Suppose in a particular tune C chord is followed by F chord. Then you could play it like this:
However, that’s quite a big jump. As a result, the music sounds disconnected. Another way to play this chord progression:
Now only two tones change — the C remains in the same place — and they jump only a very small distance (a half-step and a whole-step, respectively).
The result is a much smoother sound. This principle is called voice-leading.
The key to voicing-leading is playing inversions. We started with C chord in root position and then played the F chord in first inversion.
We also could have done it like this:
Now C is in first inversion and F is in second inversion. Again, one note remained in the same place and the other two only jumped a small distance.
We always try to keep the tone (or tones) that the two chords have in common in the same place. When C chord is followed by Am, only one tone moves:
However, in the progression F – G, all three tones must change because the F and G chords don’t have any tones in common:
Unless, of course, we make G a four-tone chord, G7:
Note that I played the chord root in the bass this time.
Another four-tone chord example, Dm7 to G7:
Here, two notes remain stationary while the other two move a small distance downward.
That’s really all there is to it. To do proper voice-leading, find the inversion of the next chord that requires the fewest changes.
Common uses for voice-leading: playing accompaniment, playing with string sounds (violins), and playing organ and electronic keyboard — these instruments have no sustain pedal, so voice-leading is needed for smooth changes.
Time to practice your inversions!
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