Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/parallel fifths


I saw an aexample of a bad voicie leading (SATB). It had two notes E (in bass) and B (tenor) which moved up a step. This was supposed to be a parallel fifths but to me a fifth is only a fiths as long as E and B are written in the same octave. Could youy please explain?

Dear Andrew,

Thanks very much getting in touch. I can understand the problem here. I have seen some music text-books that explain the rules concerning parallel fifths but they forget to explain that the fifths can be any distance apart in physical terms.

For example, you could have an E on the first line below the bass clef and a B on the third line of the treble clef. In physical terms they are well over two octaves apart but from the theoretical point of view, they still form a perfect fifth. Likewise, the E could be somewhere near the extreme left of the keyboard and the B near the extreme right and yes, they still from a fifth. The same also applies to parallel octaves in that they can be any physical distance apart and should be avoided in classical harmony.

I hope this helps. If it is not clear, then please feel free to get back to me.

Best wishes


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Dr Colin


I can answer questions from students of "classical" composing, arranging, notation problems and music theory, writing for instruments and voice and writing music for education. I can answer questions about orchestration but I do not cover questions about pop or rock music, pop song writing or electronic music.

I taught for many years in UK up to "A" level theory and composition. I have spent many years in music education, initially (like everyone else) as a teacher. Then I moved on to advisory work (teaching teachers!) and also lectured, giving many workshops for teachers in developing music education skills and techniques. For a time I worked as a teacher-lecturer at London University's Institute of Education and eventually worked full-time as a Music Education Adviser to schools in part of London, offering advice on music education and curriculum development.


I started composing music at the age 14 (it was mostly rubbish, since you asked) and now have a large number of compositions to credit as well as many publications, especially for instrumental music and choral music. I have also written several acclaimed works for large orchestra and choir. My work has been published particularly in the UK (under different names)(notably by Boosey & Hawkes, Novello, and Schott) but also in the USA and the Netherlands.

My music for elementary players (several publications) has been performed and broadcast worldwide. I am now retired from my previous job as Music Education Adviser. These days I spend most of my time composing and arranging. I am currently working on instrumental arrangements of world national anthems for my National Anthems website and also completing a suite of very easy piano solos and duets for elementary players. For many years I have used the music program "Finale" for all my music writing activities.

International Society for Music Education; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

"The Times" Educational Supplement; "Hi-Fi News and Record Review". For several years, I used to write for many of the state music education periodicals in the US and I also wrote several influential articles on instrumental music teaching for "Music Teacher" magazine in the UK. (UK).

PhD(Hons); MA(Hons); FLCM (compositon) ARCM, LMusTCL,(music diplomas)

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