Voice Leading

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Voice Leading


the principles governing the progression (or development) of the various voice parts in multiphonic music. There are three types: polyphonic, harmonic, and heterophonic.

In polyphonic voice leading, each voice has a pronounced melodic invididuality and an importance equal to that of the others. In harmonic voice leading, one voice, usually the upper, is given the lead, with the others subordinated to it and serving as accompaniment; thus the leading voice stands out to the fullest and is provided with a definite harmonic structure. In heterophonic voice leading, the voices represent modified versions of one and the same melody.

In a narrower sense, there is vertical voice leading (movement of the voices in one direction, up or down), opposite (movement of one voice up, the other down), and oblique (some voices move, while the others remain unchanging). Parallel voice leading (vertical movement of the voices at the same interval) is a variant of vertical movement. The term “voice leading” is also employed in vocal pedagogy (for the progression of the vocalist’s line).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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