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Thread: How can I make sense of all of these arbitrary voice-leading rules?

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    Default How can I make sense of all of these arbitrary voice-leading rules?

    I'm reading a book on harmony and I got to the section on raised sixths and sevenths in minor keys. Here are some of the seemingly arbitrary rules it gives:

    1. If V-VI, raise the 7th
    2. If V6-VI, don't raise the 7th
    3. If V6-IV, then whether the 7th is raised or not depends on whether the bass rises or falls
    4. If V6-IV6, 7th always unaltered
    5. If V6-II6, only raise if bass rises
    6. If IV6 moves to V6 or VII, then always raise 6th and seventh
    7. If IV6 moves to III, III6, V, or VI, then don't raise the third of IV6

    It's a lot easier to digest and remember rules when there is some kind of logic or principle behind them. But I fail to see the logic in these rules? Can anybody help?
    Last edited by level82rat; Nov-02-2019 at 18:29. Reason: typo

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    Quote Originally Posted by level82rat View Post
    I'm reading a book on harmony and I got to the section on raised sixths and sevenths in minor keys. Here are some of the seemingly arbitrary rules it gives:

    1. If V-VI, raise the 7th
    2. If V6-VI, don't raise the 7th
    3. If V6-IV, then whether the 7th is raised or not depends on whether the bass rises or falls
    4. If V6-IV6, 7th always unaltered
    5. If V6-II6, only raise if bass rises
    6. If IV6 moves to V6 or VII, then always raise 6th and seventh
    7. If IV6 moves to III, III6, V, or VI, then don't raise the third of IV6

    It's a lot easier to digest and remember rules when there is some kind of logic or principle behind them. But I fail to see the logic in these rules? Can anybody help?
    Maybe one of the box-like thinkers around here can explain it. You said that the rules are "seemingly" arbitrary, so I'm sure that there's some sort of box-like logic that you're missing.

    Don't ask for any "principles" which might cover this, since these thinkers frown on "abstracting" principles, since this would facilitate an underlying organic, intuitive or heuristic logic. These things must remain arbitrary.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Nov-03-2019 at 01:38.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    You said that the rules are "seemingly" arbitrary, so I'm sure that there's some sort of box-like logic that you're missing.
    Yes that's why I asked this question in the first place. And what is "box-like" logic exactly?

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    Well, the voice-leading principles suggest that the results in composition will be pleasing and beneficial by simply hearing and using them rather than viewing them as arbitrary. They can be viewed as conventions at the time... Perhaps it’s necessary to live with them until they’re absorbed by finding good examples. It’s an important part of the history of the music. These rules were mostly accepted and practiced as good harmony mostly during the classical era but are no longer strictly adhered to in the same way now. If you’re just starting out, I would view them as fundamental to understanding what some of the great composers did and the principles that they followed, such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. A student understands them when he or she can learn how to use them naturally, and perhaps that’s the challenge that’s facing you. The music is supposed to sound better by utilizing these rules. The rules have been developed over time as being correct or the most effective in composition.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Nov-03-2019 at 04:29.
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    I will totally back MR's sugestion that we should eschew "box logic" and, if we like, ignore the classical voice-leading rules (after all, they only hobble a genius). At the same time, maybe we shouldn't give up our day jobs just yet...


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    Quote Originally Posted by level82rat View Post
    I'm reading a book on harmony and I got to the section on raised sixths and sevenths in minor keys. Here are some of the seemingly arbitrary rules it gives:

    1. If V-VI, raise the 7th
    2. If V6-VI, don't raise the 7th
    3. If V6-IV, then whether the 7th is raised or not depends on whether the bass rises or falls
    4. If V6-IV6, 7th always unaltered
    5. If V6-II6, only raise if bass rises
    6. If IV6 moves to V6 or VII, then always raise 6th and seventh
    7. If IV6 moves to III, III6, V, or VI, then don't raise the third of IV6

