You are supposedly only allowed to enter and leave a dissonance by step in species counterpoint and use consonant skips on the upbeat. however, in any triad an arpeggiation would very frequently produce a P4. In fact, trying to skip to a P5 many times will change the harmony. I know they didn't think in chords back then but we do now so why isn't the P4 allowed in modern day counterpoint if it happens on the "in between" note? Or in other words: Why do textbooks in the 21st century still teach counterpoint using those old rules when it would be more practical to adjust them to suit modern day pupils. Most of the rules still sound good and I admit that species counterpoint is still valid but a couple of tweaks are much needed IMO.

  • What source says it isn't allowed modern day?
    – Aaron
    Sep 11, 2023 at 19:59
  • @Aaron. All sources I have seen say all dissonance on the upbeat in second species must be approached and left by step. This is a common rule across the board for 2nd species. Only consonant leaps can be used. If you have a source that says otherwise then please post it in am answer for me so I can check it out.
    – user35708
    Sep 11, 2023 at 20:17
  • I see. Your reference to modern-day counterpoint is misleading. If you're studying species counterpoint, then you're studying species counterpoint, and you use the rules that applied at the time. Modern-day counterpoint does not necessarily use the species rules.
    – Aaron
    Sep 11, 2023 at 20:19
  • I wonder if what you're really asking is why the teaching of species counterpoint hasn't adjusted the rules to account for the (relatively) modern-day conception of chords — or, even more broadly, why species counterpoint is still taught, since it doesn't really apply today.
    – Aaron
    Sep 11, 2023 at 20:21
  • @Aaron, a lot of modern harmony textbooks still have a chapter in species counterpoint so I am asking why they dont change those rules or update them
    – user35708
    Sep 11, 2023 at 20:21

1 Answer 1


I don't know the reason (Fux was being pedagogical, not practical) exactly, but in second species, the unaccented beat can be a dissonance. The fourth is a dissonance (against the bass) so needs special care. I don't see anything in Fux or others saying the fourth is forbidden, only that, being a dissonance, it should be prepared and resolved by step. I don't know if that restriction affects fourths that much.

For more modern counterpoint, bare fourths do sound a bit like 64 chords and still need special care.

  • Thank you. Maybe it has to do with singing? An instrumental pattern might sound good outlining a chord bit I wonder if leaping into a P4 might be harder to sing. Even though it is part of a chord it might be for this reason.
    – user35708
    Sep 12, 2023 at 6:59

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