These rules of counterpoint are simple and easy to memorize. Use them during the arranging phase of your music producing.
Counterpoint: a composition which is written strictly according to technical rules. In earlier times, instead of our modern notes, dots or points were used. Thus one used to call a composition in which point was set against or counter to point, counterpoint; this usage is still followed today, even though the form of the notes has been changed.
- Consonances: unison, third, fifth, sixth, octave
- Perfect consonances: unison, fifth, octave
- Imperfect consonances: sixth, third
- Dissonances: second, fourth, diminished fifth, tritone, seventh
- Direct motion: when two or more parts ascend or descend in the same direction by step or skip.
- Contrary motion: when one part ascends by step or skip and the other descends–or vice versa.
- Oblique motion: when one part moves by step or skip while the other remains stationary.
Four Fundamental Rules
- First rule: From one perfect consonance to another perfect consonance one must proceed in contrary or oblique motion.
- Second rule: From a perfect consonance to an imperfect consonance one may proceed in any of the three motions.
- Third rule: From an imperfect consonance to a perfect consonance one must proceed in contrary or oblique motion.
- Fourth rule: From one imperfect consonance to another imperfect consonance one may proceed in any of the three motions.
- *Oblique motion, if used with due care, is allowed with all four progressions.
- Note against Note: It is the simplest composition of two or more voices which, having notes of equal length, consists only of consonances.
- *More perfect than imperfect consonances should be used. Imperfect consonances are more harmonious than imperfect ones.
- *The beginning and the end must both consist of perfect consonances. The beginning should express perfection and the end relaxation. Since imperfect consonances specifically lack perfection, they cannot express relaxation.
- *In the next to the last bar, there must be a major sixth if the cantus firmus is in the lower part; and a minor third, if it is in the upper part. Thus, the seventh degree has to be raised in the Dorian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian modes. (The second degree of a mode occurs always as the next to the last tone in the cantus firmus, the seventh degree always as the next to the last tone in the counterpoint.)
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