[Smt-talk] "inversions"

Joel Galand galandj at fiu.edu
Thu Mar 20 04:35:20 PDT 2014

Dear Colleagues:

The "keyboard style" that Donna and others are talking about is something that I prefer, in my undergraduate classes, to call "continuo style."  The texture is indeed one frequently found in CPE Bach's treatise on accompaniment and similar sources.  It persists in  twentieth-century figured bass manuals, such as the ubiquitous FIGURED HARMONY AT THE KEYBOARD by R.O. Morris (Oxford, 1933)--still in use in many Anglophone universities.

In my undergraduate days at Yale, our harmony book was  Allen Forte's (now out-of-print) TONAL HARMONY IN CONCEPT AND PRACTICE.  Allen's text was steeped in the continuo tradition:  he presented voice-leading conventions  for various chords (5/3, 6/3, 7th, 6/5, etc.) prior to teaching anything about harmonic function, and the emphasis was on continuo-style part writing:  bass in the left had, all upper voices in the right.  (He did include a chapter on chorales, though.)  I still find this an appealing way to teach--my freshmen have completed many a figured and unfigured outer-voice exercise prior to learning about Roman numerals, or S,T, D, or what have you.  (Of course, they usually know something about this already.)

Eventually, of course, I have them write chorale-style exercises (but also waltzes and other relatively free accompaniments).

All the best,

Joel Galand
Associate Professor of Music Theory
Graduate Program Director
School of Music
Florida International University
From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org [smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] on behalf of Donna Doyle [donnadoyle at att.net]
Sent: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 10:50 PM
To: Nicolas Meeùs
Cc: Trevor de Clercq; smt-talk
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] "inversions"

Nicolas, this disposition is normal for "keyboard" style (often used in American keyboard harmony classes-- something to which I alluded in my remarks). See, for ex Aldwell/Schachter, pp 97-8 (4th ed). As I also said,
Boulanger urged her students to play two voices per hand, not only to create a more open texture, but also to foster contrapuntal thinking/hearing. She insisted that harmony exercises be written in and played from four clefs (three C and one F), so that each voice becomes a line in its proper register. Of course, the soprano and bass voices are the most important/noticeable. But often the three upper lines, if well written, can be inverted.

Donna Doyle

On Mar 19, 2014, at 4:38 PM, Nicolas Meeùs <nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be<mailto:nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be>> wrote:

None of the answers to this question appears to have raised the problem that Trevor's students, apparently playing the bass in the left hand and the other voices in the right one, appear to see the inversion as the position with respect to the tenor!

I find this puzzling on two counts:
1) Is it normal to play harmony with only one voice in the left hand? I think to remember that during my studies, we played chorals with two voices in each hand; I often played continuo in the same way.
2) As many of the previous answers here have shown, several of us would believe that the upper voice, rather than the tenor, is the most important after the bass for determining the chord position.

In any case, I think to remember that in my classes (or at least, in my own usage), we used the following French terminology:
– renversement (inversion) for the inversion of the chord.
– position for its upper note: a triad in any inversion could be in 3–, 5– or 8–position (but for the fact that a triad, say, in first inversion and 3-position would double its 3d, an unlikely disposition).
I must say that I rarely bothered which note was in the tenor and which in the alt.

Nicolas Meeùs

Le 18/03/2014 20:23, Trevor de Clercq a écrit :

Hi all,

My students with some piano background often confuse chord inversions with what their right hand is doing, such as a "first inversion" chord means that the chordal third is played by the thumb of the right hand, even if the root is in the bass (left hand).  This misconception seems to be something derived from their previous piano pedagogy as far as I can tell.

My question: Is there a technical term for different voicings of the right hand?  I realize I can't retrain the piano teachers of the world to use a different term.  But does something like "first voicing," "second voicing" exist?  Maybe this is more a thread for the keyboard world, but it impacts my music theory teaching.

Oh, and dear fundamentals textbook authors, PLEASE stop explaining and drilling inversions of chords using only the treble clef.  It reinforces this misconception and leads others down the same path.  I realize it's a convenience thing (cost of paper and ink), but it unnecessarily confuses so many of our students.

Trevor de Clercq, PhD (Music Theory, Eastman 2012)
Assistant Professor
Department of Recording Industry
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
(office) Ezell 104A
trevor.declercq at mtsu.edu<mailto:trevor.declercq at mtsu.edu>
Smt-talk mailing list
Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org<mailto:Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org>

Aucun virus trouve dans ce message.
Analyse effectuee par AVG - www.avg.fr<http://www.avg.fr/>
Version: 2014.0.4336 / Base de donnees virale: 3722/7210 - Date: 18/03/2014

Smt-talk mailing list
Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org<mailto:Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org>

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.societymusictheory.org/pipermail/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org/attachments/20140320/0a80e1f5/attachment-0004.htm>

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list