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The Combination of Harmony and Counterpoint (cont.)
Back to Theory | Introduction | Arpeggiation | Consonant Skips | Linear Progressions | Neighbour Notes | Combinations | Diminution

Linear Progressions
The simplest linear progression is the passing note, which is dissonant as it passes from one consonant note to another. The D in the example below can be said to rely on the first and last note for its harmonic sense so it is in this sense subordinate to them.

The other two notes are therefore structurally more important in terms of the harmony but it is this vital passing note that binds them together into a linear progression:

Note the way that Schenkerian analyses are notated: there are no stems on the noteheads and a slur spans the linear unit or diminution in question. Stems, beams and minim noteheads are used at other stages of an analysis (see Notation Guide)

The most important feature of the above linear progression is that its first and last notes are consonant with the harmonic unit which the progression prolongs (because it spans the interval of a third it is known as a third progression).

Here is a third progression in the bass, resulting in a harmonic progression from a root position C chord to a first inversion. In this case, both notes are consonant with the harmony being prolonged, but this is not always the case with linear progressions in the bass due to the bass line's harmonic role.

Other linear progressions
A fourth progression spans the interval of a fourth. The first and last note must be from the chord which it prolongs while the intervening notes fill the space in between them, usually using notes from the scale of the harmony that is being prolonged - in this case C major.

A fifth progression spans the interval of a fifth:

Linear progressions may either ascend or descend but not both in the same progression. They must also proceed by step (major or minor seconds). The most important thing about linear progressions (as mentioned above) is that the first and last notes are both consonant with the harmonic goal of the progession.

This example is a fourth progression prolonging C - the first and last notes are consonant with the main harmony being prolonged (C):

This example, however does not prolong C but F. The first note is harmonised by the dominant but the underlying goal harmony is the tonic.