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General Music Theory and Tutorials => Basic Harmony and Counterpoint => Topic started by: RichardMc on June 23, 2012, 06:24:48 AM

Title: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: RichardMc on June 23, 2012, 06:24:48 AM
I am taking some time to study from Counterpoint in Composition by Felix Salzer and Carl Schachter. I probably should have posted this before I purchased the book and committed to working from it  but I was wondering if anyone is familiar with this book. Thanks.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: RichardMc on June 23, 2012, 07:55:50 AM
One aspect of working with texts such as this that I especially enjoy is the idea of starting with something very simple, such as a two or three part exercise, and developing that into something more complex.  I like this organic approach.  The downside, however, is that their approach is tonal and I'm not sure yet how to extend this to more contemporary methods. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: RichardMc on June 23, 2012, 09:00:38 AM
Thanks for the reply.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 08, 2013, 08:55:23 AM
I was looking through the threads here to see if anyone had any book recommendations and this was the only book mentioned for counterpoint. 

Does anyone have any suggestions on practical books for composers for studying counterpoint with more modern examples?  I'm looking at the piston book for example.  Another that looks promising is "Counterpoint and How to use it in your Music" by John Collins. 

Any thoughts? 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 08, 2013, 09:13:57 AM
my opinion: don't learn counterpoint in the hopes of "adapting it" to contemporary harmony.

learn classical, tonal counterpoint, all the way through (it's not a 2-month stint of home study, trust me).
in doing so, you will go from 2-part whole note against whole note (and TRUST me, you WILL find it very difficult at first), to 4-part mixed counterpoint.

There are 5 types of counterpoint (called species), and each must be learned with the three voice layouts (ie: 2 part, 3 part, and 4 part).

The 5 species are:

1st species: whole note against whole note

2nd species: two half notes, against the whole note of your cantus firmus.

3rd species: four quarter notes against the whole note of the cantus.

4th species: the counterpoint is created by writing half notes against the whole note cantus, but the half notes are tied from beat 3 to beat 1, and should create as many suspensions as possible. (in other words, it's as if you wrote a whole note against whole note counterpoint, then shifted it over by 2 beats... except it HAS to work.)

5 species: florid counterpoint, which is close to "free counterpoint". in it, you include elements of all of the previous species, but add the occasional pair of 8th notes (only on beats 2 or 4, and only once per measure).

you do ALL of this in 2 voices.
then you start all over again and do it in 3 voices.
and then you start all over again, again, and do it in 4 voices.


By this point, you should have assimilated SOME of the functions and features of classic tonal counterpoint that CAN be useful in non-diatonic modes.

You will find yourself checking lines against lines when you are writing any type of music, not just contrapuntal. you will find yourself giving more care to non-melodic lines in denser textures.

you will also find that you are finding with considerably more ease material to "counter" any of your themes. you will start to find immense pleasure in slipping in little suspensions, brief moments of very melodic counterpoint, and most of all, you will find that you are avoiding clunky cadences that start and stop right on a beat. This last one is the greatest tool for creating fluidity in your music. Strict species counterpoint is violently allergic to squareness (despite the very nature of some of it).
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 08, 2013, 09:38:16 AM
What you say makes complete sense and is ultimately what I want to get out of my study in counterpoint.  I don't simply want to write a half-assed fugue and claim that I know counterpoint and that's that.  I've always been told but never completely understood the ramifications of such study in non contrapuntal forms, so I believe what you say. 

To that end then, short of doing some private study with an individual do you have any recommendations on a book that can at least get me started?  I suspect the Fux book is what you'll suggest. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 08, 2013, 09:52:33 AM
professor Alan Belkin is FRIGHTENING as a counterpoint teacher...

he would stand up, and start writing notes on the blackboard. obviously some sort of fugue subject.
then he'd transpose it a bit further and make any necessary adjustments for real/tonal answer, while talking to the class.
he's fill in the countersubject while talking to us, explaining what he was doing as though he were just tossing notes at the board.

within a minute or two, he'd have the entire exposition of a 4-part fugue on the board, done in one fell swoop.

it was like watching those Vegas acts where the guy makes a painting by tossing paint at a huge canvas then suddenly turning it upside down and VOILA! a painting of Mount Rushmore (or whatever).

