Skip to main content

Section 26.8 Voice Leading First–Inversion Triads

Instead of focusing on the intervallic distance the bass part travels between roots of chords, voice leading first inversion triads requires focusing on the doubling or voicing of the chord itself. When approaching or leaving a first inversion chord, move as smoothly as possible while avoid objectionable parallels, spacing errors, and melodic errors.

Subsection 26.8.1 Voicing a First Inversion Chord

In contrast to the doubling rule for root position chords (i.e., “double the bass”), do not double the bass note for first inversion triads. Instead, double the root or fifth, depending on which can be approached and left most smoothly.

Figure 26.8.1 J.S. Bach, Chorale 237, “Gott lebel noch”, BWV 320
Figure 26.8.2 J.S. Bach, Chorale 153, “Alle Menschen müssen sterben”, BWV 262

If the 3rd of a first inversion is doubled, it will be in one of the following situations:

  1. Diminished triads in first inversion—always double the third (the bass), not the root or fifth

    Figure 26.8.3 J.S. Bach, Chorale 103, “Nun ruhen alle Wälder”, BWV 392
  2. Consecutive first inversion chords—alternate between doubling the third and not doubling the third

    Figure 26.8.4 J.S. Bach, Chorale 106, “Jesu Leiden, Pein und Tod”, BWV 245
  3. Approached in opposite direction in both parts

    Figure 26.8.5 Palestrina, Missa Aeterna Christi Munera, Sanctus

Note that you should never double the third of the V chord because it is the leading tone (\(\hat{7}\) ).