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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i like the information in this article. but could you give maybe an example of how you would use these methods with actual music notes. such as c minor is the counterpoint of A major e.t.c., or something that could unlock some of this stuff in some type of formula. thanks for your time
Graham English says
Hi Al. The first thing you should do is print them out and start analyzing some simple compositions using the rules. Remember that these are rules about motion and consonance/dissonance. So see how the great composers used the rules of counterpoint in their compositions.
The next thing you should do is begin composing. Start with two-parts, then add a third voice, then a fourth voice, etc. It’s a great exercise that I had to do over and over in college. Let me tell you, it was worth it!
Do u think ‘octaved’ tempo can b used 4 counter pointing. Like having a response on bar 2 and another on bar 4 to produce varied melody. I was suggesting, it could increases instrumental richness.