Questions tagged [counterpoint]

Questions relating to the uses, history, types, or analysis of counterpoint.

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32 votes
11 answers
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How is counterpoint different from harmony?

Harmony is a kind of second sound you hear. Counterpoint is also the second sound you hear. Aside from technical differentiation, how can you by ear differentiate these two concepts. Is it possible ...
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21 votes
6 answers
3k views

What is the purpose of the rules in counterpoint composition?

When composing in any form of counterpoint, there are many, many rules to follow. But why? What is the ultimate goal of following the(se) formula(s)?
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20 votes
5 answers
8k views

Is counterpoint still used today?

I was wondering if counterpoint is still used today or was it something that was just used by Bach? Does modern music like pop songs use it?
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20 votes
2 answers
14k views

Is there any real difference between Counterpoint and Polyphony?

From what I understand, they both kind of refer to the same thing. Why the need for 2 terms?
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18 votes
2 answers
3k views

Why is there a sharp and a natural over this Bb?

I'm studying a piece by palestrina (Agnus Dei is the title of this piece, but I'm not sure of the name of the work) and in this 3rd bar we have a sharp in the parenthesis and a natural over the B, ...
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13 votes
3 answers
1k views

Parallel Fifths in Pachelbel's Canon in D?

The other day, I was watching a scrolling score of Pachelbel's (in)famous Canon in D on Youtube, when I noticed something interesting. In the excerpt below, shouldn't the the circled notes in the 1st ...
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11 votes
3 answers
846 views

Are minor sevenths allowed in baroque counterpoint?

Are minor sevenths allowed in baroque counterpoint? I ask because in the first measure of Bach's Invention No. 1 the upper voice and lower voice have an interval of a minor seventh (the upper voice ...
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11 votes
3 answers
5k views

Is there some trick for counterpoint beyond 2 voices?

I really suck at chord harmony, so whenever I compose, I tend to use counterpoint a lot. Counterpoint is somewhat easy when you just have two voices. Because I just compose for fun, I generally do ...
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  • 213
11 votes
3 answers
1k views

Are augmented fourth allowed in second species counterpoint?

I'm trying to learn counterpoint with the help of the Gradus. I think I've made many mistakes but I'm not sure if they're allowed or not. At bar 62 (upbeat) you may see an augmented fourth, used as ...
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  • 963
11 votes
4 answers
2k views

Raised leading tones in Phrygian mode counterpoint

In most cases the penultimate note of the counterpoint will be the leading tone, which must be raised in minor to establish a sense of tonality. But why is the leading tone in the Phrygian mode (E-...
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10 votes
5 answers
1k views

What's "species counterpoint"? Are there any other types of counterpoint?

I believe the title says it all. On Wikipedia it shows the five species but I have the idea that there is another type of counterpoint not based on those species. Is that vague idea of mine correct? I ...
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10 votes
4 answers
1k views

What is more important, avoiding parallel octaves between non-chord tones, or keeping a stretto exact?

I'm writing a fugue, and I've managed an almost perfect two-voiced stretto. Except that I get parallel octaves between two notes in the figuration. See image, last beat of m. 15. Which would be ...
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10 votes
3 answers
989 views

Why does Fux use F# in his counterpoint to a firmus written in G mixolydian

In the given image below, Fux writes a counterpoint to a cantus firmus given to him as part of his studies by his fictitious teacher Aloysious. A rule that is often emphasised is that one should ...
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9 votes
4 answers
2k views

Would the melodic leap of the opening phrase of Mozart's K545 be considered dissonant?

The Complete Musician by Steven Laitz states that melodic intervals larger than a fifth are considered dissonant and should be avoided. It also states that two leaps of a third are fine, provided you ...
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  • 123
9 votes
5 answers
4k views

Simple explanation of counterpoint?

Wikipedia defines counterpoint like this: In music, counterpoint is the relationship between voices that are interdependent harmonically (polyphony) yet independent in rhythm and contour. What ...
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  • 602
9 votes
2 answers
505 views

Why do the examples in Fux's Gradus Ad Parnassum contain a G clef immediately after a C clef?

