Robert Estrin - piano expert

The Secrets of Voice Leadings in Music

What are voice leadings? Watch this video to find out...

In this video, Robert explains the concept of "voice leadings" and its importance in the music world, covering many genres, from classical to jazz.

Released on April 9, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin with a great subject today, Secrets of Voice Leadings. What's this all about? Voice leadings apply to so many different styles of music. I thought this would be of interest to many people. Well, voice leadings, when you play a chord, you have a choice of inversions and voicings. Jazz artists are absolute masters of this in the hands of great players. And yet, it is also in the classical world.

Now, voice leadings refers to how each note of a chord modulates to the next chord, and each note within the chord, where that note goes to the next chord. It all goes back to choral writing. After all, all music is based upon the human voice. To go back to Bach chorales, for example, in the classic four-part writing, there are strict rules that we have ascertained by the writing of these masters back then. That throughout history, people have emulated in styles that came after. So, here's the good news for you, voice leadings are actually an extremely simple subject. I'm gonna break it down for you right now.

Now, in scale degrees, if you call the first note one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, going up the scale. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. If you have a note within the key, it's very simple. Listen very carefully. Here it is for you. Two goes down to one, four goes down to three, six goes down to five, and seven goes up to eight, and sometimes or, seven goes down to five, for a good voice leading to avoid parallel fits and such. That's it, two to one, four down to three, six down to five, and seven up to eight, and occasionally down to five, just to make things work out nicely for you.

Now, what about accidentals? Well, that's not so hard either. In during the key of C major, it's very easy to conceptualize. Sharps go up, flats go down, very simple. If you're in another key, however, it's not necessarily sharps that go up, it's any raised note that goes up, and any lower notes go down. In other words, if you have a flat in your key signature and then that note has a natural, that is a raised note, and that would resolve upward. If you have a sharp, likewise, if it's a natural, that would resolve downward.

That is the whole secret of voice leading in a nutshell. Can you believe it's that simple? Try it in your music, if you're improvising, if you're carving out chord changes from a lead sheet. Notice your scores of Classical music, how beautifully crafted, whether, it's Bach, Mozart, Chopin, it doesn't matter. These are universal rules that apply to music. Why? Because, they sound good. It has to do with active tones resolving to restive tones. And that's the whole story of voice leadings for you. That's for joining me. Robert Estrin here from and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

joyce marshall on January 5, 2017 @3:55 pm PST
Yes, I would like the sheet music transcription of the music you play and the end of the videos. Thank you Fabrizio for working on this.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on January 5, 2017 @4:46 pm PST
Yes, I'll see if we can make it in the coming weeks. I'll keep you posted.
joyce marshall on January 1, 2017 @2:12 pm PST
Still patiently waiting for the piano music that you always play at the end of your videos.
Robert Estrin - host, on January 4, 2017 @12:38 pm PST
Are you looking for a sheet music transcription of the music I play at the end of the videos? If so, I welcome anyone out there to transcribe the music which we will post on VSM!
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on January 5, 2017 @2:15 pm PST
Robert, we can do it! It'll be pretty easy... give me a couple of days and I'll see what I can do :
JJK on December 14, 2016 @5:00 am PST
This is the first time I have heard voice leading so clearly explained! In all my courses and years of study, it still felt complicated and I always relied on my ear to decide.
Thank you, Robert. Your explanations are always excellent you continue to impress!
Jan Klein Swormink on April 10, 2014 @1:51 pm PST
Hello Robert, thank you for your posts. I listen them all the time! Also this subject on Voice Leading. Which I did not complete understand. Can you explain it in another video further with some examples?

Robert - host, on April 11, 2014 @1:44 pm PST
Yes, there will be another video coming soon which talks about active tones and restive tones which form the basis of chord resolution.
Maria * VSM MEMBER * on April 9, 2014 @3:33 pm PST
Wow Robert, you've opened up a whole world I wasn't aware of, even after playing music for 60 years! Goes to show, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
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