i hope this question hasn't been asked too many times.
I am working on compositions using species counterpoint. I am okay with the technique when writing up to 2 voices. Then I want to fill in the 2 voices with voices in between but I have trouble with parallel fifths and parallel octaves with the inner voices. Are parallel fifths and parallel octaves acceptable in the inner voices? I have read different things online that have been confusing me.

  • 1
    Thanks for accepting my answer. Since you're new here (welcome, btw) I should point out that there is no rush to accept an answer. I happened to answer first, but I expect you'll get a couple more people chiming in over the next 24 hours, and one of them might have a more helpful answer than mine, more worthy of being the accepted answer. Cheers.
    – ibonyun
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 18:18
  • You should post an example or two of an actual problem so you get a more meaningful answer. Otherwise the answer is simply: no. Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 20:12

2 Answers 2


I would say no, parallel 5ths and 8ths are still illegal in inner voices. Inner voices can disguise some broken rules, but parallel motion is not one of those.

One of the broken rules that can be hidden in inner voices is the leading tone going somewhere other than the tonic. This is audible, but less so in the inner voices. When used to avoid illegal parallel motion, it is definitely the lesser of the evils.

Remember that, generally speaking, you can double any pitch in the chord, and you can also omit the 5th. This can be useful for getting out of tricky situations which would otherwise require breaking a rule.


If your strategy is to write two part counterpoint that "sounds good" and follows all the rules, and then try to add more parts, you will hit problems because the first two parts will have used up too many of the "good" part-writing options.

Either be prepared to change anything in your first added part if you need to, or write all the additional parts together.

The answer to the specific question about parallels is "no, you can't do that".

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