I had the great pleasure of doing counterpoint and fugue with professor Belkin for 3 years.
I STILL think he's scary!
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Jamie Kowalski on January 08, 2013, 10:12:35 AM
Belkin sounds like the George Koltanowski (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Koltanowski#Blindfold_Knight.27s_Tour) of the counterpoint world.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Jamie Kowalski on January 08, 2013, 11:02:56 AM
I would also like to say that Michel's post about learning counterpoint is great advice. The fact that counterpoint relies entirely on traditional tonal harmony does not make it any less important to study.

Especially relevant to the original question:
Quote
You will find yourself checking lines against lines when you are writing any type of music, not just contrapuntal. you will find yourself giving more care to non-melodic lines in denser textures.

you will also find that you are finding with considerably more ease material to "counter" any of your themes. you will start to find immense pleasure in slipping in little suspensions, brief moments of very melodic counterpoint, and most of all, you will find that you are avoiding clunky cadences that start and stop right on a beat.

This is absolutely on the mark. Somewhere in the vast collection of ideas that makes up the world of traditional counterpoint lie the seeds for contemporary adaptation -- but I believe it is more of a learned intuition that is difficult to articulate. After the lessons have become second nature, one can get an innate sense of a passage's contrapuntal weight and "validity" even if there is no possible mapping of traditional rules to the style of music in question.

There are times when I am composing when I am very conscious of using that part of my brain that is soaked in Fux. I am not directly applying any of the lessons, but I am filtering my work through the part of me that has a strong general sense of what it means to be "contrapuntal."
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 08, 2013, 11:35:38 AM
Thank-you Jamie.

yes, I think that to actively "seek out" books on applying counterpoint to contemporary harmony may, in the end, be less productive than simply soaking it all in in its "old fashioned" manner.

the thing is that what YOU find usable as far as incorporating counterpoint into your music may not be what someone else finds usable.

whatever your own harmonic system is may not be able to apply the principles in the same manner as someone whose harmonic system is completely different.

As an example: using tone-rows would make applying counterpoint principles difficult as the notes under that system tend to be predetermined, leaving little room for adaptation and adjustment to "fit" any sort of contrapuntal application. I think the only things that would work would be the proscription against parallel octaves and some of the rhythmic principles.

Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: RJB54 on January 08, 2013, 12:20:09 PM
As an example: using tone-rows would make applying counterpoint principles difficult as the notes under that system tend to be predetermined, leaving little room for adaptation and adjustment to "fit" any sort of contrapuntal application. I think the only things that would work would be the proscription against parallel octaves and some of the rhythmic principles.

That depends on the serial approach. If you are following the strict Schoenbergian serial approach, what Michel said is definately true; however, if you are following the Bergian approach it is not.

As I have mentioned in other threads, a big reason Berg has been looked down on by many was that he did not follow Schoenbergian orthodoxy. In fact, his treatment of tone rows, and the incorporation of non-serial entities in his compositions are a big factor in the acceptance of at least 3 of his serial compositions, the Lyric Suite, Lulu, and the Violin Concerto to become part of the standard repetoire.

In Berg's serial world he applies various techniques to the serial material which allows him to often incorporate aspects of strict counterpoint.

Many state that his popularity is due to his including diatonic (tonal) materials and approaches but, the reality is that rather than incorporating diatonic/tonal/harmonic procedures in his serial pieces, he actually is incorporating somewhat expanded strict counterpoint, which creates an aura of diatonicism without utilizing tonal harmonic progressions.

The emotionalism that can be found in many passages of Lulu and the Violin Concerto are not achieved by inserting diatonic harmonic progressions and melodies into a serial context, but by treating the relationships between the serially derived notes with the rules of strict counterpoint both in terms of vertical and horizontal dissonance relationships.

How can this be?

In the beginning of Volume 1 of Heinrich Schenker's 2 volume Counterpoint (a book on counterpoint I highly recommend) he discusses what he viewed as the increasingly incorrect view of and teaching of counterpoint. I won't do him the disservice of attempting to praphase what he writes except for the idea that in his view counterpoint was to be completely abstract and have nothing to do with harmony. In other words the purpose of counterpoint is to teach the student the abstract intervalic relationships between notes and why certain relationships are better than others without any reference to keys and the harmonies related to those keys. But, in his view, over the course of the 19th Century more and more harmony was incoporated into counterpoint resulting in the end that what was being taught as counterpoint was actually harmonic voice leading rather than counterpoint.

