musical
activity, or in fact to any form of artistic creativity.

The rules and considerations presented here are favorable to anyone who
understands they are not in conflict with any other theories or standards.
While the underlying harmonic guidelines ask for advanced knowledge in
harmony, they are simplified for the benefit of maximum attention
toward the voicing rules and linear rules.
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These are the harmonic rules for this course, and they are simplified for the
practicality of this course only. There may be other harmonic rules and options
elsewhere. In this class these rules are strictly enforced to allow concentration
on other techniques introduced during the semester.


IMA7 - IONIAN, avoid 4
IVMA7 - LYDIAN, no avoid

bIIMA7 - LYDIAN, no avoid
bVIMA7 - LYDIAN, no avoid
bVIIMA7 - LYDIAN, no avoid


II-7 DORIAN, avoid 6
III-7 PHRYGIAN, avoid b2
VI-7 AEOLIAN, avoid b6
VII-7b5 LOCRIAN, avoid b2
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II-7b5 LOCRIAN, avoid b2
III-7b5 LOCRIAN, avoid b2
#IV-7b5 LOCRIAN, avoid b2
IV-7 DORIAN, avoid 6


a. Write five major scales in keys up to 5 sharps and flats.

The reason for not including all keys is time and efficiency. Students are
expected to know all keys and advanced harmony.

Write chord tones 1, 3, 5, 7 as whole notes

Write scale tones 2, 4, 6 as filled notes
Mark avoid notes with an X
Write Chord symbol
Write Scale name
Write Function
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b. Write eight minor 7 scales in keys up to 4 flats and 3 sharps:

Example: Db Ionian


Altered Scale: 1, b2, #2, 3, b5, #5, b7

Lydian b7: 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7
Mixolydian: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7
Mixolydian b2 b6: 1, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7

V7 in major a. Mixo (avoid 4) / Mixo sus (avoid 3)

b. Altered

V7 in minor a. Mixolydian b2 b6 (avoid 4)

b. Altered

II7 in major Lydian b7

II7 in minor Altered
bII7 Lydian b7
IV7 Lydian b7
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bVI7 Lydian b7
bVII7 Lydian b7

VI7 a. Mixolydian b2 b6 (avoid 4)

b. Altered

VII7 Altered
I7 a. Mixo
b. Lydian b7


Scales will always contain 1, 2, b3, 4, 5 and b6 or 6 and b7 or 7 depending

a. melody
b. chord-symbol
c. Line-cliché
d. Harmonic context


Apply Dominant 7 charts (III), otherwise use Altered or Whole Tone.


Substitute a º7 with a II-7 & V7 a whole tone above the key of the moment, ex.
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#Iº7 is substituted by III-7b5 VI7, #IIº7 or bIIIº7 with #IV-7b5 VII7, and apply
their respective scales. Diminished chords are always substituted with two
chords and scales, II-7 and V7.


The dissonance/consonance chart reflects intervallic relationships between any
two adjacent or non-adjacent notes, and does not pertain to a chord or scale
note function from the root. This prepares for the Voicing Rules.

1. minor 2nd, major 7th (Primary Dissonance, P.D.)
2. major 2nd, minor 7th
3. Perfect 4th and perfect 5th
4. Tritone

All 3rds and 6ths


Write the following scales in keys up to 4 flats and 3 sharps:

Mixolydian, Altered, Mixolydian b2 b6, Lydian b7.
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1. Analyze melody as a Primary Climax (P.C.) and Secondary Climax(es) (S.C.)

2. Melodic curve will suggest size, shape and amount of P.D. in voicings.

3. Bracket above all P.D. in scales, cross out brackets where P.D. is not available
because of an avoid or conditional avoid reasons. Place brackets between all
half-steps, and mark an X when it is not available.

4. Notes for voicings come from available note-scales of the moment.

5. Do not use the avoid note.

6. Plan size of voicings at climax points and other important melodic points by
placing bottom note first.

7. Plan amount of placement of P.D.

8. The lower the placement of the P.D. the richer it will be. Place brackets
between all half-steps, and mark an X when it is not available.

9. Build remainder of voicing from top down.

10. Choose notes in voicings because of their intervallic relationship with all
other notes in voicings adjacent or non-adjacent. This rule summarizes the
core principle of the voicing rules, but also reminds students not to think in
terms of chord notes and tensions.
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11. No 2nds in top two voices, except in clusters and percussive effects.

