Four Part Harmony

by Gabriel
(United States)

Hi my name is Gabriel and I'm confused on how to write four-part harmony.

I know how to write chords in a treble clef but I don't know how to write chords using the bass clef and the treble clef and I'm having problems with writing advanced chords as well.

Is there a way that you can show me how to count to get the four-part harmony chords using the treble clef and the bass clef because when I was in Harmony 2 my Harmony 2 instructor showed me and my classmates how to name chords in a grand staff by counting with her fingers but I didn't quite understand? Can you help me?


Hello Gabriel,

4 part harmony can be learned and taught in many ways. I'll try to give a very brief overview with a simple explanation of the basics.

Writing the chords on a grand staff is simply done by taking each of the notes of a chord and spreading them out with two of the notes on the treble staff and two on the bass staff.

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On the treble staff the highest note is called soprano, the lowest is the alto.

On the bass staff the highest note is the tenor and the lowest the bass.

A basic chord/triad has three notes, so we need one more (since we’re writing four parts). Easy! Just double the root of the chord.

I’m not sure what you mean by «counting» to get the chords, but I guess you mean the diatonic triads and the roman numerals we assign to each.

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In any major or minor scale, you can make triads from each of the notes. These triads are called diatonic since they use only the notes from that scale.

The triads are then numbered, using roman numerals, from each step of the scale.

So, I – ii – iii – IV – V – vi – vii0 – I, are actually the numbers 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 1, representing the steps of the scale.

The lower case letters are used for minor chords (ii) and capitals for major chords (II). The small circle for diminished chords.

Here is a step by step exercise:

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1.The chords to use to write this example of 4-part harmony.
2.The same chords on a treble clef in C major.
3.Using the chord notes and doubling the root, «spread out» in 4 voices for soprano, alto, tenor and bass.

You can check out my lesson here were we’ll go through step by step how to «knit» chords together in 4-part harmony, and where you’ll learn some of the rules too.

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