Welcome back to species counterpoint. I trust you all had a ginchy winter break. Today we're gonna talk about three-part writing in species counterpoint. Ready? Go.

Follow the instructions for each individual species in two voices. Then, combine those rules with those just given in the General Instructions for Three-Part Counterpoint.


  1. In Second Species, you'll have a cantus firmus in whole notes against another part in whole notes and a part in half notes. When the part in half notes acts as the bass voice, the part above it has to start on tonic.

  2. When dealing with Third Species, you have a cantus in whole notes, a part in quarter notes and a part in whole notes. As with the half notes, any time the quarter note part acts as the bass voice the part right above it must start off on tonic.

  3. This verse is the same as the first, but instead of half notes or quarter notes you're writing in tied half notes. With the tied half notes, you have suspensions, and now the 5-4 suspension becomes available.

  4. Three-Part Fifth Species is where things change a bit and get seriously complex. This counterpoint is written in three ways:

    I. A cantus in whole notes combined with a part in whole notes and a part in florid.
    1. At least two groupings of eighth notes in the two-part florid pattern are enough; this applies to all three-part florid writing.
    2. The occasional use of eighth notes is now permitted pretty much whenever so long as you don't break any movement rules by using it. This also applies to all three-part writing from here on out.


    II. A cantus in whole notes, a part in half notes, and a part in florid.
    1. Half notes have some new uses and restrictions here. Two half notes in a row are not permitted unless the second half note is tied. You may use a dotted half note - quarter note pattern in the florid line.
    2. All parts must enter successively (staggered). Avoid two quarters with a half note in between.
    3. An entry at an interval of a 2nd is prohibited, although extensions of this are permitted.


    III. A cantus in whole notes against two florid lines.
    1. Between each florid part, try to mark each beat of the measure. In a rhythmic pattern of quarter, quarter, half, the fourth beat of the other part must be marked by a quarter note.
    2. Don't have the same rhythm going in both measures.
    3. Follow the rules of II.


After this comes mixtures. These are combinations of species writing without using florid.

I. A cantus in whole notes, parts in halves and quarters.
  1. Follow the rules of each species. In this case the species would be second and third.


II. A cantus in whole notes, a part in half notes, and a part in tied half notes.

This one is fun but dangerous. Species rules apply.



III. A cantus in whole notes, a part in quarter notes and a part in tied half notes.



Whoo, that was fun! We're coming up on the close of species counterpoint and canon and fugue will soon make their appearance. It only gets mind-numbingly more difficult from here.

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