By Tutor Ed Watkins
Hey guys, it’s Ed.
So, Voice leading. I’ve been thinking recently about what I would consider to be one of the bigger
breakthroughs for me when it came to writing music/arranging. I thought some more, then
a bit further.. but I could only really put my finger on one particular element when dealing
with taking a selection of my productions to the next level. And here it is:
Now in this blog section, I’ll cover the basics of what voice leading
is, what proper voice
leading entails and where you would be best off implementing it. So off we go..
It all starts with the first chord in your progression (could be your track opening, middle 8
etc), and lets say in this instance that is a C major.
So, C major is built up of three notes: C, E and G.
These notes are the chords ‘voices’.
At the moment, with only one chord, we’re very much looking at the chord in a vertical
sense; but once you introduce the rest of your chord progression, things start to unfold in
a more horizontal manner.
Voila, so we now have our majestic progression written out. C, F, Am, G.
Ok, so all these chords share a common trait; they are ‘triadic’, or comprising of three
notes. And as shown below, you can begin to pick out the horizontal movement between
the voices of the chords.
As the chords progress, the different voices lead into the next. And that, quite simply is
Is it good voice leading though?
Not really. See how the voices jump and skip across the stave, sometimes in intervals of
over an octave.
Now, there’s quite a simple trick to making sure your voice leading is as good as it can be:
Try and avoid moving the notes wherever possible.
This is easily achieved if you check adjacent chords for matching notes. So, for example:
C and F both share a C. That C stays where it is.
F and Am both share F AND A. They both stay where they are.
Am and G don’t share any notes; in this situation, aim for the shortest possible journey. So
our example means we move: C to D, E to G & A to B.
The finished progression:
The resulting progression is much, much smoother compared to the original. This is a
great technique to remember when arranging some strings for your pop record,
programming some ambient synth pad so thicken out your chords etc. It’s really worth
taking that extra time to make sure your voice leading is as good as it can be.
Experiment as well, see how well you can blend and tie together unusual chord
progressions simply with good voice leading
. You never know when inspiration might
Tags: chords, music theory, score, stave, Voice leading