This pure, abstract, strict, contrupuntal environment is where Berg operates much of the time which is why even in the most strictly serial passages there is that whift of tonality in his music.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: altasilvapuer on January 08, 2013, 12:20:21 PM
For curiousity, at what (exceedingly general) point do you think you started feeling somewhat comfortable in your study, Michel, Jamie, and others?  I don't mean that you had mastered it, but that you felt like you at least knew enough about what you were doing that you could actually learn.

There is an old saying above oboists (The name of its progenitor escapes me, at the moment), that one cannot begin to truly learn to make an oboe reed, until one has made a "tub-full" of reeds.  That is, only when one has made enough reeds that they could fill a hypothetical bathtub to its brim does a student have a great enough wealth of experience to really start applying principles and learn why they're doing certain things.

-Matthew
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 08, 2013, 12:28:34 PM
in my case, my counterpoint studies covered many years (decades, actually), but I finally "got it" after a year or so of rather intensive study under Professor Belkin. This included group classes in species counterpoint, private lessons in counterpoint, and private lessons in fugue (all part of my graduate program at the time).
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: RJB54 on January 08, 2013, 12:50:51 PM
This is one area of composing which you really can't teach yourself. I know that no matter how had I work at it I will never be able to match what would be learned in a classroom setting being taught with a (hopefully) good instructor flogging the ideas into you and not letting you get off easy.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 08, 2013, 12:52:29 PM
the difficulty with teaching yourself counterpoint is that if you don't know what errors to look for, you simply won't see them.
no matter how complete a book may be, until you've actually assimilated the information completely, you are not in a position to find your own errors.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Jamie Kowalski on January 08, 2013, 12:55:54 PM
yes, I think that to actively "seek out" books on applying counterpoint to contemporary harmony mare, in the end, be less productive than simply soaking it all in in its "old fashioned" manner.

It's possible that such a book, if it exists, could be an interesting read -- not necessarily for instructional purposes, but more of an insight into someone's individual processes. Of course that depends entirely on who's doing the writing.

For curiousity, at what (exceedingly general) point do you think you started feeling somewhat comfortable in your study, Michel, Jamie, and others?  I don't mean that you had mastered it, but that you felt like you at least knew enough about what you were doing that you could actually learn.

I began studying counterpoint on my own probably at about age 14. I was enrolled in a school of the arts high school and was intensely hungry for anything I could learn about music. I was way ahead of the lesson plan and got a small amount of guidance from a wonderful theory teacher, but most of the work I did from borrowed texts. My teacher would sometimes look at my work on her own time, but the focus of the school was heavily on performance rather than theory. It was also a very small school that had only recently been converted to an arts school, so courses were sometimes dictated by the interests of the few students in each year. It was in my senior year when that same teacher began teaching a few of us harmony, voice-leading, and dictation.

I'm not sure exactly when it "clicked," but I'd say I was at it intensely for a few years before it all started to feel more natural. When I got to conservatory, I re-enforced my understanding by taking a class on Renaissance counterpoint (which has many of its own, stricter rules). It wasn't until after that semester that I started to feel like I might actually know something, as opposed to having memorized something.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 08, 2013, 01:01:52 PM
Thank you all for your valuable input so far.  I do realize it's going to be a long road and perhaps longer for me if I try to "go it alone".  However I've felt for some time that it's something I need to do if I want to become a better composer.  It's a gaping hole in my technique and training that needs to be filled. 

I also understand what you're saying about immersing yourself in the study rather than just reading about it.  As I read Prof. Belkin's paper along with what's been written here I'm quickly getting the idea that I have to do exercises and solve these problems myself to better understand the principles. 

