My study of counter point continues!
You can hear all my workings and attempts at the examples in this YouTube Playlist.
Here are my notes so far:
Consonance and Dissonance
- Diminished Fifth
Forms of Motion
Direct: Parts ascend / descend in the same direction
Contrary: One part ascends and the other descends, or vice versa
Oblique: One part moves by skip or step and the other remains stationary
Four Fundamental Rules
Rule 1: From one perfect consonance to another must proceed in contrary or oblique motion
Rule 2: From a perfect to an imperfect consonance one may proceed in any of the three motions
Rule 3: From an imperfect consonance to a perfect consonance one must proceed in contrary or oblique motion
Rule 4: From one imperfect consonance to another imperfect consonance one may proceed in any motion
Perfect > Perfect: Contrary or Oblique
Perfect > Imperfect: Any form
Imperfect > Perfect: Contrary or Oblique
Imperfect > Imperfect: Any form
The First Part
Chapter 1: Note Against Note
These are my notes – they are a reminder and not a guide:
- Notes of equal length, only consistent of consonances.
- Use only consonances and observe rules of motion from previous chapter.
- Use contrary and oblique motion as much as possible.
- Use more imperfect than perfect consonances.
Beginning and Ending a Piece
- Beginning and end should be perfect consonances – the beginning should express perfection and the end relaxation.
- Next to last bar should be a major sixth if the CF is in the lower part and a minor third if it is in the upper part.
Additional Notes and Observations
- From reading the footnotes: Repetition of a tone can occur, but not should occur more than once. My first and third attempts contain a tone repeating 3 times, in different places.
- From looking at the answer in the book (Fig 5) Alloys writes out the intervals he is using above the notes
- Comparing my attempt to Joseph’s, I can see that he has a lot less movement between notes in the upper voice, so I will edit my attempts to reduce the amount of skips that I have. doing this I end up with something nearly identical to the given answer in the book.
- When working with CF in higher voice, want to have an octave in lower to start, to preserve the mode
- No two consecutive notes, in any voice, should form an interval of a tritone / augmented 5th.
- Repetition of a tone can occur, but not should occur more than once.
- No two consecutive notes should form a skip of a M6.
- Unisons should only be used at the start and end of a piece.
- Unison into consonance is bad.
- In general, an octave (or unison) should not be approach by skip, even if you are using contrary motion.
- In general, try and create melodic lines with as little movement as possible. Almost want to think of writing the counterpoint as writing 2-3 lines with little movement.
Practicalities of Writing Counterpoint on Guitar
- When working with CF in the upper voice, I transposed the examples an octave higher, to fit the range of the guitar
Why does perfect > perfect and imperfect > perfect require contrary or oblique motion?
If we were to use direct motion, we create a “concealed fifth”. By breaking the interval between the two notes into step motion, one of those steps would be a fifth. See Fig 8 examples.
Skips of a tritone are not allowed. All examples in this book are in C an it’s modes, so we have to be wary anytime we have F against B, or a movement from F to B; or vice versa. This includes ascending or descending by step, where we start on F and end on B, and vice versa.
See Page 35 and foot note 9 for a more detailed explanation.
- Contrary motion rising from imperfect consonance into an octave is acceptable, BUT, contrary motion descending from an imperfect consonance into an octave is not acceptable. See Page 37 and 38, Figures 16 and 17 for a full explanation.
- Avoid approach from remote consonance to octave by skip, even with contrary motion. See Page 38, Figures 19 and 20 for full explanation.
These my attempts at exercises Fig 4 and 5. I wrote two variations for each:
Chapter 2: The Second Species
Consists of two notes against a single note. The two notes are classified as:
Downbeat: AKA the Thesis. Always consonant
Upbeat: AKA the Arsis. Maybe be dissonant if moves stepwise from preceding and to following note. If it move by skip, it must be consonant.
Fig 24 Dissonance can only occur by diminution – by filling the space between two notes a third apart. However, it does not matter what note goes between the third, just that it is filled.
Fig 25 shows how to end in this species. Consider the ending before you start. When writing in the upper voice, next to last beat is a 5th followed by a M6, when writing in the lower voice, next to last beat is a 5th followed by a m3. This works except for a mode where the 5th is dissonant, in which case, use a 6th.
