(musTh2) Adding Suspensions to Part-Writing Exercises

My original, and brief, summary of suspensions can be found in this post from last semester. Scroll down for the portion of suspensions.

Since you’re going to have to keep writing suspensions to part-writing exercises it would be good to have a plan of action.

First, always complete your exercise without any non-chord tones (NCTs). NCTs will not fix any voice-leading errors, so you need to make sure you have a solid exercise before progressing to NCTs.

When looking for places to add suspensions, examine each part and look for descending step-wise motion. Since suspensions resolve down by step, you need to find places where each line moves down by step. When you find a place that an individual line moves down by step, look to see if the interval of the second note (the one that is a second down from the preceding note) matches with any resolution interval of our four suspensions types. If the note is in an upper voice, does it form a 3rd (4 – 3), 6th (7 – 6), or 8th (9 – 8) above the bass? If the note is in the bass, is there a note forming a third above the bass (2 – 3)? If yes, then you can probably add a suspension.

Keep in mind the following likely places to insert suspensions:

  • V7 – I: the seventh of V7 suspends over the I, forming a 4 – 3. This works for any chordal seventh of a chord moving by descending fifth (root) to another chord. (ii7 or ii6/5 to V or V7, for example)
  • V(7) – I: suspend the chordal fifth of the V chord over the I to create a 9 – 8 suspension.
  • I – V6: suspend the bass of the I over the V6 for a 2 – 3 suspension.

Also keep in mind these extra tips and things to avoid:

  • 4 – 3 and 9 – 8 suspensions usually occur over root position chords.
  • 7 – 6 suspensions occur over first inversion chords.
  • Suspensions usually do not occur over 6/4 chords. 6/4 chords are already dissonant, so you don’t have the proper dissonant suspension to consonant resolution relationship.


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