If the G clef ends up overriding the C Clef, why include the C clef in the first place? Questionable image quality, but I couldn't find a legible example. I'm aware that it's a dumb question, but I ...
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  • 317
9 votes
2 answers
1k views

Accidentals in First Species Counterpoint

On page 39 of Alfred Mann's The Study of Counterpoint there is a passage concerning justification of using accidentals in first species counterpoint. Here is the passage: Aloys: [...]but why did you ...
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9 votes
3 answers
6k views

What's the difference between sixteenth century counterpoint and eighteenth century counterpoint?

What's the difference between sixteenth century counterpoint and eighteenth century counterpoint? Is sixteenth century counterpoint melody or modal based (as this answer suggests) and eighteenth ...
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8 votes
4 answers
2k views

Online counterpoint materials

For a long time I've wanted to teach myself counterpoint, but haven't been able to find any materials online. Are there any hidden tutorials anyone knows of, or good books written in English in the ...
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8 votes
4 answers
3k views

How do “voice-leading”, “part-writing”, “polyphony” and “counterpoint” differ?

What are the differences in meaning and usage between “voice-leading”, “part-writing”, “polyphony” and “counterpoint”? According to Wikipedia: Voice-leading is “the term used to describe the linear ...
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  • 190
8 votes
2 answers
506 views

Why in the study of counterpoint by johan fux are minor sixths allowed but not augmented fifth?

If augmented fifths and minor sixths are enharmonically equivalent why does johan fux in his book study of counterpoint allow minor sixths but not augmented fifths if they sound the same? How does one ...
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8 votes
4 answers
1k views

Resources for "popular" counterpoint?

Basic "About Me:" I was a music and actuarial science double major, dropped the music major, and am now working as an actuarial educator full-time. I'd like to get back to composing. The biggest ...
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7 votes
2 answers
751 views

Why does the leading tone (G#) go to E rather than A in this example?

Why does the leading tone (G#) go to E rather than A in this example?
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7 votes
3 answers
837 views

Is an arpeggio considered counterpoint or harmony?

I have written an arpeggiated guitar which repeats over two chords, played finger style. When singing a melody on top, would this be counterpoint or harmony?
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7 votes
3 answers
4k views

Can the leading note resolve down?

Would like to ask if the leading tone in chord V (G) could resolve downwards to Eb (fifth of chord I)? I’ve somehow recall reading that the rule (leading note MUST resolve to tonic) only applies to ...
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7 votes
4 answers
4k views

What is the definition of counterpoint?

We see the concept of counterpoint in many contexts, from classical music composition to jazz improvisation. What is the definition of counterpoint?
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7 votes
2 answers
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Retrograde and Inverted songs

I am looking for retrograde and inverted remakes of classical pieces. Even better if they are being played simultaneously with the origina, like Pachelbel's Canon, Original Version and Retrograde ...
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  • 179
7 votes
1 answer
205 views

Are same interval leaps consented in second species counterpoint?

I've been told that, in second species counterpoint, presenting the same interval in 2 consecutive bars is an error. What then if the intervals skips in opposite directions? Like this: Is this ...
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  • 963
7 votes
2 answers
499 views

Intended tempo of exercises in Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum

Fux uses whole notes for the cantus firmi in his book, so do others influenced by his work. But I find them almost unbearably slow within the usual tempo ranges. I know that there must have been a ...
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  • 5,069
7 votes
1 answer
345 views

Should we avoid two consecutive leaps forming triads in cantus firmus?

Currently I am reading this set of rules used for creation of cantus firmus. The rule VII.E states: Avoid two consecutive leaps forming triads Is this rule correct? I am in doubt since I thought ...
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  • 523
7 votes
1 answer
229 views

Linear Harmony = neo-medievalism?

How much can linear harmony (the Tonnetz, Neo-Riemannian theory) be explained, more than a century later, as a correction from overly vertical (chordal, Roman numeral, late 1700's) organization to ...
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7 votes
2 answers
389 views

How to identify modes in Medieval counterpoint?

I am reading through Alfred Mann's Translation of Gradus Ad Parnassum (The Study of Counterpoint), but one thing confuses me. In the first species, this counterpoint is shown to be correct: But this ...
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6 votes
5 answers
2k views

Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor breaks the "no parallel octaves" rule?

I notice in his BWV 565, more well known as Toccata and Fugue in D minor, what looks like a lot of parallel octaves in the fugue. I have studied counterpoint before and every counterpoint resource I ...
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  • 6,140
6 votes
9 answers
2k views

Additional reasons why perfect 5th is forbidden in contrapuntal writing (other than voice independence)

When textbooks explain why parallel (consecutive) fifths are forbidden, they always say that it undermines the voice independence. I disagree with this, though. If voice dependence is the reason for ...
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  • 1,136
6 votes
2 answers
4k views

Are consecutive 3rds allowed in harmony?