Fig 28 In second species, you can have parallel perfect consonance in direct motion, but, the off beat must be an interval greater than a third. If the off beat is a third, the interval is too close and the ear will hear the perfect consonances in direct motion. If the interval is greater than a third, the ear will ‘forget’. Figs 27-31 on pages 43-44 explain this.
Further rules for second species:
- A half rest can be used in place of the first note
- If your two parts get close and there is no possibility of contrary motion, create contrary motion using a skip of a m6 or an octave within the melody (Fig 34)
Fig 35 has a really nice little device where the upbeat forms an oblique style motion with itself over 3 bars, while the down beat is in direct motion with the cactus firms.
Fig 38 has two flats in it. We are in F Lydian, and Aloys seems to dislike the #4 in the key, flattening the B (F > B makes a #4) to make a P4 in the key.
Fig 39 Aloys crosses lines which is a great way to deal with the big jump. Sounds very cool. I think my answer does away with the need for that while following the rules.
Fig 41 Remember when putting in the ending, if an accidental occurs, and the natural note happens to occur within a bar or two preceding it, to change the natural to the accidental, for more consistency.
Fig 44 We have a sequence that repeats at the end – sounds very cool.
Fig 46 With tertiary time, 3 notes against 1, the middle note may be dissonant if moving by step. If moving by skip, all three notes must be consonant.
Chapter 3 – The Third Species
In this species, we deal with four quarter notes against a whole note (crotchets against semi-breves).
If we have five quarters following each other, either sending or deciding, then:
⁃ IF the dissonance is created by a diminution.
Fig 48 If the 2nd and 4th notes are consonant, then the 3rd note may be dissonant.
The third note can be thought of as a diminution. A skip of a third can always be filled by a diminution
A better way to summarise this as follows:
The 2nd, 3rd or 4th notes, may be dissonant, only if they are created via diminution.
Fig 50 and the Cambiata
- The cambiata gives a more serious feel to the music.
- Cambiata is when you move from the 2nd note (dissonant) to third note (consonant) by descending skip.
My take on the cambiata:
- The cambiata is a resolution of a dissonance, via a downward skip of a third.
- As such, it can only resolve a 7th or a 4th
- It appears that, when the cantus firmus is in the:
- Lower voice, a cambiata can resolve a 7th in the upper voice
- Upper voice, a cambiata can resolve a 4th in the lower voice
I am not sure how strict the voice dependent constraints are.
Fig 51 shows how this skip of a third can also occur from the 1st to 2nd note (both consonant)
Fig 52 applies the diminution to this skip, however, as this species is not dealing with quavers, it is given as a nice extra piece of information that we will not use that this point.
A further note states that Fig 50 is the preferred way to handle a cambiata, at this point.
The cambiata (resolution of a dissonance by a skip of a third to a consonance) is restricted to:
- 7 down to 5 (cf in lower voice)
- 4 down to 6 (cf in higher voice)
Wikipedia has a good explanation of possible uses of the cambiata: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambiata#In_species_counterpoint
How to end in third species
Fig 53 and 54 show how to end a piece in 3rd species.
The second example in Fig 53 uses the Cambiata in the ending.
From looking at the following examples, it appears that when the CF is in the upper voice, the CPT has to end with a unison.
Starting in third species
Start with either a perfect consonance (1, 5 or 8; unless the counterpoint is below the cantus firmus, in which case use 1 or 5), or a rest as in 2nd species. Fig 60 (notes below) shows an alternative way to start when the cantus firmus is in the upper voice, having an octave followed by a unison.
Fig 58 Octave skips can return to the note they skipped from. Bar 8 in example. The ending (bar 9) was corrected in the original text.
Fig 59 When one melody is on a plan, having a melody with an inflection against it works nicely – part direct part contrary motion
Fig 60 When CF is in upper voice, having an 8 then 1 on the first two notes can be cool. Crossing above and below the line can be effective.
Crafting Melodies: A skip of a P4 or greater is effective at creating a separation between melodies. Thinking in terms of crafting 3-5 melodies across the bars seems to be an effective way to get a more musical feel out of the counterpoint, as opposed to writing something that is just ‘technically’ correct.