12. Clusters: Major 7th or less between outside two voices.

13. No doublings at the perfect unison, octave or more is okay.

14. No augmented fourth between top two voices.

15. Do not separate 2nds, major or minor, from adjacent voices above and
below by more than a tritone, except when 2nds are separated from bottom
voice where anything goes.

16. No more than a Major 6th and preferably Perfect 5th between any two
adjacent voices except between bottom two voices where anything goes.

17. No Minor 9th intervals between any two voices, adjacent or non-adjacent,
except between:
a. b9 over 1 in a Dominant chord
b. 1 over 7 in a Major chord
c. b5 over 4 in a -7b5 (except when b5 is in lead)

18. No 5 and b5 in the same voicing except in lydian major. It is good to make
pre-cautionary rules for situations where enharmonic variations or
discrepancies could occur. Lydian naturally includes #4 and 5, but in Linear
Writing there is no separation between #4 and b5. The pitches in Linear Writing
are much like the piano: keep it simple and clear.

19. Above rule pertains to Lydian b7 (No #11 and 5 at the same time).
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20. No 5 and #5 in the same voicing except a. III-7 phrygian and b. tonic minor.

21. Above rule pertains to Mixolydian b2 b6 (No b13 and 5 at the same time).

22. This system gives functions other than I in the bass - this is desirable.
When this occurs, imagine a root directly beneath bottom note of voicing and
apply L.I.L. (Low Interval Limits).

23. Low Interval Limits (L.I.L.)

“If it sounds good, it is good” –Duke Elington, referring to L.I.L. of the minor

24. b5 on Dominant 7 chords when in scale may function as low as desired

without applying L.I.L.

25. 4 on non-tonic -7 and -7b5 may function as low as desired without

applying L.I.L.

26. Bottom three or four voices must not outline a basic chord sound foreign to
function intent.
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Conditional Avoid Note

Applies to the Lydian b7 scale, related to Voicing Rule #8; and any Non II-7
dorian (in II-7 dorian 6 is avoid).


Analyze eight-bar progressions

Write key(s), Chord Scales, Scale Names, Functions

This example would in a harmony class be analyzed from a broader, key related
perspective, and could be analyzed all in one key. In Linear Writing, however,
any harmonic context is understood as the “key of the moment”, hence key
signatures are of secondary importance, and any suggestion toward a
temporary tonic is understood as a key change. Again, this keeps the
underlying analysis simple, as analysis such as foreign tonicalization is not
necessary. It could be said, that the relative harmonic time span is narrower in
Linear Writing and options are on purpose kept to a minimum.
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The voicing shouldn't be exactly as the symbol indicates, but not so different
that it violates the chord sound and the function of the chord. This is fairly
obvious, but it may be noteworthy that by "exactly as the symbol indicates" it is
implied that a plain four-note chord should be avoided, and the notes be
chosen from chord and scale notes according to voicing rules in order to
outline the chord sounds in question.

It is impossible to achieve two P.D. in 5-part writing unless the melody or the
bass note is involved in the P.D. ("Rule of thumb".)
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A minimum of twelve five-part voicings. 2 altos, 2 tenors and baritone.

No more than two voicings and scales between each other.
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This chunk of brainteasers is a course favorite, to assign troubled voicings with

a maximum amount of mistakes, only to make students find them all. This was
a part of the midterm exam. More on this topic a few pages later.

1. Not in Scale (N.I.S.)

2. Avoid

3. #4 top two voices

4. 2nds in top two voices, except in clusters and percussive effects (however,
the “find all mistakes” exercise was never a cluster or a percussive effect;
that would be “too easy”).

5. Max P5 up and down from two adjacent voices of a 2nd.

6. Adjacent Voices (A.V.) no more than Major 6th and preferably P5

7. Minor 9th

8. b5&5 in Lydian b7

9. #5&5 in Mixolydian b2 b6

10. a. The two bottom voices L.I.L.

b. The assumed root L.I.L.
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11. Outlines another chord than the chord symbol.


Write four two-bar examples with:

1. a P.C. with a note that won't get P.D, use non-diatonic triads.
2. at least three consecutive percussive attacks, with small movements.
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More considerations

New set of rules are often prepared by talking about a few considerations one
or two classes in advance. A few core principles of the new rules would be “old
business” by the time the specifics of the rules were dictated. This group of
considerations precedes Linear Rules, and # 3 the Non-Diatonic Triad effect.

