Lindsay Davidson 
Driving 'piping forward

1st Species

This is best described as note against note adding of parts. The shape of the melody should conform to the same norms as the cantus firmus. The relationship between the voices is governed by rules....

There are four types of motion which voices can take:

parallelboth voices move in the same direction by the melodic interval
similarboth voices move in the same direction
obliqueonly one voice moves, the other doesn't
contrarythe voices move in opposite direction

3rds and 6ths are called 'imperfect consonances'. 5ths are perfect. As an interval between two voices a fourth is a dissonance, but as an interval in a melodic sequence it is consonant.

One voice can have tied notes (not the cantus firmus though). This should be used sparingly.

  • start on a unison or octave, or for higher voices a fifth may be used.
  • when adding a voice, always make it one that is next to a voice you already have.
  • no parallel fifths
  • no parallel fourths
  • try to avoid crossing lines. ie, keep the tenor above the bass etc
  • unisons only should be used at the beginning or the end, never in the middle
  • do not move two parts by jump at the same time
  • no cross relations between parts (F in one voice with an F sharp nearby in another for example)
  • the endings should always be approached by step. Where necessary, this may be sharpened to create a leading note, but only just before the last note.

Stylistic issues issues:
  • avoid moving in parallel thirds or sixths for any length of time
  • try to keep distance between voices to less than a tenth, but ideally less than an octave.
  • keep as much contrary motion as possible
  • avoid perfect fourths between bass and next voice
  • avoid all dissonant intervals - 2nds, 7ths augmented interevals or diminshed intervals
  • avoid hidden fifths or octaves - fifths or octaves that are reached by two voices moving in the same direction, unless one part moves by step. This is allowed when there are more than 2 voices though, but even then best used minimally.
With your collection of cantus firmi, now go and add voices in first species counterpoint.

Counterpoint Index
Cantus Firmus
1st Species
2nd Species
3rd Species
4th Species
5th Species

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