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In my music theory instruction, we are taught how to utilize one nct between two chords in a chord progression (i.e. check voices for direct and hidden parallel fifths and octaves between chords on strong beats and make sure that the weak beat pitch doesn't create new parallels in between the two chords). However, I was not taught how to do so utilizing multiple melody notes (ncts & chord tones). What is the process and rules for doing so?

*Side note: I am familiar with the concept of counterpoint. However, I want to know the "rules" or practice in the context of Four-part Tonal Harmony. I.e. using major and minor scales, modern meters, cadences, and triadic harmony, Not four-part counterpoint.

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  • What is "four-part tonal harmony"? Get out of the realm of counterpoint, and textures quickly become homophonic and often fail to have a constant number of monophonic voices (e.g. "oom-pah" accompaniment alternates between 1 note and 2-3 notes at a time).
    – Dekkadeci
    Sep 4 at 14:16
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The standard approach to teaching counterpoint, and it sounds like your class took this approach as well, is based on a method devised by Johann Fux (Wikipedia: Fux) and first published in 1725 in his Gradus ad Parnassum.

Fux introduced the idea of "species" of counterpoint. The first is note against note; the second is two notes against one note.

In the third species, one is allowed to use more notes (four, specifically), so that's where the answer to your question lies. For a comprehensive list of the rules for third species see on this site: Fux's Third Species (two part) melodic movement - except for cambiata movement to and from dissonance only by step?

There are a couple of other questions on this site dealing with specific details of the third species.

To learn third, fourth, and fifth species, you can go right to the source with Alfred Mann's translation, The Study of Counterpoint from Johann Joseph Fux's Gradus Ad Parnassum.

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  • Thank you for your insight. I am familiar with the concept of counter point (I am not familiar with all the rigorous rules of counterpoints, yet). However, I want to know the "rules" or practice in the context of harmony. I.e. using major and minor scales, modern meters, cadences, and triadic harmony. Sep 4 at 1:31
  • @Philomath_theory I recommend to update your question to make that clear. You also will get better answers if you describe in more detail the sorts of rules you learned already and the exercises you did to learn them, since it sounds like the class(es) you took didn't follow the traditional music-theory-teaching route. In general, the rules you're seeking have their origin Fux's rules for counterpoint, but you'll need to be more specific about the context in which you're trying to apply them. This is a huge subject area, so a general question isn't likely to get you what you want.
    – Aaron
    Sep 4 at 1:39
  • Thank you for the reply. I went ahead and took your advice and updated my question. To clarify, I would like to know the "rules" or practice in the context of Four-part Tonal Harmony. Sep 4 at 1:53
  • @Philomath_theory It's a good update. Just know, those rules come straight out of Fux.
    – Aaron
    Sep 4 at 1:56
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    In my experience, the Fux book is one that leaves more questions than answers. If you find that you really want to learn how to write perfect, elegant counterpoint you should get a copy of Jeppesen's Polyphonic Vocal Style of the 16th Century.
    – nuggethead
    Sep 4 at 11:19

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