[Smt-talk] "Neighboring" 6/4 Chords

Matt Bribitzer-Stull mpbs at umn.edu
Thu Sep 29 08:38:16 PDT 2011

Dear Colleagues:

I find when instructing undergraduates in core harmony courses that students
accept the guidelines we provide for part-writing much better if they
understand the reasoning behind them. I'm at a loss, however, to explain why
common-practice composers rarely used a 6/4 chord above scale degree 2 as a
bass neighbor motion expanding tonic. V4/3 is most often a passing bass
gesture (in which, of course, there's a good reason why students need not
resolve the chordal seventh in the soprano - namely, it's not a dissonance
with the bass and often completes a pleasing parallel-tenths idiom) or part
of a collection of dominant-functioned chords, though it can and does
function as a bass neighbor expanding tonic; and vii 6 an vii 6/5 harmonize
bass neighbor notes with much more frequency than a 6/4 chord.

I'd be interested if there are any compelling contrapuntal or harmonic
reasons why composers tended not to harmonize neighbor motions in the bass
with unaccented 6/4 chords.




Matthew Bribitzer-Stull
Associate Professor of Music Theory
University of Minnesota School of Music

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