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Thread: Counterpoint

  1. #1
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    Default Counterpoint

    I've taken out a few books on counterpoint from my university library and I am struggling to get my head around it. It's interesting, and at times my brain clicks and I understand it, but then I get myself tangled up in things and get confused.

    This picture is the first example in one of the books, it shows note for note counterpoint. I have added the annotations in the first bar as to what I believe is happening (I would appreciate if somebody could tell me if I'm correct or wrong here).



    This is to follow the 4 basic rules that:

    Perfect to Perfect - Contrary Motion (denoted C in image) or Oblique Motion (denoted O).
    Perfect to Imperfect - Any of C, O, or Direct Motion (denoted D).
    Imperfect to Imperfect - Any of C, O or D.
    Imperfect to Perfect - C or O.

    So, I put it the CF in B, so it was starting on the root note to make it easier for me, and added the following bass clef myself:


    So have I got this right or have I completely misunderstood the idea here?


    Thanks

  2. #2
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    i can't help you. but since no one else has responded, just make sure all melodies in the same mesure are in the same key. if what you've written doesn't conform to the theory... call it "avant-garde".

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    It's great to have taken the initiative to work on this ! But it looks like you have misunderstood some things about counterpoint.

    Counterpoint (the scholarly one) is about writing melodies on a given cantus firmus.
    So, first, the part(s) you write must be the "singable", and you can't repeat notes (like what you did). It's about writing a melody but actually the more conjoint it is, the better, so it can give something quite boring but it doesn't really matter since counterpoint as understood here is an exercise.

    Then I think you've misunderstood the rules about the fifths and the octaves. In counterpoint it's all about writing an other melody (or several) and how it fits the cantus firmus. The rule about the fifths is that you can't have, for example, two consecutive harmonic fifths.
    In what you wrote there are consecutive fifhts at the second and third beat of the first measure : G sharp + D sharp followed by F sharp + C sharp..

    And you must mainly write in consonant intervals (ie.thirds, fifths, sixths, octaves), so doing parallel ninths won't be allowed.


    Have you the basics in theory ?
    Your way of analyzing the degree of the scale is actually wrong. In a tonal context, A# would be the VIIth degree and not the second, no matter if it's a second below the root (since the scale is built in this way : B C# D# E F# G# A#, the numbers are given after this and they doesn't change).
    Anyway, in scholar counterpoint the context isn't tonal, it's modal, so you don't have to care about all those things, it's just about intervals between the melodies.

    All those things are rather difficult to explain properly here. Anyway, I'd advise you to begin with solid theoretical basis, and then move to the writing stuff (you can still compose for yourself of course, I'm talking about the counterpoint, the harmony..).
    I have learned how tonal music works thanks to jazz, and it is, IMO, a way better way of thinking than the stiff classical, usual way. So you should find a good book about jazz theory (; and then move to some classical theory (I don't have any reference in english sorry).

    If you want to tackle counterpoint now, there is the famous Fux's book, which Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven (and others of course) have used.
    I'd advise you to get it.



    Now, one thing that you should keep in mind is that counterpoint as a scholarly exercise is... a scholarly exercise. Outdated, by the way. I do this at the conservatory because it's a part of the course but nowadays it'd be more about working on the counterpoint and the harmony at the same time, by harmonizing melodies and writing contrapuntal variations for instance.


    To conclude, here's a good read :
    https://www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Us...c/e.index.html
    His "online books" are, IMO, absolutely great and very synthetic.

    edit : there's also this http://www.youtube.com/user/artofcounterpoint
    Last edited by Praeludium; Feb-12-2012 at 23:53.

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    As internet links go, here is an updated link to Alan Belkin's online books: http://alanbelkinmusic.com/site/en/i.../counterpoint/

    Unitl they move again.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    You have gotten it quite wrong. The counterpoint you have added violates every rule of proper counterpoint. I would suggest starting with a course or programmed text in basic theory before attempting the study of counterpoint.

    More specific points: Moving the cantus firmus so the first note is tonic completely changes the character of the exercise. And the annotations you have made should probably be indicating the interval between the bass and the treble lines, not the scale degree of each pitch. Had you done it that way you would have noticed parallel fifths between the 2nd and 3rd notes, and a string of parallel 7ths on notes 5 through 7, none of which is acceptable in the style.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Apr-26-2016 at 14:56.

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    It is not impossible to learn Classical Music Composition with very little theory or experience. I'm doing it, and I'm passing all of my tests so far. It's just harder to do because you have to learn the theory as you go, and composition is hard anyway. But it can be done, if you have determination and you are willing to find the resources you need.

