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2 Voice-leading conventions

This list is adapted from my Double SLAP for Bach Chorale writing. The conventions for instrumental writing are not so stringent, but you still need to be careful to follow the looser guidelines laid out below.


Spacing and Doubling

  • Chords are usually spaced with the largest gaps at the bottom (i.e. between the lowest parts) unless the aim is to create a darker, murkier texture. In a basic MDH texture your bass instruments will usually have the same line to avoid murkiness.
  • Parts avoid crossing unnecessarily (particularly above a melody at the top of the texture)
  • It is normal to include all the notes of a triad or seventh (although the fifth or the third are sometimes omitted in the latter)
  • The most common note to double in a chord is the root




  • Avoid unnecessary leaps in melodies (a dramatic leap in a melody is fine – a random leap of a ninth in the viola part is probably not)
  • Avoid two large leaps in the same direction



Augmented and diminished intervals

  • In melodies, be aware of augmented and diminished intervals (particularly augmented seconds and tritones) – if you overuse them your melody will sound odd.



Parallels (5ths / 8ves)

  • Avoid consecutive parallel octaves and fifths, particularly between the melody and the bass
  • Octaves used to double a melodic line or the bass line as reinforcement are fine