II. Counterpoint and Galant Schemas
The third species of sees the counterpoint line move four times as fast as the . This introduces:
- a further metrical level (strong, weak, medium, weak)
- a neighbor tone and other new dissonance types so that the total includes:
- The : fills in the space of a melodic third via stepwise motion.
- The : a step away from and back to the same consonant tone.
- The : both the higher and lower neighbour tones together (e.g., C–D–B–C or C–B–D–C).
- The is special five-note figure that highly unusually includes a leap from a dissonance.
In third-species counterpoint, the counterpoint line moves in quarter notes against a in whole notes. This 4:1 rhythmic ratio creates a still greater differentiation between beats than in second species: strong beats (), moderately strong beats (the third quarter note of each bar), and weak beats (the second and fourth quarter notes of each bar). Third species also introduces the dissonance and two related figures in which dissonances can participate in leaps.
As in first and second species, the counterpoint line should be singable and have a good shape, with a single climax that does not coincide with the climax of the cantus firmus, and primarily stepwise motion (with some small leaps and an occasional large leap for variety). Like second species, a third-species counterpoint should be dominated by stepwise motion, more so than in first species, because there are fewer sticky situations that would require a leap. If the counterpoint must leap, it is preferable to do so within the bar rather than across the bar line. Also like second species, there should usually be one or two secondary climaxes—notes lower than the overall climax that serve as “local” climaxes for portions of the line.
Beginning a third-species counterpoint
Begin a third-species counterpoint above the cantus firmus with do ([latex]\hat1[/latex]) or sol ([latex]\hat5[/latex]). Begin a third-species counterpoint below the cantus firmus with do ([latex]\hat1[/latex]).
A third-species line can begin with four quarter notes in the first bar, or a quarter rest followed by three quarter notes. Regardless of rhythm, the first pitch in the counterpoint should follow the intervallic rules above.
Ending a third-species counterpoint
As in other species, end with a . The final pitch of the counterpoint must always be do ([latex]\hat1[/latex]), and it must be a whole note.
The penultimate note of the counterpoint (the last quarter note of the penultimate bar) should be ti ([latex]\hat7[/latex]) if the cantus is re ([latex]\hat2[/latex]), and re ([latex]\hat2[/latex]) if the cantus is ti ([latex]\hat7[/latex]).
Principles for strong beats (downbeats) are generally the same as in second species:
- Strong beats are always consonant, and not unisons.
- Prefer imperfect consonances (thirds and sixths) to perfect consonances (fifths and octaves).
Motion across bar lines (from beat 4 to downbeat) follows the same rules as first-species counterpoint.
Progressions from downbeat to downbeat follow principles of second-species counterpoint (except that /octaves between successive downbeats are allowed). The following is a review of some of the most important principles from second species that apply in third species as well:
- No three consecutive bars can begin with the same perfect interval (two in a row are fine).
- No more than three bars in a row should begin with the same .
- The pitches that begin consecutive downbeats must not make a dissonant .
If a downbeat contains a perfect fifth, neither beat 3 nor 4 of the previous bar can be a fifth. If a downbeat contains an octave, neither beat 2, 3, nor 4 of the previous bar can be an octave. Like in second species, the negative effects of fifths and octaves are not mitigated by the addition of a note or two.
Beats 2–4 should exhibit a mixture of consonant and dissonant intervals to promote variety. Among consonances, unisons are permitted on weak beats when necessary to make good counterpoint between the lines. Any dissonance must follow the pattern of the dissonant passing tone or the dissonant neighbor tone, explained below.
The counterpoint can move in and out of consonant tones freely by step, as well as by from another consonance, with the following considerations:
- All melodic leaps, of course, must be melodic consonances.
- A large leap should be followed by a step in the opposite direction.
- Motion from the fourth beat into the following downbeat should follow the constraints above for motion into strong beats.
Dissonances in third species can occur on beat 2, 3, or 4, and should be preceded and followed by stepwise motion (with the exception of the double neighbor and the nota cambiata, explained below). This promotes smoothness, both by keeping the dissonances away from the strongest beat of the bar and by coupling them with the smoothest melodic motion. Dissonance handling in third-species counterpointcentered on the types illustrated inand described below:
- The fills in the space of a melodic third via stepwise motion. The notes before and after the passing tone must be consonant with the cantus firmus. However, it is possible to have two dissonant passing tones in a row (P4–d5 or d5–P4). As long as these dissonances do not fall on downbeats and the counterpoint moves in stepwise motion in a single direction, there is no negative effect.
