MUS 311 Counterpoint

F.  Two-Voice Exercises (Concluded), Chapter 6

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More guidelines for successful 18th-century style writing:

Second Species: 3:1

  1. It is unwise to use too many different patterns in one exercise; however, avoid exact repetition from beginning to end.
  1. Avoid stepwise motion followed by a leap in the same direction.
  1. Avoid repeated notes, even between the last note of one triplet and the first note of the next.  (Seldom used except in a sequential pattern.)
  1. Avoid, similarly, repeating the same notes in successive groupings--indicates lack of direction.
  1. Be certain to resolve nonharmonic tones stepwise.
  1. As with 2:1, it is a good general rule to avoid parallel fifths or octaves between any part of one beat and the first note of the next beat.

Third Species: 4:1

  1. Third species 4:1 patterns usually contain a mixture of chord tones and nonharmonic tones.  (Simply using chord tones creates a succession of broken chords, rather than a "real" contrapuntal line.)
  1. There is a sense of slightly greater weight on the first and third tones of a foursome grouping, hence, these tones tend to be harmonic, while the second and fourth tones tend to be nonharmonic.

Procedures to AVOID:

  1. Avoid stepwise motion followed by a leap in the same direction, especially between the last note of one group and the first of the next.
  1. Avoid non-stepwise "resolution" of a nonharmonic tone.
  1. Avoid repeated tones, unless used in a sequential fashion--disturbs flow of the line.
  1. Avoid anticipations occurring two or three notes in advance and repeated obviously on a strong beat, such as a downbeat--weakens the presence of the note the second time, unless used in sequential fashion.
  1. Avoid parallel 5ths or octaves on one part of a beat followed on the beginning of the next beat.  (Although, parallel 5ths and octaves are sometimes found between the second note of one group and the first of the next.)

Fourth Species:  Syncopation

  1. Not all 1:1 counterpoint can successfully be converted to Fourth Species; however, if a note is a suspension, anticipation or a chord tone, a simple "shifting" of the beat can usually be successful.


  1. Commonly used suspensions are:  7-6, 4-3, 9-8, 2-3.  (Examples 13 & 14)

  1. Suspensions generally resolve downward; however, upward resolution is occasionally encountered (e.g., leading tone-tonic resolution).  (Example 15).  Suspensions resolving upward are called retardations.
  1. The effectiveness of suspensions lies in the momentary dissonance; therefore, suspensions involving a 2nd or 7th are somewhat more effective than the others, particularly if a m2 is involved.
  1. Suspensions may be delayed via inserted notes prior to the resolution.  (Example 19)
  1. The chain suspension involves a series of suspensions based on parallel thirds.  (Example 21)
  • Eighth-note suspensions (1/4 note = unit) may occur on any beat. 
  • Quarter-note suspensions should only occur on strong beats.  (Example 22)

Suspensions to AVOID:

  1. Avoid the following suspensions:
  • The 2-1 suspension, because the resolution note is in the same octave.  (Example 16a)
  • The 3-4 and the 5-4 suspension, because both resolve to a perfect fourth, which is generally unusable as an "essential" interval in 18th-century counterpoint.  (Examples 16 b & c)
  • Suspensions resolving to a perfect fifth.  (Example 17)
  • The 7-8 suspension, due to the irregular resolution of the 7th downward; however, it is "possible" to use this suspension.  (Example 18)


  1. Anticipations occur less frequently than suspensions.
  1. Anticipations are seldom used in "chain" fashion, as are suspensions.
  1. Anticipations are seen "most frequently" at cadence points.

Chord Tone Tied or Repeated:

  1. A note may be repeated from one beat to the next:
  • As part of the same harmony on both beats
  • As a common tone, with a chord change on the second beat.  (Example 24)

General Situations to AVOID in Fourth Species:

  1. A suspended note that doesn't resolve by step.  (Example 25a)
  1. A "deviated" retardation, because:
  • Ritardations seldom occur in the bottom voice
  • The 7th moving upward to the resolution is uncharacteristic.  (Example 25c)
  1. As in previous species, syncopated parallel octaves and fifths should be avoided.
  1. In 3:1, repeated/tied notes may be used if the notes involved are either a suspension, anticipation, or chord tone.  (Example 27)
  1. In 4:1, the tie is uncommon; however, repeated tones may be used.  (Example 29)

Fifth Species:  ("florid"--a combination of all species)

  1. The main considerations are that each melodic line should be singable, and rhythmic activity should be equally distributed.  (Example 32)

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