Best explination I've ever heard involving any aspect of theory!Originally Posted by Bruce A. RichardsonHey, guys,
I have enjoyed checking out what has been done in this section. It's nice to see how the text which once tortured my poor young soul has been expanded and illustrated by so many examples and annotations.
I notice you're talking about voice leading, and we have had numerous discussions about it here over the years. It is sometimes hard for people to grasp why these arbitrary "rules" have any meaning, and the explanations that Jonny and Alan have provided are very good.
I have a more general explanation that may also be helpful.
When you read any of the "rules" of voice leading, they can seem out of touch with what you have heard in film scores or some of the other musical applications we are exposed to on a daily basis.
That's because their basis is drawn from the evolution of diatonic music...that which is designed around the gravitational force of the traditional western scales and modes. There is no doubt that all of the common voice leading and doubling rules are valid. They come from years of highest and best practice, and were formed as a result of what "worked," rather than being arbitrarily applied.
It's important to note that even very "tonal sounding" music may not be Diatonic in nature. And that, I think, is where the disconnect occurs...when we hear things that sound "tonal," but they are not following the traditional ruleset.
Here is how I typically explain the way to approach voice-leading rules:
Say your wife walks into the room wearing a new outfit. She asks you, "Does this look good on me?"
What is the right answer?
YES, of course. This is the highest and best answer. It is the answer that men have relied upon since the dawn of civilization, in order to keep the love flowing.
So, can you break that rule?
Of course, but only if you have an overwhelmingly better experimental choice:
"Baby, I don't think that outfit looks good on you..."
"WHAT?" (tears forming in corners of eyes)
"No, that outfit looks AMAZING on you!!!"
See, you have broken the rule, but you have managed through your artistic cunning to increase the level of tension, then resolve it to even greater success by taking a calculated risk.
This is how voice leading rules work, especially in modern music. By ignoring highest and best practices derived from the history of western music, you take a gamble on destabilizing the gravitational flow...therefore engaging risk...in order to utilize the resulting instability to even greater effect.
The simple rule, then, is that the traditional voice leading rules will keep you safe, and keep your musical thoughts flowing. Break them only with extreme intention, and no one will ever have a negative thing to say about the results. But if you DON'T break them with boldness of intention, and the results are merely a destabilized line with no saving virtue, then people will merely say, "That's poor voice leading."