(musTh212) Lecture Notes: Chromatic Voice Leading

From chapter 39 of the Gauldin, there are four primary techniques for voice leading during chromatic passages.

  • Sequences by half-step motion. Like diatonic sequences by whole step, these half-step sequences involve alternations of inverted and root position chords. Secondary dominants in inversion, 65 – 53 and 42 – 6, are the most common, as they heighten the chromaticism, but 5 – 6 triad movement is also possible.
  • Strict Chromatic Parallelism (Planing). Like the name implies, all voices move in parallel motion. Usually involves only Major triads or seventh chords that contain a tritone interval (Mm7, half-dim7, dim7).
  • Contrary Motion – Voice Exchange. Voice exchange is common in diatonic music. In chromatic passages it often occurs as a dominant prolongation involving scale degrees ^7 and ^4. It can also happen in minor with the tritone between ^2 and ^6. The exchange can also take place over a shorter span of a major third. Chromatic voice exchanges between ^5 and ^7 are a staple of march, polka, and rag introductions.
  • Non-Sequential Chromatic Passages. Everything that doesn’t fit into the above categories. Non-sequential chromaticism usually comes about through mixture chords, applied chords, enharmonic and non-functional chords.

Remember that Parallelism and Voice Exchange (Contrary Motion) can occur within sequences.


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