I have to say that combining Prof. Belkin's paper (what I've read so far) and Michel's posts I have a much better high level understanding of the species.  Anyway it's a daunting but exciting journey to embark on. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Ron on January 08, 2013, 01:48:42 PM
You could do worse than check out Walter Piston's book on Counterpoint (New York, Norton, 1947). A bit old fashioned, but it should get you started.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 08, 2013, 05:34:11 PM
You could do worse than check out Walter Piston's book on Counterpoint (New York, Norton, 1947). A bit old fashioned, but it should get you started.

I was leaning toward getting this book.  I really do understand you can't read your way into practicing this skill/art but it would help to get a better understanding of the principles.  I think I need to find someone to study with for a while to help me go over exercises and help guide me.  Thank you for the book recommendation though.  I'll likely get it. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 08, 2013, 08:28:26 PM
we could always post exercises here.
I don't know if we're really equipped to deal with dozens of counterpoint exercises a day, but it would certainly be a resource.

of course, there are also minor differences in the different approaches of what is permitted and what is not by different teachers.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Ron on January 09, 2013, 06:52:44 AM
I really should be hung out to dry for not mentioning Alan Belkin's short e-book:

https://www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Usagers/belkina/MonDepotPublic/bk.C/index.html (https://www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Usagers/belkina/MonDepotPublic/bk.C/index.html)

and our former member, Hal Owen's book:  Modal and Tonal Counterpoint: From Josquin to Stravinsky (available on Amazon). The only drawback to Hal's book is that I have never been able to afford it. (It's listed at Amazon for $166.00 right now. I have seen it listed for more than $200. in the past.)
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 09, 2013, 07:08:05 AM
I really should be hung out to dry for not mentioning Alan Belkin's short e-book:

https://www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Usagers/belkina/MonDepotPublic/bk.C/index.html (https://www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Usagers/belkina/MonDepotPublic/bk.C/index.html)

and our former member, Hal Owen's book:  Modal and Tonal Counterpoint: From Josquin to Stravinsky (available on Amazon). The only drawback to Hal's book is that I have never been able to afford it. (It's listed at Amazon for $166.00 right now. I have seen it listed for more than $200. in the past.)

I saw Hal's book and didn't realize it was the same Hal.  That one looked interesting as well, but as you say it's pricey.  There are some used copies for around $100 USD. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 09, 2013, 07:10:39 AM
if I recall, I DID buy Hal's book (it got lost in the move to the new house here, it's around somewhere, in the bottom of a box, I'm sure)... but I honestly didn't find it all that useful.

without a solid grounding in counterpoint, it was next to impossible to understand.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 09, 2013, 07:28:46 AM
I ended up ordering this book (http://www.amazon.com/Counterpoint-Composition-Study-Voice-Leading/dp/023107039X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357745166&sr=8-1&keywords=counterpoint+in+composition).  It seemed to be pretty basic but perhaps a more modern presentation of the Fux book.  It's really just to get started and doesn't have any examples to work on. 

I'm also reading through Prof. Belkin's book which is pretty rich with information. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 09, 2013, 07:34:51 AM
by the way, may I suggest to those who will be undertaking the grand journey of learning counterpoint:

do NOT try and write your own Cantus Firmus. please find a source from which to take them.
most C.F. are designed in such a manner as to already create a satisfying potential harmonic framework.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 09, 2013, 07:40:24 AM
by the way, may I suggest to those who will be undertaking the grand journey of learning counterpoint:

do NOT try and write your own Cantus Firmus. please find a source from which to take them.
most C.F. are designed in such a manner as to already create a satisfying potential harmonic framework.

That brings up a question though.  Reading Alan's paper, he complains of methods that avoid letting the student write their own or simply stick with C.F. in 4/4 time exclusively, not letting the student try to solve other problems.  I realize writing your own cantus firmus is something to be done later, but at what point should one be doing that?  In other words when would you know enough to know how to construct a complete framework?  And is writing a cantus firmus like writing a subject?  Is that the skill required? 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 09, 2013, 07:54:53 AM
Here are some cantus firmi for anyone interested in doing some exercises. 