    What has helped me is the course "Write Like Mozart" (this is a clever click-bait title for what is essentially a college level Classical Music Composition I course). You can take the class for free at Coursera, like I currently am doing.

    Be warned: the course is very dense, especially for those with very light Music theory skills. But it's LESS DENSE than attempting Fux alone or trying to dive through Structural Hearing in your musical theory skivvies.

    The course is not complete; it does not give you all the theory you need. You will still have to go off and research certain items on your own. For instance, the appearance of sharps and naturals in the Minor Key was driving me crazy until I figured out that chords are built in the "Harmonic Minor" not "Natural Minor" (in Harmonic minor, you sharp the 7th of the scale!) Another big-ticket item that the teacher does not fully explain is Parallel Perfect 5ths and Parallel Octaves. I /thought/ I understood them about 5 times before I finally found this article that really clued me in:

    http://forum.emusictheory.com/read.php?5,117,41221

    Anyway, the course is a hella ton of work, much more than the estimates for the class, and like I showed above you will have to go do some work on your own -- but did you think writing like Mozart or Beethoven was easy?! I'm three weeks in and I feel like I've gotten two years's worth of self-teaching done. Structured learning is highly efficient. And it's free. So if you're like me and you want to learn but you are intimidated and don't know where to start, find a course.

    It doesn't matter if it's the one at Coursera or one anywhere else. Just find somewhere structured to start, so you don't get lost.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nikwdhmos View Post
    It is not impossible to learn Classical Music Composition with very little theory or experience. I'm doing it, and I'm passing all of my tests so far. It's just harder to do because you have to learn the theory as you go, and composition is hard anyway. But it can be done, if you have determination and you are willing to find the resources you need.

    What has helped me is the course "Write Like Mozart" (this is a clever click-bait title for what is essentially a college level Classical Music Composition I course). You can take the class for free at Coursera, like I currently am doing.

    Be warned: the course is very dense, especially for those with very light Music theory skills. But it's LESS DENSE than attempting Fux alone or trying to dive through Structural Hearing in your musical theory skivvies.

    The course is not complete; it does not give you all the theory you need. You will still have to go off and research certain items on your own. For instance, the appearance of sharps and naturals in the Minor Key was driving me crazy until I figured out that chords are built in the "Harmonic Minor" not "Natural Minor" (in Harmonic minor, you sharp the 7th of the scale!) Another big-ticket item that the teacher does not fully explain is Parallel Perfect 5ths and Parallel Octaves. I /thought/ I understood them about 5 times before I finally found this article that really clued me in:

    http://forum.emusictheory.com/read.php?5,117,41221

    Anyway, the course is a hella ton of work, much more than the estimates for the class, and like I showed above you will have to go do some work on your own -- but did you think writing like Mozart or Beethoven was easy?! I'm three weeks in and I feel like I've gotten two years's worth of self-teaching done. Structured learning is highly efficient. And it's free. So if you're like me and you want to learn but you are intimidated and don't know where to start, find a course.

    It doesn't matter if it's the one at Coursera or one anywhere else. Just find somewhere structured to start, so you don't get lost.
    Intriguing first post, welcome to TalkClassical by the way .

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    I am currently reading this book which I find helpful in answering many practical questions that I have when trying to harmonize some ancien Chinese melodies.

    Counterpoint in Composition: The Study of Voice Leading by Felix Salzer

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    As Praeludium and EdwardBast have pointed out, your counterpoint is a hot pile of poo.

    Self-teaching of theory and counterpoint usually winds up with frustration and loads of misunderstanding. And no matter how smart the self-taught students are, they inevitably hit a brick wall where they can no longer proceed with advanced concepts and must unlearn all the misunderstandings to successfully proceed.
    Last edited by Vasks; Sep-25-2016 at 18:38.
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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    Hey thanks for this post, I would have never found the Coursera muisc theory course if it wasnt for it. I

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    I think I might say something that may annoy a few people here, but.....

    Firstly, I DO think it's good to learn at least some music theory if you want to compose music, counterpoint being one of the corner stones of composition, however.....

    I don't think that steadfastly clinging to the rules, always makes good music.

    I think it's a case of learning the rules in order to be able to break them later.

    It's not considered good counterpoint to have parallel 5th's, or octaves, or octaves plus a 5th etc., because it obscures the separateness of the counterpoint melody, but the world will not end nor your scores burst into flames if you break this rule from time to time. Some of the greatest composers were and are those that break the rules and push the limits of accepted schools of thought on how music is supposed to be. I will say that they also have a very good knowledge of the rules and practices of music theory in the first place, but that knowledge is there to provide a framework, and knowing where the edges are, allows you to better step outside of them if that makes any sense.

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