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Thread: voice leading

  1. #1
    Registered User fortymile's Avatar
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    voice leading

    i've been away for over a year. but here's a question i have.

    voice leading. i understand it. but i can't do it on the fly.

    why.

    i learned theory via memorizing 'big ideas' of an organizational nature, not facts themselves. i memorized relationships. these kinds of ideas include 'the third identifies a chord as major or minor,' 'the order of chords in a key goes MmmMMmd, etc.'

    those are broad ideas.

    there isn't a broad idea for voice leading, is there? if i wanted to continue the way i have been going, i'd have to memorize a set of 3 or more 'rules' for adjusting any given triad AND any given inversion of a triad.

    and then to get into seventh chords, the number of rules would increase, because of the extra notes.

    please, tell me: how can i become facile with voice leading? what is the way to learn.
    "All bad poetry is sincere" -- Oscar Wilde

  2. #2
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    Well, I would say you will automatically end up with a fair amount of voice leading if you just don't jump around the fretboard unnecessarily when you play. What I mean is that if you stay in position and play mostly overlapping chords, it goes a long way towards giving you good voice leading.

    If you know your position playing really well, you can also take control of a lot of the voice leading and perfect it over time as you come to know the common tones and note movement from one chord to another. That's mostly how I approach it on the guitar anyways, though I've barely scratched the surface.

    Hope that helps a little,

    Grep.
    "Whaddya mean DYNAMICS?! I'm playing as loud as I can!"

  3. #3
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
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    Good suggestion. Yes, learning triad-shapes and trying to connect them as "smoothly" as possible is a good method to get into this. Mind you, itīs a matter of taste IMO whether you wanna pay that much attention to voice-leading, as gazillions of players leap up and down their fretboard when they play, and that has a certain sound to it, too.
    But once you pay attention to it, it can bring interesting new results, and learning different shapes and inversions to the point where you can play a given triad-progression in several different ways (i.e. sticking in one position) will also be helpful for soloing etc.
    Eric

    Edit: even though itīs not a real guide on voice-leading, this article by Steve Morse might be interesting in that context:
    http://www.stevemorse.com/tab/chordal2.jpg

    http://www.stevemorse.com/tab/chordal3.jpg

    http://www.stevemorse.com/tab/chordal4.jpg

    http://www.stevemorse.com/tab/chordal5.jpg

    http://www.stevemorse.com/tab/chordal6.jpg
    Last edited by EricV; 11-26-2006 at 08:59 AM.

  4. #4
    Registered User fortymile's Avatar
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    i am talking more about piano. guitar is great, but if it's a 'theory instrument,' i really don't see how. i can't hope to see what i'm doing on guitar yet. piano, yes, if someone can teach me a way to look at this. then maybe i can port it over to my understanding of guitar. but the layout of the guitar will never let me grasp voice leading in the broad way that i need to.
    "All bad poetry is sincere" -- Oscar Wilde

  5. #5
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    Ah, silly of me to assume guitar, I guess...

    I'll mostly bow out, not being a keyboard player. Mind you, my advice does basically also apply to keyboard too. Learn the inversions and don't jump around to the next chord. Find the nearest inversion instead. On the keyboard, unlike guitar, common tones and such should be blindingly obvious at that point.

    Mind you, this is coming from a guy who can only play in C major/A minor on keyboard, and even then pretty pathetically...

    Grep.
    "Whaddya mean DYNAMICS?! I'm playing as loud as I can!"

  6. #6
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    I agree with Grep. I'm not much of a keyboard player either, but it has to be the same answer. You need to get used to all inversions of the chords you know, so you can play any chord sequence in the same area of the keyboard. Then you'll find that voice-leading just happens. With most chord changes, one note will stay the same, others will fall or rise by a scale step. Generally speaking the strongest moves are semitone falls - so go for those if they're available.
    Chords with 7ths will exhibit clearer voice-leading - in fact IMO it's the main reason jazz players prefer 7ths, because they give a sequence more movement.
    Ideally, of course, you should know what notes are in each chord - which I should imagine is standard for keyboard players; don't you learn notes to start with? (Guitarists often don't.)
    So, eg, if you know an Am7 chord is the notes A-C-E-G and a D7 is D-F#-A-C, then it's pretty easy to arrange those notes so they're all close to one another: eg a root position Am7 (A-C-E-G) and a 2nd inversion D7 (A-C-D-F#). Notice 2 notes stay the same while the others fall by one scale note (E>D, G>F#) - there's your voice-leading. This works with any pair of inversions if you place them in the same octave on the keyboard.

    You'll also notice with 7th chords in cycles of 5ths that it's the 3rds and 7ths that have the most interesting voice-leading - these are what jazz players call "guide tones". Here's how they work in a typical jazz sequence:
    Code:
    Am7  D7   Dm7   G7 Cmaj7 Gm7    C7  Fmaj7
    
    G >> F# >> F >> F >> E >> F >>  E >>  E
    E    D     D    D    C    D     C     C
    C >> C  >> C >> B >> B >> Bb >> Bb >> A
    A    A     A    G    G    G     G     F
    ">>" shows the guide tones, which are alternating 3rds and 7ths (3rd goes to 7th and vice versa). Jazz accompanists often play guide tones only - ignoring roots and 5ths (the bassist handles those ).

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