(http://www.listeningarts.com/music/general_theory/species/cfs.jpg)

These are from a website I found called listening arts (http://www.listeningarts.com/music/general_theory/species/menu.htm). 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 09, 2013, 07:56:17 AM
a cantus has to follow certain rules.
once you have really fully assimilated those rules, then sure, I don't see an issue with writing one.

my thinking, from an educational point of view however, is that if the student writes his own C.F. then the student MIGHT be avoiding specific implicit difficulties within the framework of the C.F., and surprise difficulties are obviously out of the question.

it's a bit like letting the student decide which topics will be on the exam... he can still get some of the answers wrong, but the student will specifically avoid including topics which he does not fully master.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 09, 2013, 08:21:27 AM
a cantus has to follow certain rules.
once you have really fully assimilated those rules, then sure, I don't see an issue with writing one.

my thinking, from an educational point of view however, is that if the student writes his own C.F. then the student MIGHT be avoiding specific implicit difficulties within the framework of the C.F., and surprise difficulties are obviously out of the question.

it's a bit like letting the student decide which topics will be on the exam... he can still get some of the answers wrong, but the student will specifically avoid including topics which he does not fully master.

Got it. 

This evening I will type out those cantus firmi in Finale as two-part, three-part and 4-part, zip them up and post it here for anyone who's interested. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 09, 2013, 09:52:25 AM
I'd suggest to anyone wanting to start on this, start with just 2 voices.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 09, 2013, 10:18:07 AM
I'll make a sticky of the C.F. if you post them.
we can have a sticky for the Cantus, then a discussion thread for 2-part, 3-part and 4-part counterpoint, and for each species.

I'd have to dig through some boxes to find the C.F. I had for my classes, which was years ago.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 09, 2013, 10:47:42 AM
I was thinking of typing it up in such a way that we could write counterpoint both above (soprano) and below (tenor) the C.F.  The rules are slightly different for the voice below the C.F. so it would be nice to have the opportunity to solve that problem as well. 

Maybe on the discussion threads for each species we could list the rules so we have a place to easily reference them. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 09, 2013, 10:52:38 AM
I'd suggest just writing all C.F. in C or A minor, whichever the case, and in treble clef. it is up to the student to transpose to a suitable key.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: sandalwood on January 09, 2013, 02:17:36 PM
by searching the keywords "counterpoint, music", here

http://archive.org/details/treatiseonstrict02glad

one can reach many free e-books on counterpoint. although they all date around the great deluge, some, as far as i can judge, are probably not too bad (look, e.g. for e prout, bairstowe, goetschius, etc). at least they contain zillions of cantus firmi and other exercise material; moreover not general purpose but prepared for a variety of specific purposes and levels within each one's teaching systematic (mostly organized acc. to no. of parts and order of species).

plus it is possible to partly read some newer cpt. books on "google books".

for buying, besides salzer&schachter, people mostly recommend jeppesen's (2) and kennan's books.

greetings and happy counterpointage :) all
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 09, 2013, 06:47:20 PM
Here's a zip file containing a Finale file, midi file, xml file and a pdf of the C.F. examples I posted earlier today.  So no matter what music notation software you use there should be something everyone can use.  I know it's not a big deal to enter those whole notes in, but will save a little time.  The pdf is for anyone who would rather not work at a computer at all but might want to sing the parts and mark it in with pencil.  You could then scan it and upload that way.  So again, something for everyone :)

These are all notated to write the counterpoint line ABOVE the C.F.  I thought about printing some "rules" to follow at the top but thought maybe a discussion thread might be the place for that.  Besides if we go crazy with this, we'd hopefully expand examples to use extended chords and harmonies. 

EDIT:  This is much harder than I thought it would be.  It seems like it would be a simple voice leading exercise and I suppose if the rules were different it would be, but to adhere to the rules is really hard.  I've got an answer to the first C.F. but it presents problems right off the bat. 



[attachment older than 180 days]
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 09, 2013, 09:28:58 PM
first part of the rules:

1) triads only
2) root and 1st inversion only (absolutely no 2nd inversion chords)
3) avoid repeating notes
4) obviously no parallel 5ths or octaves

obviously, 1st species counterpoint means no non-chord tones.
it's also the most restrictive and gives the dullest results!
no one here gonna be adding no opus numbers to their 1st species counterpoint exercises.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 10, 2013, 06:21:56 AM
first part of the rules:

1) triads only
2) root and 1st inversion only (absolutely no 2nd inversion chords)
3) avoid repeating notes
4) obviously no parallel 5ths or octaves

obviously, 1st species counterpoint means no non-chord tones.
it's also the most restrictive and gives the dullest results!
no one here gonna be adding no opus numbers to their 1st species counterpoint exercises.

