MUS 311 Counterpoint

M. Imitation in Three Voices, Chapter 13

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  1. In three-voice counterpoint, imitation at the octave has certain disadvantages:

  • melodic and harmonic monotony is likely to result

  • range may spread voices too far apart

  1. The principle of I V I for pitch level entrances works well in 3-voice writing.  (In four-voice writing, the fourth announcement is normally at V.)


Inventions:  Motive (M), Countermotive (CM)

Fugues:  Subject (S), Countersubject (CS)

Real Imitation:

  1. Real imitation--when a melodic line is imitated at the 5th.  The imitating material is known as the answer.  (This applies, regardless of which octave the answer occurs in.)
  1. Link:  Linking material may be used as the end of the motive to keep the rhythm going and to lead smoothly to the first note of the material that follows in that voice.
  1. Bridge--modulating material providing movement to a particular key area.

Tonal Imitation:

  1. Tonal imitation--the result of answering one or more notes at the 4th instead of at the 5th, originally to stay within the octave of a particular key.  Harmonic considerations are another reason for tonal imitation.  (It was originally felt that the tonic key should not be followed too suddenly by the dominant key.)

Situations where Tonal Imitation is Used:

  1. Tonal imitation is normally used if the dominant note appears as the first note of the subject.
  1. Tonal imitation is usually used if the dominant note (or leading tone in a strong metric position implying dominant harmony) occurs near the beginning of the subject (within the first three or four beats).
  1. Tonal imitation is used if the subject modulates (to the dominant, as always).
  • Exception:  A tonal answer is not generally used if the change would drastically alter the characteristic pattern of the motive--sometimes difficult to determine.

Guidelines for Writing Answers:

  1. First, determine if there are elements which call for a tonal answer:
  • dominant note at or near the beginning of the subject
  • a modulation in the last portion of the subject
  • If none, then the imitation may be real (at the 5th), presenting no problems.
  1. If a tonal answer is necessary due to 10a, start by lowering just the dominant note a whole step.  If this alone does not produce a satisfactory line, a similar lowering of notes on one or both sides of the originally altered note may be necessary.
  1. If a tonal answer is necessary due to 10b, try to find a place where the change from real to tonal imitation can be made least obtrusively.

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