MUS 311 Counterpoint

P. Fugue (continued), Chapter 16

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  1. Only the exposition of a fugue proceeds according to a set formal plan; beyond that, musical material is dictated by the nature of the piece and by the composer.

  1. General fugal procedure: to bring the subject back in various keys and voices with episodes between.

  • The subject in its complete form is seldom announced twice in succession in the same voice.
  1. Contrapuntal devices and interchange of voices are often used to create interest and variety.
  1. Near the end of the fugue, there is usually at least one announcement of the subject in the tonic key.
  1. The structure of the whole is generally sectional, with cadences marking the ends of sections--however, no pronounced halt in rhythmic motion.
  • Sometimes a passing tone, or suspension, in one voice carries on the rhythmic flow, softening the dividing action of the cadence.


  1. Episodes function in fugues as they do in inventions: to effect a smooth transition from one key to the next, and to provide variety.
  • Episodes are almost always sequential, and interchange of material among voices is frequent.
  1. Material from the subject, countersubject, or even new material may serve as the basis for episodes.
  1. Texture of the episode tends to be thinner--some voices temporarily drop out.

Middle Entry:

  1. Middle Entry--announcement(s) of the subject that occurs after the exposition, but before the final return to the tonic key.

Special Devices re Middle Entries:

  1. Stretto, augmentation, diminution, contrary motion and pedal point appear frequently in fugal writing, especially stretto.  Retrograde motion is seldom encountered.
  • Pedal points are usually based on the tonic or dominant.

Final Portion:

  1. There is invariably a return to the tonic key somewhere before the end.
  1. Some fugues have only a short recapitulation; in rare cases, only a portion of the subject is brought back.
  1. Strettos often appear in the closing portions of fugues.
  1. Pedal points often appear in the latter portions of fugues.
  • If they occur before the coda, they are almost always on the dominant.
  1. Added thirds are sometimes incorporated.
  1. If a coda is included, it may be a few beats to several measures long--seldom longer.

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