In a chord progression, the involved chord tones move according to certain melodic tendencies. When one writes harmonic progressions or successions, special attention should be paid to the outer voices of chords and their implicit melody since the outer voices outline the harmonic melody and overall chord direction. On the other hand, the inner voices help to secure the relationship between chords.
A parsimonious voice-leading means that when inner chord voices move from one chord to another, they should do so in as few steps as possible:
- in stepwise motion, voices should move no more than a whole-step;
- holding common tones whenever possible;
- with no great leaps;
- and all in accordance with the principles of common-practice harmony and counterpoint.
Notice how this is reminiscent of playing a chord progression in an instrument with the least amount of changes in the hand position to assure the smoothest fingering patterns.
Smooth voice-leading is just one aspect of the harmonic technique. That said, one should consider not only the voice-leading characteristics, but also dissonance placement on the chord voicings, escaping common tones, using modulations, make wider voice leaps, parallel movement, among other techniques that will help bring novelty and variety to the harmonic movement.
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