1. No Notes should be lower than the bass in P.C. While this may first seem
self-explanatory, the reason for emphasizing this early is the upcoming
encouragement, Linear Rule #25: Parts may and should cross. However, the
physically lowest instrument must be the lowest note in the P.C. voicing. “Bass”
doesn’t refer to any particular instrument but the lowest instrument of the
ensemble sound, must commonly a baritone saxophone.

2. No inner part can move more than a whole tone more than the lead.

3. Non-diatonic triads over a diatonic bass will be a separate set of rules from
the Voicing Rules, and be good as percussive effects.
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The purpose of non-diatonic triads is to add amount of P.D. in P.C. (and S.C.),
especially when voicing rules would not allow any P.D. at all, leaving P.C.
emotionally unachieved.

Separate set of rules from the Voicing Rules

Works as a Good Percussive Effect

1. Write a counter-diatonic bass line to the melody (same rhythm as melody,

diatonic in the scale).

2. Each melody note may be 1, 3 or 5 of major or minor triad.

3. Do not choose a triad that contains the bass note. (No P.D. achieved.)

4. Do not choose a triad that gives repeated notes in inner parts in the same

5. Do not choose a triad that, combined with bass note, creates a common
four-part sound.

6. Common four-part sound: 1, 3, 5 and 6 or 7 in common inversion, except

Augmented Major 7.

7. Do not choose a triad that, combined with bass note, creates a common
incomplete five-part sound.

8. Common incomplete five-part sound: 1, 5, b7 or 7 and 9 in a common
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9. Triads must be in close position

10. Do not choose a bass note a Perfect 5th below the melody.

11. Bass note must be at least a Perfect 4th and preferably more from the
bottom note of the triad.

12. Richness comes from interval relationship between bass note and notes of
the triad. (The more the better).

13. In 5-part writing, 8vb double-lead.

14. Major and minor triads only.

If the relationship between Bass and Lead is a minor 9th:

No incomplete five-part sound. Linear Writing does not consciously try to avoid
or discourage the usage of hybrid structures. This rule exists in order to control
when to use such structures (which are not covered in this class). Without this
rule, the usage of the incomplete five-part sound would create a “hollow” sound
here and there, resulting in inconsistent voicing qualities.

Don't use if:

1. Triad contains the bass note
2. Repeated notes in inner parts
3. Common four-part sound
4. Common five-part incomplete sound
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Related to rule #6, the common four-part sound

See comment:
Here, the cluster on C-7b5 gets no P.D, preparing for a S.C. (Bb7), continuing to
P.C with two P.D. Notice the contrary motion in the bass.
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Write two four-bar examples using Non-diatonic triads at P.C. and other points.
Mark amount of P.D, and V for voicing, T for triad.
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From the list of eleven don’ts:

This exercise tests whether all rules have been understood in full. Here the
voicings are far from the intended chord symbol. On the left, C7alt in F major:
Aug 4th in top two voices, three N.I.S’s, one imaginary root L.I.L., 5&#5, 5&b5,
A.V., and three minor 9ths. On the right, D7alt in Eb major: Aug 4th in top two
voices, two N.I.S’s, Two L.I.L.s (imaginary root on both): D to G a P4th and D to
C a minor 7th, 5&#5, and A.V. These exercises trigger stimulation the kind
achieved in mathematics. It makes a creative person look for new ways of
development. Highly recommended for all.
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The idea is that any point which can be harmonically distinguished, and
recognized as a vertical point of reference, should be harmonized with voicing
rules. These strict rules are set in order not to overuse the linear approach, thus
maintaining a harmonic context and awareness at all times.

Notes to be harmonized:

1. Notes of long duration. a: ballad, one beat or longer, b: tempo above a

ballad: 1 1/2 beats or longer.

2. First important note of change of key.

3. First important note of change of function within a key.

4. First important note of non-diatonic chord within a key.

5. Notes preceded and/or followed by the interval major 3rd or larger, except
minor 3rd or larger at point of change of direction. (When leaping in and out of

6. Notes followed by rests.

7. Notes in percussive phrases.

8. Notes in arpeggiated phrases.

9. Accented notes.
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10. Any note that you deem important enough to harmonize. This pertains to
any considerable duration (incl. subsequent rest) or accent.