Yeah I already have to redo my first try.  I've seen some sets of rules stating the first interval has to be unison, P5, P8 or P12 and that the final interval has to be unison or P8.  Any opinions about that? 

For the first example I started with a P5 and immediately ran into problems.  I have a solution but it requires too many repeated notes. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 10, 2013, 07:06:05 AM
I'd say choose either the unison or the 5th.
limiting to one simply adds a difficulty.
but when you find a "problem" starting with one interval, then.. well, you should probably STICK to that interval and try and find the right solution (hint: there is ALWAYS a solution to apparent problems)
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 10, 2013, 07:08:22 PM
Here are a couple of solutions to the first example.  They both start on the 5th.  If I start on the unison, I can't figure out what to do on the second measure so I'll have to work with it some more. 

The first example is wrong I believe for a couple reasons at least.  One I don't know if the tied notes are permitted in this species or if they count as repeated notes.  Secondly in m. 4 that's technically a 2nd inversion chord.  I also don't know if both voices moving in parallel motion (mm. 4-5) is best. 

(http://stevewinklermusic.com/music/example_1_a.png)

(http://stevewinklermusic.com/music/example_1_b.png)

Here's yet one more that solves some of the problems of the first try:

(http://stevewinklermusic.com/music/example_1_c.png)

Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 10, 2013, 08:37:45 PM
I'll skip example 1. yes, tied notes are forbidden in this style.

however, a quick answer to your "can't figure out how to start on the unison": octave.
for the "technically it's a 6/4" thing... had your bassline (C.F.) moved D to C, the B in your counterpoint could have gone up to C, the implication of the 4th measure would have been 1st inversion of 7th degree. It IS more common to see the 7th degree as the penultimate harmony, however.

example 2 has a few problems:
measures 1,2,3 are fine... but measure 4 is a direct 5th (top voice moves by skip to an open 5th).
2nd last measure, no chromatic alterations (never use chromatic alterations in species counterpoint).

example 3: measure 4 is too wide a gap between voices. keep it to an octave maximum distance.
(although I suspect some schools may permit 10ths).


another thing to look for, a thing to avoid: avoid returning to the same note repeatedly.

you may notice that I've made this same comment to people posting works on the forum. again here, this is a counterpoint principle that applies to non-contrapuntal composition as well.
this forces you to seek out better alternatives. it's the whole point of counterpoint exercises.

Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Ron on January 10, 2013, 08:46:39 PM
If I may be so bold: I noticed you have a lot of motion in the same direction. Personally, I prefer more contrary motion, especially when only two voices.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 11, 2013, 05:47:15 AM
If I may be so bold: I noticed you have a lot of motion in the same direction. Personally, I prefer more contrary motion, especially when only two voices.

Exactly.  This is another problem I had but didn't mention. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Jamie Kowalski on January 11, 2013, 06:30:40 AM
I learned that intervals up to a 10th between the voices was "acceptable," but should be mostly avoided. When you get to four-part writing, a larger interval is tolerated between the bass and tenor voices -- a 10th is standard, and up to 12th is "acceptable" if I remember correctly.

In regards to "avoid repeated notes," you should not take that to mean you should never have the same note twice in a row. Repeating the A in the second measure (without the tie) is not wrong in and of itself. Minimize your use of repetition, but don't be afraid to use one where it makes sense to you. Definitely do avoid three in a row. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 11, 2013, 07:18:34 AM
Here's another stab at no. 1.  There's still a fair amount of parallel motion though.

(http://stevewinklermusic.com/music/example_1_d.png)

I do have a P5 in m.4.  I'm not sure if that's a problem. 

Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Jamie Kowalski on January 11, 2013, 07:25:27 AM
The 5th is not a problem.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 11, 2013, 08:19:12 AM
So one thing right away that strikes me as I'm working through these is the fact that my harmonies are somewhat ambiguous in a way.  What I mean is that since there are only 2 voices some intervals could be root/3rd or 3rd/5th, etc.  Same with 6ths. 

