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Part-writing Chords: Summary I

Updated on January 5, 2014

Doc Snow’s Hubs on part-writing chords offer you not only the chance to read about part-writing, not only the chance to see and hear the various harmonic progressions, but the chance to practice writing them yourself and to get feedback on your work! It's a uniquely useful slant on learning this important skill.

Portrait of a Muse, perhaps Clio.  She is not positively identified, but may have been holding a pen suitable for writing musical parts--who knows?  Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Portrait of a Muse, perhaps Clio. She is not positively identified, but may have been holding a pen suitable for writing musical parts--who knows? Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The series now includes Hubs on all root-position diatonic chords, including those in minor keys. It's a lot of material--so it’s time for a Hub to summarize and systematize everything for the convenience of you, the reader and user.

There is a logical sequence to these Part-Writing Hubs, and it is recommended that you follow it if you are a beginner. But of course you may also ‘browse’ for Hubs that cover content of particular interest. In either case, this ‘syllabus’ should be helpful.

First, it lists the Hubs in sequence, and second it describes their content, with links given as sidebars. The ‘rules’ of part-writing are shown in bold, letting you easily access the Hubs in which those concepts are discussed.

I hope this will make it easier to find what you want to know, and make it easier to know where to begin exploring the gentle art of part-writing!

Series II

I: Part-writing Inverted Chords: Primary Triads In First Inversion

II: I: Part-writing Inverted Chords: The Supertonic In First Inversion

III: Part-writing Inverted Chords: Mediant, Submediant And Leading-tone Triads

IV: Part-writing Inverted Chords: Interlude--Passing And Auxiliary Tones

V: Part-writing Inverted Chords: Second-inversion Patterns I--Arpeggio, Neighbor

VI: Part-writing Inverted Chords: Second-inversion Patterns II--Passing, Cadential

Suggested Sequence Of Hubs

Series I

I: Tonic and Dominant (I & V)

II: Tonic and Dominant Exercises

III: Subdominant (IV)

IV: Supertonic (ii)

V: Mediant and Submediant (iii & vi)

VI: Minor Keys I

VII: Minor Keys II

Series III

I: Inverted Dominant sevenths

Below you will find a detailed list of the Hubs in Series I (root-position triads.) Each Hub in the list has its own link for one click convenience.

If you feel that Series II (inverted triads) is where you need to be, just use the link below to navigate directly to the series summary!

Series III (seventh chords) is in progress; so far there is just one Hub, an article on part-writing inverted dominant sevenths. It is linked immediately below.

Content in PWC I: Tonic & Dominant I

  • Part-writing
  • Lead sheet
  • Chordal doubling
  • Triad
  • Root position
  • Relative motion: parallel
  • “Voice” (in the sense of line within a texture)
  • Spacing
  • Relative motion: similar
  • Scale degrees acting as chord roots—chord symbols
  • Resolution of leading tone
  • Relative motion: contrary
  • Close and open position chords

Content in PWC 2: Tonic & Dominant II

  • Standard 4-part choral texture (SATB)
  • Vocal ranges
  • Common tone voice-leading
  • Review of key signatures
  • Review of semi-tones
  • Review of scale degrees
  • Exercises to harmonize 1-7-1
  • Exercises to harmonize 3-2-3
  • Exercises to harmonize 3-2-1
  • Exercises to harmonize 3-7-1
  • Exercises to harmonize 1-2-3

Content in PWC 3: Subdominant

  • Tonic and dominant chord function; “Polarized” harmony
  • “Common Practice” or Classical style
  • Dominant preparation function
  • Root motion by fifth
  • Voice-leading
  • Root motion by second
  • Avoidance of parallel perfect intervals
  • Standard voice-leading for IV-V (and one variant)
  • Review of open and close spacing
  • Reminder: rules for sharp and flat key signatures
  • Exercises in harmonizing I-IV-V-I
  • Avoidance of similar fifths and octaves
  • Incomplete triads

Content in PWC 4: Supertonic

  • Primary and secondary triads
  • ii-V progressions and exercises
  • I-ii progressions and exercises
  • “Doc Snow rule of doubling” (really credited to Walter Piston)
  • ‘Hybrid spacing’
  • IV-ii progressions and exercises
  • Root motion by third
  • Chord substitution
  • Voice overlap
  • Deceptive cadence
  • I-ii versus I-IV

Content in PWC 5: Mediant & Submediant

  • Review of chord substitution
  • Mediant and submediant in tonal context
  • Harmonic functions: tonic, dominant, dominant preparation
  • Sequence
  • iii-vi-ii-V-I (‘falling fifths’) progression and exercises
  • Chord substitutions involving iii and vi
  • I-vi-V-I and exercises
  • Deceptive cadence: I-IV-V-vi, I-ii-V-vi with exercises
  • I-iii-IV-V-I with exercises
  • I-iii-ii-V-I with an exercise
  • I-vi-ii-V-I with an exercise
  • I-vi-IV-V-I with an exercise
  • “Challenge question”, with ‘walk through’

Content in PWC 6: Minor Keys 1

  • Parallel major and minor
  • Natural, melodic and harmonic forms of minor scale:
  1. Dominant function and V versus v
  2. Raised leading tone in minor
  3. Augmented second in b6-to-#7 melodic lines
  4. Chords affected by altered 6th and 7th scale degrees
  • i-V-i and exercises
  • A particular use of v
  • i-iv (IV)-V-i and exercises
  • Avoidance of root-position diminished triads
  • i-ii-V-i and exercises

Content in PWC 7: Minor Keys II

  • Reminder to raise leading tone
  • Reminder to avoid melodic augmented seconds (b6-#7)
  • i-VI-iv-V-i and exercises
  • Uncompensated melodic leap
  • Outlining dissonant interval melodically
  • i-III-iv (ii)-V-I and exercises
  • The subtonic (VII) triad
  • Relative major and minor
  • i-VII-III-VI-iv-V-I and exercises
  • i-VI-VII-i with exercise


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