Secrets of Voice Leadings


This is a great topic because it applies to so many different types of music. Voice Leadings refer to how each note of a chord resolves to the next chord. This is something found in every type of music you could imagine, from jazz to classical and to the early days of choral writing. While this all might sound confusing now, voice leadings are actually a very simple subject.


If you take the notes of a scale and number them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 (being the octave), which in C major would be C, D, E, F, G, A B, C, the formula is this:


2 goes down to 1
4 goes down to 3
6 goes down to 5 and
7 goes up to 8 (or down to 5 for better resolution in some cases)


This is true for both major and minor keys.


As for accidentals, raised notes go up, and lowered tones resolve down. So in C major, sharps resolve up and flats resolve down. In keys with sharps or flats, naturals may alter tones up or down depending upon context. But it works exactly the same way. So for example in F major which has a B-flat in the key signature, if you had a B natural, it would resolve up to C!


That’s basically the essence of how voices resolve! Active tones resolve to restive tones. 1, 3, 5, and 8 are the restive tones and the active tones must resolve according to the simple guidelines described above in order to sound fluid. You will find these truths evident in music of all periods to be rather pervasive.


So, check out your music and see how the masters deal with voice leadings! Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin here at