I am currently reading through the Complete Musician and the current subject is second species counterpoint. I've written about 5 or 6 counterpoints so far in first and second species. That said there is no real indication of whether you did a good job. I followed the rules outlined and I got something that sounds good. I really like Bach music so I tried to copy what I remember hearing from listening to him.

So my question is how do I know when I have succeeded the current lesson and can move on to the next chapter? I feel like I understand the rules they gave pretty well, and I could write counterpoint reliably without making any mistakes.

Heres the last counterpoint I wrote, in the bass. I think it sounds good but I don't know if I succeeded:

enter image description here

The numbers are the harmonic intervals. The stars are dissonant weak notes which are favored over consonant ones.

3 Answers 3


It's good if it sounds good and bad if it doesn't. Note that the "following the rules" supposedly helps ensure independence of lines.

The parallels in the last measure may or may not be a problem depending on tempo and style. They're on unaccented beats so that helps; they're also octaves which makes the parallels sound like a voice drops out. One has to be careful that one hears parallel thirds with some passing tones instead of parallel octaves with anticipations. You probably ought to play the piece and figure out what you hear. Try "fixing" the parallels and see if that sounds better.

  • Do think that Bach would accept those parallels? I was drawing inspiration from him.
    – user45241
    Nov 3, 2017 at 2:10
  • That I don't know. The best thing to do is to play it and see if it sounds thin (not bad, thin) like a voice dropped out.
    – ttw
    Nov 3, 2017 at 2:47

You can exactly follow the rules without error and produce music that sounds blah. The blah may be due to a lack of a harmonic or melodic plan, or lack of suitable what Hugo Norden calls imitative devices (literal imitation, retrograde or reverse imitation, contrary motion, contrary and retrograde, palindrome) between the various voices. These devices may be tricky to implement in early counterpoint exercises (on account of the lack of voices, or details of the species in question) so it would likely be best to forge on through the remaining chapters having completed the exercises.


It looks pretty good. But do multiple takes. You will find a version that solves the hidden parallel octaves. But yes move on to the next chapter. Just do more takes on each exercise.

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