Leaping Bass: ↓3 ↑2 Sequence with 6/3 Chords

The falling thirds sequence is extremely common in Baroque music:

Derek Remeš, Compendium of Voice-Leading Patterns from the 17th and 18th Centuries to Play, Sing, and Transpose at the Keyboard

Practice these exercises here. You can practice them in a variety of keys here.

  • In four parts:

Some four parts practice here

Notice that in four voices the middle voices also present an opportunity for imitation in the form of staggered diminution. The green voice (alto) alternates staying in place and moving down one step, while the blue voice (tenor) moves down by step and then stays in place.

Why is this sequence so useful and common?

  • Vertical advantages

If we remove the middle voices, we are only left with alternating 3rds and 6ths descending down the scale. Vertically, this makes this sequence always consonant:

  • Horizontal possibilities

Horizontally, this sequence offers repeated opportunities for imitation (stretto) because the melodic intervals always alternate +2 -3 in both the top and bottom voice, one position apart.

If we alternate the diminutions accordingly we can achieve a stretto:

This is possible with the third voice included:

  • Modulatory possibilities

Both the motion ↓3 and the motion ↑2 in the bass can serve as a cadential motion. ↓3 would be an alto clausula and would be used in an evaded cadence and the ↑2 would be a discant clausula.

This offers many modulatory possibilities. A few examples follow:

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