Common Figured Bass Realization Errors

  • Missing the 3rd of a chord – unless the chord has a 2 or 4 in the figure, a 3rd is almost always the most important note to add, so the harmony is complete and the quality of the chord is clear
  • When a 9-8 suspension is present, the 3rd is required unless you are writing a two-part texture.
  • Not preparing suspensions – if you plan to write a suspension, prepare it with a tied consonance in the prior beat of the same duration
  • Incomplete 6/3 chords – in 3 or more parts, 6/3 chords must be complete
  • Incomplete 5/3 chords for no good reason – we are looking for a rich texture – so dropping notes for no reason doesn’t make much sense
  • Incomplete suspended sonorities – 4-3 implies an added 5th, 7-6 an added 3rd.
  • Parallel octaves or unisons (especially several in a row) – this is a sign that you are writing the same voice twice
  • Parallel fifths – also not good in this style
  • Using diminution without splitting into voices or parts – diminution divides notes in one part – if your notation doesn’t make it clear which part is being divided the result is ambiguous and you will make voice leading errors.
  • Using diminution in multiple parts without regard to parallels and resulting harmonies

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