So the principle here is divorcing vertical thinking from horizontal thinking.  Maybe once you get to 3 and 4 part writing a harmonic framework comes a little more the for foreground. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Jamie Kowalski on January 11, 2013, 08:32:47 AM
So one thing right away that strikes me as I'm working through these is the fact that my harmonies are somewhat ambiguous in a way.  What I mean is that since there are only 2 voices some intervals could be root/3rd or 3rd/5th, etc.  Same with 6ths.

Good observation, and worthy of some deep pondering. There is no reason why that ambiguity needs to be resolved. If the counterpoint works, then all is well. As an added bonus, the ambiguity means that you can change the meaning of those two voices by adding a third voice in at least two different ways. That would be a very welcome feature for any material you might want to develop throughout the course of a larger work.

It is less obvious in two-part writing, but by the time you have added a third voice, traditional harmony -- triads, progression, cadence, et al. -- emerge spontaneously from correct contrapuntal technique. It seems like magic until you realize that the traditions of harmony are built upon the traditions of counterpoint and not the other way around.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 11, 2013, 08:37:54 AM

It is less obvious in two-part writing, but by the time you have added a third voice, traditional harmony -- triads, progression, cadence, et al. -- emerge spontaneously from correct contrapuntal technique. It seems like magic until you realize that the traditions of harmony are built upon the traditions of counterpoint and not the other way around.

Interesting you say this because through working on these and reading everything I can on the subject I realized when we learned part-writing in high school and college freshman theory it really comes out of these rules of counterpoint albeit a little less strict. 

I think studying part writing though apart from counterpoint leads to the problem I have which is focusing too much on vertical entities rather than horizontal.  And let's face it, learning part writing from a hymnal probably isn't THE best example of independent melodies one could cite. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Jamie Kowalski on January 11, 2013, 09:05:24 AM
I see "part-writing" as variation of 4-part species 1 counterpoint. Though it teaches one aspect of counterpoint, it promotes the importance of chord progression and vertical thinking at the expense of full contrapuntal understanding.

Still pretty useful for writing a hymn or a string bed for a pop tune.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 11, 2013, 11:35:36 AM
One more question about what's acceptable.  Is it ok for a voice to move in thirds?  I find myself doing this on some of these to maintain as much contrary motion as possible. 
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 11, 2013, 11:46:24 AM
it's ok, but it's probably not ideal to have a voice sound as though it is doing nothing but arpeggios.

your last example looked excellent.

5ths as such are not the issue (likewise octaves).

the problem is with two different treatments of those intervals:

parallel 5ths and 8ves are entirely verboten.

and direct 5ths and 8ves are also forbidden.

an interval is "direct" when it is approached by leap in the upper voice, and when both voices are moving in the same direction.

it is particularly bad if BOTH voices move by leap to the interval.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Jamie Kowalski on January 11, 2013, 12:00:18 PM
One more question about what's acceptable.  Is it ok for a voice to move in thirds?  I find myself doing this on some of these to maintain as much contrary motion as possible. 

I invite correction, but I believe two successive thirds is fine. Beyond that, no.

I think it may actually be more of a problem to focus on making as much contrary motion as possible. The goal should be voice independence which incidentally is served well by contrary motion. Contrary motion should be viewed as a good thing, but only up to the point where it begins to cramp your style. You need some variety in your motion, and an exercise using only contrary motion would probably not sound very interesting.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 11, 2013, 12:12:58 PM
it depends what he means by "a voice move in thirds"... does he mean that the two voices are a third apart? or that one voice ends up singing notes a third apart? (ie: C - E - G - B - G - B - D etc...)
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: Michel.R.E on January 11, 2013, 12:14:04 PM
for parallel 3rds, we were permitted an absolute maximum of three in a row, but then no more thirds after that. and we had to supply an alternate realization with absolutely no parallel intervals.
Title: Re: Counterpoint in Composition
Post by: winknotes on January 11, 2013, 01:25:02 PM
it depends what he means by "a voice move in thirds"... does he mean that the two voices are a third apart? or that one voice ends up singing notes a third apart? (ie: C - E - G - B - G - B - D etc...)

The latter.  So for example the soprano singing E - C - A.  I see that in some of the C.F. so I assume the rules are enforced in that voice as well.