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Section 26.1 Voice Leading

Voice leading, also known as part writing, refers to rules about melodic motions of voices involved in harmonic progressions. The primary concerns behind voice leading rules are independence of parts, voicing of chords, and economy of melodic motion for the sake of singable parts.

“SATB” voice leading refers to four-part chords scored for soprano (S), alto (A), tenor (T), and bass (B) voices. Three-part chords are often specified as SAB (soprano, alto, bass) but could be scored for any combination of the three voice types. SATB voice leading will also be referred to as “chorale-style” voice leading.

Figure 26.1.1. Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass voices on the grand staff in “chorale-style” voice leading

“Piano-style” voice leading means the three upper parts are in the upper staff (the right hand part) and the bass is the only voice in bass clef (the left hand part).

Figure 26.1.2. “Piano-style” voice leading