In Fux's study of First Species modal counterpoint, why is it permitted to raise the 7th as he approached the final cadence. I realize that allowing that creates a leading tone which sounds better, but why is that ALLOWED in MODAL counterpoint? What rule permits that?

In doing research (on this site), I came across Knud Jeppesen's statement in his book that the "the seventh degree is raised at the cadence in all ecclesiastical modes except the Phrygian, in which half steps do not already exist between the seventh and eighth degrees." BUT there isn't a half-step between 7 and 8 in the Phrygian mode - so now I'm really confused. Thoughts? Thank you.


2 Answers 2


Richard Parncutt has an article on the subject. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09298215.2019.1642360 He points out that while leading tones didn't necessarily arise from hexachord theory, they do occur in very early polyphonic music. The point is that a note rising a half-step to the tonic or other stable tone supposedly has a very "nice" sound. It does mark that tone in a more tense manner than a rising whole tone does. While the article only has a psychoacoustical explanation, it does show that the practice extends a half millennium before Fux.


You are reading that wrongly. The statement is that the seventh is raised in all modes that do not have a halfstep between 7 and 8, except the phrygian mode. The modes that do not have this half step would be Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian, Aeolian. Now the statement would be that all of these would have a raised 7th in cadence except the Phrygian scale. The reason for this is of course that the Phrygian mode has this upper leading tone, which would lead to an interval of a diminished 3rd if the 7th were raised.

  • Won't that interval between ^6 and ^7 be an augmented 2nd when the 7th is raised?
    – Tim
    Jan 3, 2023 at 8:22
  • @Tim Who’s talking about 6? It is about the raised 7th degree and the natural 2nd degree (which is the Phrygian leading tone). And raised 7th to natural 2nd would be a diminished 3rd. Of course this constellation is not uncommon in later music in the sense of a diminished dom 7 or a dom 7 with diminished 5th, as this chord adds a strong sense of resolution to the fifth.
    – Lazy
    Jan 3, 2023 at 8:33
  • Phrygian has one tone between ^7 and ^8, agreed. I don't understand why a raised leading tone to 2nd note is an issue. Surely leading tone to root is important, thus my question. I'm missing something, just not sure what.
    – Tim
    Jan 3, 2023 at 8:38
  • @Tim I’m also not talking about 8? A cadence usually features both 7 and 2, in fact the classic Phrygian cadence features the 2 in the tenor, resolving to 1, while soprano has 8-7 and then 8.
    – Lazy
    Jan 3, 2023 at 9:38

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