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1 Four-Part Writing: SATB or Chorale Style

We write parts for four voices: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Soprano and alto go in the treble clef, with soprano stems up and alto stems down. Tenor and bass go in the bass clef, with tenor stems up and bass stems down. Here are some general rules for four-part writing. Most of these have exceptions, which we will study at a later time. However, you should normally follow the general rules unless there is a good musical reason, and the proper criteria, to justify an exception. 1. Vocal ranges Soprano: C4 to G51 Alto: G3 to C5 Tenor: C3 to G4 Bass: E2 to C4

2. Doubling Root position triads: double the root First inversion triads: double any chord member except the leading tone Second inversion triads: double the fifth Root position seventh chords: should be complete, with no doubling. However, a V7 chord may sometimes have the fifth omitted and the root doubled. Inverted seventh chords: should be complete, with no doubling. Two very important doubling rules: NEVER DOUBLE THE LEADING TONE. NEVER DOUBLE THE CHORDAL 7TH OF A SEVENTH CHORD. 3. Incomplete triads: The third of a triad is never omitted. A root position tonic triad may sometimes have the fifth omitted and the root tripled, but only when justified by the voice leading. 4. Spacing. Between each pair of adjacent voices: Soprano and alto: No more than an octave Alto and tenor: No more than an octave Tenor and bass: Unrestricted (except by vocal ranges) 5. Voice crossing. Soprano should stay above alto, alto above tenor, tenor above bass. Voice crossing occurs when one voice is below the next lower voice (e.g., soprano is below alto, as in the example). Voice crossing should be avoided.
Soprano is below alto

Pitch numbers are given according to the octaves on a piano. They are numbered from the lowest octave (C1 to B1) up to the highest octave (C7 to B7). Middle C is C4. The highest C is C8.

6. Voice overlap. In moving from one chord to the next, a voice should not go below the previous note of an adjacent voice. In the first example, the sopranos E goes below the altos previous F. In the second example, the altos G goes below the tenors previous A. Voice overlap should be avoided.

The second example also shows voice crossing. The altos G is lower than the tenors C. 7. Melodic motion A. Mandatory: Leading tones resolve up by step (certain exceptions) Chordal 7ths resolve down by stepNO EXCEPTIONS Chromatic tones resolve in the direction of their alteration Diminished intervals resolve inward (e.g., dim 5th to 3rd) Augmented intervals resolve outward (e.g., aug 4th to 6th) B. Desirable: Contrary motion with the bass, especially in the soprano Parallel 3rds, 10ths, or 6ths between any two voices (max of 3 in a row)

8. Leaps Leaps must be a consonant interval (3rd, P4th, P5th, 6th, 8ve). Certain exceptions apply to seventh chords, but generally no dissonant leaps (7th or any augmented or diminished interval). Augmented 2nd: not allowed (watch for these in minor keys) 3rd: unrestricted 6th or 8ve: should be approached and followed by opposite direction, preferably stepwise, unless the tones involved in the leap are do, mi/me, or sol; use sparingly P4 or P5: also should be approached and followed by opposite direction, preferably stepwise, unless the tones involved in the leap are do and sol (scale degrees 1 and 5) No leaps larger than an octave Two or three leaps in a row in the same direction must outline or arpeggiate a major or minor triad; use sparingly (exceptions for the bass and for certain seventh chords) 9. Consecutive 5ths, 8ves, and unisons No parallel 5ths, 8ves, or unisons. You will need to check each possible pair of voices: S and A; S and T; S and B; A and T; A and B; T and B No consecutive 5ths or 8ves by contrary motion (except for outer voices at cadence) Hidden 5ths and 8ves are generally permitted if the upper voice moves by step 10. Three general guidelines for voice leading: 1. Keep common tones in the same voice 2. Move other tones to the nearest note of the next chord Sometimes these two guidelines either cannot be followed or are the less preferred choice in a given situation; however, in most cases you should adhere to them.

3. Avoid having all the upper voices move in similar motion with the bass; aim for contrary or oblique motion in at least one of the upper voices