These strict line rules strive for a smooth sound, where inner parts in four- or
five-part movement conveniently work with the lead voice while also playing
comfortably their own individual singable lines.

1. Analyze melody as to P.C. and S.C.

2. Analyze melody as to other H points (incl. P.C. and S.C.)

3. Voice H points using interval voicings or triad technique.

4. Big voicings smaller than usual, small voicings bigger than usual.

5. P.D. at the open instance when possible.

6. An overall symmetry in voicings is desirable.

7. Allow enough space in voicings to work lines.

8. Voice P.C. first, then S.C, then other important H points.

9. Move from H to H by melodic line (same rhythm as melody).
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10. Lines tonally come from available notes (scale) of the moment.

11. All notes are good, including avoid note (-s).

12. Out of scale chromatics may be used, be careful!

13. Out of scale chromatic notes that move up or down by a half step into a
scale note.

14. When using out of scale chromatics do not use scale note a 1/2 step above
or below chromatics in any octave.

15. No consecutive out of scale chromatics.

16. No consecutive 2nds in top two voices.

17. No minor 9th between any adjacent or non-adjacent voices except:

b9 over 1 in a dominant 7th chord.
1 over 7 in a ma7th chord.
b5 over 4 in -7b5 chord except when b5 is in lead.

18. All other voicing rules (2nds separated, A.V, L.I.L. etc.) do NOT apply at line

19. Line rules apply moving into and out of H points.

20. No inner part may move more than a whole tone more than the lead voice
(Bass voice is out of this rule). This is based on instrument technique on horns:
Blowing a rapid succession of notes with large intervals (leaps) generally take
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more time than narrow intervals. If the lead has “easy and smooth” lines and
underparts jump, it results in a rhythmically less unified ensemble sound.

21. Doublings at the perfect unison, octave or more are okay.

22. Doublings must be prepared and resolved in contrary motion.

23. Doublings may continue for as many attacks as desired; finally resolving in
contrary motion.

24. P.D. at line points must not exceed P.D. at preceding and following H
points. Use the same or preferably less amount of P.D. at line points.

25. Move as smoothly as possible into first instance of non-diatonic note.

26. Contrary motion in at least one voice is desirable.

27. Parts may and should cross.

28. This technique is useful in going from unison to voicing and vice versa.

29. Underparts must be in tonal character with lead: a. blue notes, b. various
altered dominant 7ths.

30. Suggested order on working lines: a. Lead, b. Bottom voice, c. Second

Voice, d. Other voices.

31. Do not write any line that you cannot sing. This does not discourage writing
more complex lines, but to write responsibly and always with the ear, rather
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than relying on theoretical concepts and rules.

32. Last melodic attack before an H often resembles an approach

harmonization. When this occurs allow it to complete itself.

33. When lead moves, underparts must move.
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Scales will contain:

1. All melody notes except out of scale chromatics.

2. Basic chord tones not already present in melody.

3. Basic chord tones: a. Major 1, 3, 5

b. Tonic-Minor 1, b3, 5
c. Dominant 7th: 1, 3, b7
d. Non-Tonic Minor: 1, b3, (b5), b7

4. On major and tonic minor blue notes replace basic chord tones.

5. Expand resulting scale to 6 or 7 notes with notes suggested by the original

scale and harmonic context.

6. When resulting scales resemble or are exactly like familiar scales, avoid and
conditional avoid work as usual.

7. Blue notes: b3, b5, b7.
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1. "Voice" brass, first allowing enough space between bass voices.

2. Brass do not have to sound or satisfy voicing rules as a section.

3. Insert saxes between brass voices.

4. Saxes do not have to sound or satisfy voicing rules as a section.

5. All brass and saxes together must satisfy voicing rules.

6. No adjacent brass or adjacent saxes, except in extreme range situations.

7. No doublings at the perfect unison. Doublings at the octave or more are


8. Do not use this technique when lead is below a1.

9. The amount of P.D. won't matter as much in this technique as in five-part

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1. Do not mix this technique with Concerting of Voicings

2. In couplings, decide where Alto1 couples the Trumpet.

3. Do not couple trumpet 1.

4. Satisfy line rules between sax harmonizations.

5. If lead moves, underparts must move.

6. No inner part can move more than a whole tone more than the lead.

7. Doublings must be prepared and resolved in contrary motion.

8. In composite scales, check lead and background lead.

Example of a starting point: