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I have more questions on the Study of Counterpoint:

  1. Must the cantus firmus always start on the tonic?

  2. If the cantus firmus is in the bass then can the counterpoint start with something other than a tonic like a third or dominant?

  3. If the cantus firmus is in the top voice then should the counterpoint start with the tonic, why can't it start with the fifth?

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1 Answer 1

  1. Yes.
  2. Strictly speaking the counterpoint must begin on either the fifth, octave, or unison - the last being the least common.
  3. If the counterpoint is below the cantus firmus then it must begin with the octave or unison. It cannot start with the fifth degree of the scale because when a perfect-fifth is inverted, it becomes a fourth, which Fux and others categorize as a dissonant interval. Since you cannot begin counterpoint, much less begin a downbeat with a dissonant interval, starting with the fifth is not allowed. In addition, the counterpoint must be written in the some mode as the cantus firmus. To begin the counterpoint on the fifth degree of the mode would be to imply a different modal sonority and would be therefore incorrect as well.

Hope that helps.

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