Species Counterpoint

Species Counterpoint is an approach to vocal counterpoint through the addition of contrapuntal voices to a given melody, which is called the cantus firmus. Species counterpoint begins with simple note-against-note counterpoint (Species 1) and progresses to complex counterpoint in five stages. The stages are called the five species. (In Species 2 there are two tones in the counterpoint for each tone in the cantus firmus; Species 3 has four notes for each cantus firmus tone; Species 4 deals with suspensions; and Species 5 is called florid counterpoint.)

Species 1:

(SP1)-Note against note (whole notes):

1)The only accepted melodic intervals are:
Ascending: major 2, minor 2, minor 3, major 3, perfect 4, perfect 5, minor 6, and perfect 8 (or octave).
Descending: major 2, minor 2, minor 3, perfect 4, perfect 5, perfect 8 (please note the absence of the melodic 6th- major and minor)
NOTE: Compound intervals (those reaching more than an octave) are not in use.

2)Harmonically, intervals widely used in Species 1 counterpoint are: Perfect unisons (PU), major 3, minor 3, perfect 5, major 6, minor 6, and perfect 8 (P8).
3)Conjunct(stepwise) melodic motion predominates.

4)Disjunct (skips: motion in any direction that exceeds a third) melodic motion:
a. Larger intervals precede smaller ascending.
b. Smaller intervals precede larger descending.
c. More than 2 skips in the same direction is weak.
d. Outlined triads (in the melodic style) are rare.
e. Skips are, in general, compensated for by stepwise motion in the opposite direction. (Similar motion into a perfect harmony is avoided because it creates hidden harmonies.
f. If both voices skip in the same direction, neither should skip more than a P4 (perfect 4).
g. The final cadence will employ stepwise motion in both voices.
h. Leading voices (one voice moving my minor 2) are characteristic of the style at final cadence. (C# in Dorian, F# in Mixolydian, G# in Aeolian; E is a built-in leading tone in Lydian and F supplies the cadential half-step in Phrygian).

Other important melodic and harmonic concepts:
5. Compositions will begin and end with perfect harmonies.
6. Melodic intervals of an Augmented 4 (A4) or diminished 5 (D5) are avoided through the use of Musica Ficta - B made flat in relationship to F and, in trasnsposed modes (see note below) E made flat in relationship to B-flat.
7. B is flatted when functioning as an upper neighbor. It is often flatted in a descending (stepwise) line.
8. There should be but one point of climax in each line (highest pitch in a rising-falling melodic line and the lowest pitch on a falling-rising melodic line).
9. Repetition of a melodic note (two of the same in succession) is only permissible through a tie, which may be used once in the voice countering the cantus firmus(given line).
10.Sequence in melodic writing should be avoided.

NOTE: In two part conterpoint voices should remain within an octave of each other, exceeding the distance rarely and by no more than a 12th followed by swift return to the close structure.

11. Contrary motion between voices is the strongest kind of counterpoint.
12. Parallel Harmonic PU's, P5's, and P8's are forbidden, as they fully destroy the independence of a line.

Species 2:

(SP2)-Two half notes against whole notes:


Melodically speaking:
1. Begin the contrapuntal voice with a half-note rest.
2. Ties are note employed in the half note line (see Species 4) 3. Pitch repetition is not employed in SP2.
4. Avoid melodic skips across the "barline."

Harmonically speaking:
5a. Unisons may occur at the beginning, end and once or twice within the exercise.
5b. Interior unisons approached by skip are best left by stem in the opposite direction.
6. Dissonant harmonies may occur as passing tones on weak beats. Such harmony must be approached and left by step in the same direction.
7. Dissonant auxiliary notes (upper and lower neighbors) should be aboided. Consonant auxiliaries are fine.
8. Successive Parallel PU's, P5's and P8's are forbidden.

Species 3:

(SP3)-Three or four quarter notes to each whole note:

Attention: Maintain guidelines for species 1 and species 2

For this study, four quarter notes against each whole note will be used. Accents fall on quarters 1 and 3.

1. The counterpoint will begin with a quarter rest.
2. Conjunct motion predominates (more than two skips in the same direction is unstylistic and weak).
3. Upward skips from accented quarters are not allowed.
4. Unaccented quarters approached from below by step should be left by step - a continuation of line in the same direction, if you will.
5. Avoid upper auxiliaries on weak beats. Lower auxiliaries on beats 2 and 4 are fine.
6. Dissonant harmony may occur on weak beats as passing tones or lower auxiliaries.
7. Unisons may not occur on first beats (of any measure)
8. Successive perfects (parallel Unisons, 5, and octaves) are still forbidden.
9. The cadence formula for the style employs a rhythmic slowing in the penultimate measure but use of either two quarters and a half note, two half notes, or one whole note.
10. The Nota Cambiata is a striking melodic shape that offers the only acceptable skip from a dissonant harmony. It is, for our purposes, a five quarter-note figure in which the first, third, and fifth elements must be consonant harmony. The skip is a downward leap of a third between the dissonant second and consonant third quarters. The skip is immediately countered by stepwise motion upward through the consonant or dissonant fourth quarter to the consonant fifth quarter.

Species 4

(SP4)-Tied half notes (across the barline):


1. The first of two tied notes must be consonant (period!)
2. The second note of a tied pair may be consonant or dissonant
NOTE: If the second note in the tied pair is dissonant harmony, it must resolve downward by step toa consonant harmony.

3. Where ties are impossible, the counterpoint will progress in SP2 (SP2 Guidelines will apply).
4. Unisons may occur anywhere if involved in a tie (sparingly).
5. Available suspensions:
Above the C.F.: 4-3 and 7-6
Below the C.F.: 2-3

Species 5:

(SP5)-Florid, or Free Counterpoint:


Species five counterpoint employs the following rhythmic durations: Whole, dotted-half, half, quarter and eighth notes in pairs. The dotted half note is most characteristically employed in the nota cambiata figure and, when not a part of a NC, should be left by step or skip downward.

1. All guidelines governing the use of dissonant harmonic intervals remain in effect.
2. Use of eighth notes is controlled by the following set of special guidlines:
a. Eighth notes are used in pairs only.
b. Pairs of eighths may occur only once a measure on weak beats.
c. Eighth note pairs must be approached and left by step in the same direction (an exception is a pair used to embellish the resolution of a suspension).

When two quarter notes or a quarter and a pair of eighths are followed by a half note, the half must be tied across the barline.
4. Following a half note on the strong beat of a measure, a dissonanat quarter on the third beat is acceptable in downward motion to a consonant fourth beat.
5. Redundant rhythmic ideas such as pairs of eighths used on successive weak beats or in consecutive measures, motion in half notes or quarter notes, or as a general lack of rhythm variety, is to be avoided.

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