# Why might two jumps in contrary motion be avoided? [duplicate]

The goal is to write a well-constructed and easily singable melody. There is a motif in my melody that outlines a C major triad like this: E4 G4 C4 (in that order). Why might it not be wise to have two successive jumps that move in opposite directions? Thank you.

• What makes you suspect it might be unwise? Jun 18 at 1:21
• my musescore plugin considers it an error. I believe that program derives its rules from Fux, though I could be wrong. Jun 18 at 3:01
• I initially thought your C major chord outline was going up (e.g. E4 G4 C5). That might provide insight into why it might not be completely wise to have two successive jumps that move in opposite directions. Jun 18 at 11:46
• @Dekkadeci Im not familiar with the registers of the piano, so please let me know if I didn't clarify the notes properly in my edit Jun 18 at 14:25
• Fux? Are you actually doing species counterpoint? Jun 18 at 15:05

What does Fux do?

There are other examples to be found in The Study of Counterpoint, but those three are enough to make the point.

The first one isn't the contour you gave in your question, but I think it should be included, because it is a unambiguous example of a triad arpeggiated.

There is a rule for writing a cantus firmus which say to not outline a triad.

But, wait!

By my reconning Fux presents only 8 unique cantus firmi in The Study of Counterpoint (Figs. 4, 11, 13, 15, 22, 42, 44, & 88.)

Half of them present consecutive leaps. Of the 5 actual passages, all but fig. 44, are triadic outlines (fig. 11 is partial with only 2 tones, not counting the octave.)

If Fux is the model for counterpoint, species counterpoint specifically, then based on these actual examples, I think it's fine to have consecutive leaps, even those outlining complete triads, whether in the cantus firmus or a counterpoint.

If you're taking a class, and the teacher gives you rules that say don't do it, and you don't want to loose points, then don't do it. But, just remember: Fux did it.

• Kudos for taking the time to really look closely at Fux. This is as valuable a post as there is on this SE. Jun 18 at 16:05
• Thanks @Aaron. I'm still waiting for that question where I can post my 38 two-part relative motion "bi-grams" from chapter one... I kinda went off the analytical deep end with Fux :-) Jun 18 at 16:20
• "Bi-gram"? (I'm going to try to come up with that question....) Jun 18 at 16:24
• I borrowed the term from linguistics, computing. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigram. I use it for musical progressions of two like `FA MI`, `V6/5 I`, or in relative motion a `P5` moving to `m3` by contrary steps. IMO a lot of common practice music can be viewed as concatenation and elaboration of such bi-grams. I wanted a term for "progressions of two" and "bi-gram" fit the bill, even if I only use it on my own. Jun 18 at 16:30
• Will this work to set things up? What interval sequences “defined” Fux's counterpoint?. Jun 18 at 16:48

The explanation given by Fux is that such moves are hard to sing. Two jumps in a row in the same direction are even more strongly disfavored. The preferred melodic motion after a skip is stepwise motion in the opposite direction. I don't know whether this explanation really conforms to the intrinsic difficulty of singing such lines or if it is more of a stylistically governed norm.

• Can you give a citation for where Fux gives that explanation? Jun 18 at 16:03
• @Michael Curtis I’m basing it on a footnote from the Mann 1971 translation near the start of chapter one. It states that the key rule is consideration of vocal performance. From this flows the rule of avoiding successive skips in the same direction and disfavoring successive jumps in opposite direction (compensating by step is preferred)
– Dave
Jun 21 at 0:53
• that footnote it funny, because several of Mann's points are found in the actual text, but the one about successive leaps in the same direction I can't find in the text, and Fux clearly does it in c.f. and c.p. Jun 21 at 13:59
• @MichaelCurtis He points to a part of the text that isn't included in the translation (so I have to take his word on it).
– Dave
Jun 21 at 16:31