- The ornaments a consonant tone by stepping away and stepping back to the original consonance (6–7–6 over the cantus, for example). It is melodically identical to the consonant neighbor tone of second species, with the difference being the harmonic dissonance. Employing it on a weak beat (2 or 4) ensures the greatest smoothness.
- The occurs when beats 1 and 4 in the counterpoint are the same tone, and beats 2 and 3 include the notes a step higher and a step lower than the original tone: for example, C–D–B–C or C–B–D–C. Both beats 2 and 3 are dissonant, but since both are embellishing the original tone by step, the leap between them does not significantly diminish the smoothness of the line. When using a double neighbor, the direction between beats 3 and 4 should be the same as between beat 4 and the following downbeat. That motion across the bar line should also be stepwise. This further maintains smoothness to temper the effect of the dissonances.
- The is a five-note figure that outlines a step progression from downbeat to downbeat. It follows one of two patterns shown in For a nota cambiata to be effective, the first, third, and fifth notes must be consonant with the cantus. The second note will be dissonant and will leap to the third tone. However, like the double neighbor, the overall pattern minimizes the negative effect of the leap away from the dissonance. It is surrounded by stepwise motion, the overall progression is a single step, and the dissonant tone and the following downbeat are the same pitch. ).
- Third-Species Counterpoint A (.pdf, .mscx). Asks students to compose a third-species example and do error detection.
- Third-Species Counterpoint B (.pdf, .mscx). Asks students to compose a third-species example and do error detection.
- For the complete set of Fux exercises, see the Gradus ad Parnassum chapter.
- Dissonance © Mark Gotham is licensed under a CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) license
A traditional approach to composition pedagogy focused on counterpoint as a way of learning to think of music horizontally (melodically) and vertically (harmonically) simultaneously. Consists of five “species,” each of which focuses on a single compositional element.
Literally meaning “fixed voice," this is a pre-existing melodic line that serves as the basis for a new counterpoint exercise or other composition.
A type of motion where a chord tone moves by step to another tone, then resolves by step in the same direction. For example, C–D–E above a C major chord would be an example of neighboring motion, in which D can be described as a passing tone. Entire harmonies may be said to be passing when embellishing another harmony, when the voice-leading between the two chords involves mainly passing tones (as in the passing 6/4 chord).
A type of motion where a chord tone moves by step to another tone, then moves back to the original chord tone. For example, C–D–C above a C major chord would be an example of neighboring motion, in which D can be described as a neighbor tone. Entire harmonies may be said to be neighboring when embellishing another harmony, when the voice-leading between the two chords involves only neighboring and common-tone motion (as in the common-tone diminished seventh chord).
An embellishment that surrounds a note with its upper and lower neighbor (e.g., C–B–D–C). The note being embellished may be articulated between the two neighbor tones, as in C–D–C–B–C.
A five-note species counterpoint embellishment that may occur in one of two different forms:
1) Down by step, down by third, up by step, up by step
2) Up by step, up by third, down by step, down by step
Beat 1 of a measure, which is conducted with a downward motion.
A contrapuntal cadence in which a perfect octave or unison is approached through contrary motion by step. One line will have re–do (2̂– 1̂) while the other has ti–do (7̂-1̂). This results in the sequence of harmonic intervals sixth–octave, tenth–octave, or third–unison.
Similar motion into a fifth or octave. Also called hidden fifths or octaves.
Similar motion into an octave. Also called a "hidden octave."
Thirds or sixths with major or minor quality.
An interval whose notes are sounded separately (one note after another).
When two voices move melodically in the same direction and by the same interval—for example, both voices move upward by a melodic second. (Note: the quality of the interval may vary, and it still counts as parallel motion.) By definition, two voices moving in parallel motion will also maintain the same harmonic interval between them.
A melodic interval of a third or greater. Note that some refer to thirds as "skips" rather than leaps.