Using voice leading and chord inversions in progressions

This voice leading lesson will teach you how to move smoothly and melodically through various chord progressions and to use chord inversions to achieve great sounding piano accompaniments.


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What is voice leading?

It can generally be described as the way voices move from one chord to another in a given progression of chords.

It is most often used in analyzing four part chorale music but since we are dealing with piano notes the term voice can be used to mean a particular note contained in a chord.

Parsimonious voice leading for piano.

Parsimonious.....now that's a mouthful! all that it means in this case is "tight" or "close" voice leading.

While the subject of voice leading is much more broad than finding the closest notes available when moving from one chord to another we will confine this lesson to finding the smoothest and easiest way to find your "next chord".

General rule #1

Tie over any common tones.

General rule #2

Find the closest available chord tones for the next chord as seen in example 1 below.

Example 1.

Using the two general rules given above we can see in this example that C is a common tone between the two chords.

So from this root position C chord we raise the E to an F and the G to an A to achieve the voices needed for the F chord.

Example 2.

In this exercise the chords share two common tones or voices, C and E.

All that is needed to achieve the Am chord is that we raise the G note to an Am

(note..if we let the bass play an A note and hold the root position C chord in the right hand we have an Amin7 chord.)

Example 3.

In this example the top note of the C chord. (G) is the common tone. Hold it over and find the D and B notes below it to make the 1st inversion G chord.

Moving through the I, vii, ii, V progression.

Theoretical knowledge is helpful but until you see and feel the lesson on the keyboard it does little to help your playing. The helpful exercise below will do much to help you place the rules into practice.

The example below illustrates several possible ways to move through the I,vii, ii, V, I progression in the key of D major.

Example 4.

Playing notes.

Remember the key signature.

Most of my exercises are presented in the key of C.

I do this to benefit beginners because the lack of sharps or allows us to see the patterns more clearly.

While you can play any song in the key of C, if you are a serious student you need to learn these exercises in as many keys as you can.

At least the ones you use most often!

Remember in this exercise the key of D major will contain two sharps F# and C#. None of your chords will have a natural C or D in them.

Keep in mind also that these are not the only way nor necessarily the best way to play these chords.

The exercise is designed to keep you mindful of the path of least hand motion where it is needed.

from voice leading to Chord Progressions

from voice leading to HOME

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