In harmony, is it okay if there are consecutive 3rds in ii-V progression in two different bars?
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6 votes
1 answer
315 views

Fux counterpoint: why is it in the modal system?

Assuming Fux's counterpoint was written in 1752, why are there some references to the modal system and none to tonality? I mean... 1752 is way beyond the end of modality! Composers already had the ...
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  • 963
6 votes
2 answers
605 views

In counterpoint, is there a name for when a single voice can be understood as multiple different voices?

In French Suite II, Air (mm. 3) it sounds like the upper voice can be separated into two parts: the upper part being Eb up to G, down to F; and the lower part being C down to Bb, down to Ab. In ...
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  • 911
6 votes
3 answers
2k views

How to apply counterpoint to my own compositions?

I recently learned the five species of counterpoint, but feel like I am not grasping the significance of counterpoint in music. I get the feeling these principles may be used to write a bass line for ...
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6 votes
1 answer
518 views

Counterpoint with more than 4 parts

In Rachmaninoff Prelude in B Minor Op. 32 No. 10 I've noticed that not all voices are 4 parts. In fact I've noticed that in 19th century and 20th century music there's more than 4 parts in a harmony. ...
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6 votes
2 answers
343 views

Four part writing problem: tripled root solution. what is best practice here?

I have hit a problem with this chord change in my four part writing. We are in A minor. The VI chord is in first inversion, so A must be in the bass. (I have made a mistake in the figure. the VI ...
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  • 681
6 votes
3 answers
822 views

Clarification of the importance of step-progressions

I was rereading Kent Kennan's "Counterpoint", and I kind of cannot grasp the notion that he is introducing there and would kindly use your help. I understand the definition (or so I think) but it ...
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  • 1,141
6 votes
1 answer
429 views

How exactly is climax defined?

I am learning rules of counterpoints using this source. One of the rules there states: The CF must have a unique culmination (climax). I would like to be sure that I understand climax properly. ...
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  • 523
6 votes
1 answer
216 views

Rules for building cantus firmus in Fux

I am currently working through "Gradus ad Parnassum" in its english translation (Alfred Mann). In chapter One "Note against Note" (p. 27) I encounter "Principles for the forming of the melodies are ...
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  • 1,141
5 votes
2 answers
2k views

Are these parallel octaves?

I am writing a chorale in C flat major and I currently have a 3 chord going to a I6 chord. Stacked, the chords are EGEB to EGEC. Is this considered parallel octaves? HELP.
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5 votes
4 answers
1k views

Is one octave above tonic also considered as tonic?

I try to learn rules of counterpoint. Yesterday I got this nice source of rules. The second rule there states: The 7th degree must resolve to the tonic, or it can descend stepwise if the ...
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  • 523
5 votes
3 answers
684 views

Is there a rational method to find out which minor scale sounds best in a given situation?

By rational I mean a method that doesn't entirely depend on one's subjective aesthetics, but rather one that has some kind of system behind it. The obvious rule that you should use the ascending ...
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  • 2,287
5 votes
2 answers
668 views

How do you define Harmonic Retrogression with regard to intensity?

I was doing some practice problems in the AP Barron's Music Theory book, and one of the practice problems asks: “When harmonies within a phrase move from a strong intensity to a less strong intensity [...
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  • 1,666
5 votes
1 answer
165 views

Where can I find related materials in connection with Johann Joseph Fux's The Study of Counterpoint?

Allegedly, Beethoven condensed Fux's work into a "cheat sheet" version for ready reference (from the back cover of the Alfred Mann translation), and Mozart apparently annotated his own copy (...
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  • 916
5 votes
2 answers
799 views

Is this a hidden consecutive fifth?

I am working through some beginner counterpoint exercises, and I wrote this harmony above part of a cantus firmus: . By my understanding this should be a 3rd to a 5th, which should be acceptable, ...
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5 votes
4 answers
835 views

Counter-example of counterpoint technique?

I'm trying to fully understand the concept that "Counterpoint" entails... but I can't seem to think any situation in which a counterpoint is not present on a song/piece/whatever. If counterpoint is ...
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