I'm reading Harmony in Context by Roig-Francoli as a first theory text to teach myself composition. In his Introduction to Species Counterpoint chapter, he mentions that the melody should consist of steps and small leaps, with large leaps rare and with special rules regarding them [large leaps].

My question is what is small and large for a leap?

  • As an aside, what am I doing wrong here trying to get the embedded LaTeX to render with: What i makes $\^{n} \rightarrow \^{(n+i)}$ small or large? Sep 21, 2014 at 18:28
  • 1
    I don't think there is embedded Latex on this site, is there?
    – Chris
    Sep 21, 2014 at 20:28
  • Only some StackExchanges have the embedded LaTeX? Sep 21, 2014 at 22:07

1 Answer 1


Typically in counterpoint movement is broken down into three different types including steps, skips, and leaps.

I'm guessing in the case of Harmony in Context a small leap is the same as a skip. The intervals for each of these moments are as follows:

  • Step: 2nd
  • Skip: 3rd or 4th
  • Leap: 5th or greater

Wikipedia has a lot on the rules and process of counterpoint and under first species counterpoint defines a step skip and a leap. Hope this helps.

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    Dom, I upvote here but disagree with a portion of your answer. I would say that a leap is a 4th or larger as the interval of a 4th is dissonant in counterpoint and voices must be resolved in the opposite direction. Therefore 4ths are used less frequently and thus fall into the "rare" category (or at least used with certain rules.) Sep 21, 2014 at 19:15
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    @jjmusicnotes I understand that the interval of a 4th is dissonant in counterpoint, but when looking up the definition of skip in counterpoint the definition was : "In the present context, a "step" is a melodic interval of a half or whole step. A "skip" is an interval of a third or fourth. (See Steps and skips.) An interval of a fifth or larger is referred to as a "leap"." The source is the Wikipedia page linked in my answer. I knew the 3rd was a skip and 5th a leap, but wasn't sure about the fourth so I looked it up.
    – Dom
    Sep 21, 2014 at 19:20
  • I missed that section while reading Wikipedia, thank you for the link. Pending clarification of fourth intervals, I'll regard them as "rare due to dissonance, unclassified large or small," in my mental notes. Sep 21, 2014 at 19:46
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    @Dom, regardless of how a 4th is classified (you'll find different answers depending on where you look), the important thing is to understand how to treat it. My teachers always classified it as a leap because (in addition to the rules I mentioned earlier) it made you think twice about using 4ths (a good habit to get into). Mark, to answer your question directly, a large leap would be anything larger than a P5th. Sep 22, 2014 at 5:37
  • I'm a noob to counterpoint so I might be wrong about this, but if I'm not I think it's probably important to note that two consecutive 3rds in one direction is considered a leap and needs to be resolved by a step in the opposite direction. May 18, 2017 at 9:13

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