Anyways, I've been interested in voice leading lately, I've looked at some articles and most seem to talk about it in a lead guitar/sax/whatev context. But I've been interested in voice leading moves for the rhythm and melody, like the minor drop move ala Stairway/Michelle and a few others I'm sure.

Are their any songs I should analyze/listen to with great voice leading moves? Or anyother "stock" voice leading shapes and tricks that're used, like the minor drop*

*Which, if I have this right, is voicing a minor chord in root position, and dropping the root down through the maj7, min7 and maj6. Creating an assortment of colors added to the basic sound of a minor triad.
Learn counterpoint and listen to baroque chorals.
[U]        | |                     [/U]
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[U]       /|_     `-’       |      [/U]
[U]      //| \      |       |      [/U]
[U]     | \|_ |     |     .-|      [/U]
      *-|-*    (_)     `-’
Quote by demonofthenight
Learn counterpoint and listen to baroque chorals.

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minor drop. Haven't heard that term before. I've always just thought of it as a chromatically descending bassline.

Voiceleading. It's all about independence in the different musical voices. Rather than just playing moveable barre chords or open chords you are using your instrument to play inependent bass line, melodies, and harmonies.

Studying counterpoint is good if you want to learn the rules of traditional counterpoint. You really can get a lot out of this as a student of music. But if you don't have any interest in choral music and the likes of Bach then study Led Zep and the Beatles or whatever music it is that you love. You can still study counterpoint and see how it applies (or doesn't apply) to the music you love. Just don't feel like if you want to learn about voiceleading you need to study music you don't really listen to.

When approaching a song in which you think the voiceleading is pretty good I would advise breaking each part up. Study the bass line on it's own. Study the harmony on it's. Study the melody on it's own. Look at what makes each one work on it's own and do your best to isolate each part.

Then start looking at how they all fit together - start with the bass line and melody. Look for ways in which they are different, i.e. how they gain their independence from each other. And ways in which they are the same, i.e. how they work together to create something bigger and better than each of them individually. Does one stay still at times while the other moves (oblique motion)? Do they move in opposite directions (counter motion)? What kind of intervals do they form between them? What kind of steps do each of them move by from note to note? Is it chromatic movement as in your minor drop? is it in thirds is it diatonic? Look at there rhythms - everything.

The ultimate question that you want to answer is - What makes this work? What is it about the song or passage that makes it so damn good?

Keep a notebook and write your ideas down. Play around with them and experiment with them when you think you have something figured out. See how it can work in other situations. That way you don't rely on getting all your information from what other people tell you about music but can develop your own ideas and have your own perspective to offer in a musical discussion (whether it be verbal or musical).

Best of Luck to you

If you find a song you like that has some good independent parts that you really dig and aren't 100% on transcribing by ear, it might be worth buying the actual sheet music so that you can see the contours and relationships in standard notation rather than relying on tab.

Of course you should still practice ear training and transcribing everyday so you get better at it but you can do that with other songs while you study voiceleading using sheet music.
Last edited by 20Tigers at Sep 11, 2009,
Thanks, thats a great post, I'm not a fluent music reader, but I've been learning on GP with the Staff setting, as opposed to tab, its tough, but I'm learning. Also, I've just heard the term Minor Drop used in relation to passages similar to the Stairway intro, I'm sure its not a real/correct term, but thats just what I've heard it called.

Anyways, thanks, I'm going to listen to some stuff that I find has good voiceleading, and analyze it, and maybe practice writing some four part Chorale stuff, I have a huuge book on it, and now maybe I should start reading it >_<
Yeah it might well be a common term. I just haven't heard it before.

DESH is a term I've come across. Descending Elaboration of Static Harmony.

It's when the harmony/ melody remains static while the bassline drops.

Michelle uses the DESH with the descending bass line appearing over a fairly static harmony in the guitar.

Descending bass lines are awesome things to get a handle on.

The first few bars of Stairway uses what's known in counterpoint as "contrary motion". The bass line and melody move in opposite directions. The bass line you will notice moves down chromatically while the melody moves up along an Am scale.

There are a number of different kinds of motion - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrary_motion

Sometimes the melody does it's own thing but is really repetitive while all the songs movement is created by the bass or harmony.

The first part of Babe I'm Gonna Leave You by Led Zep for example has a melody that is somewhat repetitive in nature (though it does vary a little and create some interest and tension from phrase to phrase) but the descending bass line is what provides the real movement.