    It's a lot easier to digest and remember rules when there is some kind of logic or principle behind them. But I fail to see the logic in these rules? Can anybody help?
    Where did you get all these rules? I learned to write in minor mode without memorizing any such list of rules. If it's important to you, I suggest writing a four part setting for each of these instances. Maybe the rationales will be clearer once you do that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Where did you get all these rules?
    Roger Sessions "Harmonic Practice" Chapter 4

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    Quote Originally Posted by level82rat View Post
    I'm reading a book on harmony and I got to the section on raised sixths and sevenths in minor keys. Here are some of the seemingly arbitrary rules it gives:

    1. If V-VI, raise the 7th
    2. If V6-VI, don't raise the 7th
    3. If V6-IV, then whether the 7th is raised or not depends on whether the bass rises or falls
    4. If V6-IV6, 7th always unaltered
    5. If V6-II6, only raise if bass rises
    6. If IV6 moves to V6 or VII, then always raise 6th and seventh
    7. If IV6 moves to III, III6, V, or VI, then don't raise the third of IV6

    It's a lot easier to digest and remember rules when there is some kind of logic or principle behind them. But I fail to see the logic in these rules? Can anybody help?
    In very simple terms, it's all about the notes you would use in the ascending and descending melodic minor scale.
    Otherwise, follow EdwardBast's advice and write out the progressions given and deduce the rules from that.
    Last edited by TalkingHead; Nov-03-2019 at 16:17.

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    I'm not sure where you got those rules, but the way I think of rules of harmony, they are a distillation of what composers of traditional music found effective. If you follow them your music will sound "normal." There is still a lot of room for creativity within what is "normal." Of course you can break them and write music that doesn't sound normal, but you probably should be aware of when your music is deviating from normal, i.e. you should break the "rules" on purpose, not by accident. There is a reason that composers who wrote the craziest music often wrote early works that sounded quite dull. Your audience has listened to music before and has expectations and you should be aware of how those expectations are satisfied or not satisfied.
    Last edited by Baron Scarpia; Nov-05-2019 at 00:00.
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    To me, a truly talented composer would have already assimilated the 'givens' and has moved on, so I think the answer is an unnecessary statement of some kind of arbitrary thought-process or credo which lies outside of those bounds. I don't like conservative cautioning like that; it has nothing to do with what really should be happening.

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    Quote Originally Posted by level82rat View Post
    Roger Sessions "Harmonic Practice" Chapter 4
    I see. Keep in mind, Sessions wrote music that was bat-***** crazy.

    Just because you know the rules, it doesn't follow that you must obey them.

    But, I realize, that has nothing to do with your question. As was noted above by TalkingHead, it is related to the melodic minor scale. If a melody ascends to the tonic you want raised sixth and seventh to give that leading-tone, tonic-y feel.
    Last edited by Baron Scarpia; Nov-05-2019 at 23:14.
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    That makes sense about the ascending & descending melodic minor scale, being presented out-of-context by the "confused" poster, to see what kind of responses it would attract for the predators out there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    That makes sense about the ascending & descending melodic minor scale, being presented out-of-context by the "confused" poster, to see what kind of responses it would attract for the predators out there.
    Paranoid much?

    To the OP: Probably the most important thing to remember about writing in the minor mode is that when so doing, one finds oneself borrowing liberally from the relative major. I suspect that if one is aware of which mode is in play at any given moment, those rules will take care of themselves. Trust to your musical sense levelrat.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Nov-06-2019 at 22:59.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Paranoid much?

    To the OP: Probably the most important thing to remember about writing in the minor mode is that when so doing, one finds oneself borrowing liberally from the relative major. I suspect that if one is aware of which mode is in play at any given moment, those rules will take care of themselves. Trust to your musical sense levelrat.
    Otherwise the linear notes in the CD release of your work will describe it as "modal."
    There are two kinds of music, good music and the other kind. - Duke Ellington.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    Paranoid much? Trust to your musical sense levelrat.
    Yes, trust your own perceptions, and don't let anyone's comments, such as above, affect that.

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