Voice Leading refers to the arrangement of chord tones within a chord progression such that each tone moves horizontally through the chord changes as a single voice.
Consider, for example the chord progression I-V-I in the key of C…
Without Voice Leading, this chord change could be played like this:
where each chord is conceived as a separate, self-contained vertical structure.
With Voice Leading, this chord change could be played like this…
where each chord consists of three individual voices that flow horizontally through the chord progression.
Voice leading has two important features:
- Tones that are common to each chord typically remain stationary.
- Tones that are different typically move to the nearest note.
Voice leading is used in a wide variety of musics and highlights the practical importance of knowing how to play your chords in a variety of inversions.