Sweet Child of Mine has an intro that is instantly recognizeable and a cool exercise on the guitar but very very repetitive. The bass and harmony that come in underneath it provide all the movement and interest. Though the melody in the intro is the part that most people remember and instantly recall, it is the bass and harmony that people follow when they listen and what makes the intro work.

In both cases we are given some consistent pattern or stable reference in the melody that quickly allows us to gain a feeling of stability or familiarity, while we really follow and enjoy the more adventurous bass line and harmony underneath.

(EDIT: I changed a little what I said about Babe I'm Gonna Leave You. It's an awesome song. If we look at on "phrase" as being a complete bass line descent "A G F♯ F E" the bass line creates all the movement within each phrase while the top line is fairly repetitive. However, when you look from phrase to phrase the bass line becomes the repetitive "constant" feature while subtle variations in the melody create the tension and interest)
Last edited by 20Tigers at Sep 11, 2009,
Yeah, come to think of it, alot of Zep songs have some great voiceleading/counterpoint. Also, I know the basic kinds of movement, which are IIRC

Oblique = One voice moves as the other(s) stay stationary.
Contrary = Opposite directions, IE, if the bass and tenor voices start on A an octave apart and the bass moves down to F and the tenor moves up to C, this would be contrary.

Okay, I know theres two others, but I can't think of what they are >_< time for more research.
4 Basic Forms of Voice Leading

1. Common Tones
2. Chromatic Motion
3. whole Step
4. Minor 3rds
^What exactly do you mean? Also I remembered the other motions, Similar and Parallel IIRC.
Well the smoothest voice leading is common tone. An example of common tone would be like having the melody keeping the same tone and not moving between chords (Can also apply to other parts in the voicing other than soprano)

Next is chromatic which is pretty much the same idea as the common tone but is with semi tone motion.

The other two are not as smooth as the first two but still options.

This comes in handy for arranging a melody line and chords into chord melody and also shows why it is important for you to learn your inversions in order to get a smooth voice between chords.

*Some minor principles from my notes*
- space between voices should be < an octave; tenor voice can't be lower than E below middle C; Diatonic/Non-Diatonic scales tendencies apply

Hope this helps
Quote by MadAudioMan

Okay, I know theres two others, but I can't think of what they are >_< time for more research.

Similar - Both voices move in the same direction, but not necessarily the same distance.
Parallel - Both voices move in the same direction by the same interval.
Okay, would an example of chromatic voice leading be a set of changes like... Uhm, I'll just tab these, because I can't spell some of them.

5 4 3
7 x 3
7 4 0
7 4 0
5 2 2
x x 3

In that, the upper voice drops a half step at a time, is this an example of half step movement?
YEah that's an example.

Good voice leading will see the notes change by the smallest amount to form the new chord.

For example Am to C
Am = A C E
C = C E G.

Now the root movement is a movement up a minor third. If they appear in first inversion then the bass will also move up a minor third. The melody might move from E up a minor third to G.

That's all fine and things you should look at. But often some notes are doubled and different voices might appear on top.

When analyzing the voice leading in a chord change from a theoretical standpoint you would look for common tones and the smallest possible movement between notes.

Hence you would see the C and E as common tones with no movement while the A moves down a whole step to G.

So in that chord progression you gave we have
D - D F# A
B5(add6) (or G#m7/B)- B F# B G#
G - G B D

The voiceleading might be analysed as...
D->B->B (down a min3rd then stays the same)
F# -> F# -> G (stays the same then up a semitone)
A -> G# -> G (this is the chromatic movement you alluded to)

The melody is on top and follows the chromatic voice leading.
The bass is D->B->G (moves down in thirds, a min3rd then a maj3rd).

We can hear one note move to two notes or two notes move to the same note.

Another thing to look for is dissonance. Dissonant intervals within a chord provide tension that needs to be resolved. When analyzing voice leading pay specific attention to how a dissonant interval is resolved and what kind of interval it resolves to.
Last edited by 20Tigers at Sep 12, 2009,
On the subject of dissonance, for example, a progression like C-Dm7-Bdim-C works well because the dissonance of the Bdim is resolved by the movement to C, right?
Quote by MadAudioMan
On the subject of dissonance, for example, a progression like C-Dm7-Bdim-C works well because the dissonance of the Bdim is resolved by the movement to C, right?

Yes. The diminished between B and F moves to the major third between C and E, while both voices move only a semitone, resulting in a dissonant interval moving to a consonant one.