II. Counterpoint and Galant Schemas

Fifth-Species Counterpoint

Kris Shaffer and Mark Gotham

Key Takeaways

The fifth species of species counterpoint primarily involves combining the tricks we’ve learned so far along with a little decoration into something that starts to resemble real music! Specifically:

  • Elements from all previous species combine such that the counterpoint line may include motion in whole notes (1st species), half notes (2nd), quarter notes (3rd), and suspensions (4th) in almost any combination and order.
  • New to the 5th species are:
    • certain embellishments such as notes of anticipation which …
    • may include 8th note motion for the first time (not seen in species 1–4).

In fifth-species counterpoint, we combine the tricks developed in species 1–4 with only a few additions. As such, the fifth species starts to resemble real music in a way that none of the previous species did, and the challenge is to balance not only types of consonance but also types of counterpoint.

Beginning and Ending

Once again, fifth-species counterpoint observes the now-familiar practice of handling of perfect consonances and reduced motion in the first and last measures. Begin with a perfect consonance and end with a clausula vera.

Embellishing Suspensions

While suspensions are a fourth-species consideration, in fifth-species counterpoint we add the option of decorating those suspensions with some common embellishments. Example 1 illustrates the main types, set out on a single chain of 7-6 suspensions.

Example 1. A chain of suspensions with common embellishments.

Note that if you simplify the line by sustaining the first note of the measure for a half note, you get right back to unembellished fourth-species suspensions.

Eighth notes

Note too that the last of the suspension embellishments in Example 1 introduces eighth-note motion for the first time. Fux introduces embellished suspensions and eighth-note motion “in between” fourth and fifth species. Apart from this “anticipation with turn” embellishment of a suspension, Fux also introduces the possibility of a pair of passing eighth notes. In all cases, these eighth notes come in pairs, and they occur on weak beats (filling the second or fourth quarter note of the measure).

Gradus ad Parnassum Examples

Example 2 gives the complete examples of fifth-species counterpoint from Part I of Gradus ad Parnassum, annotated (as before) with the interval that the counterpoint line makes with the cantus firmus. For the complete examples from Gradus ad Parnassum as exercises, solutions, and annotations, see Gradus ad Parnassum Exercises.

Example 2. All fifth-species exercises from Gradus ad Parnassum.

  1. For the complete set of Fux exercises, see the Gradus ad Parnassum chapter.

Media Attributions

  • Suspensions_Chain © Mark Gotham


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OPEN MUSIC THEORY Copyright © 2023 by Kris Shaffer and Mark Gotham is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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