Lindsay Davidson
Driving 'piping forward

Species Counterpoint - Introduction

Palestrina wrote some of the most stunningly beautiful choral music that has ever been created. His style is timeless in every respect and can give us a musical chance to escape from our daily routines.
The general style of the day has been superbly described from Gradus ad Parnassum to today in a system of teaching counterpoint known as ‘species counterpoint’. This teaching method wasn’t invented until well after Palestrina’s day (by Fux when he wrote Gradus ad Parnassum), but is a truly superb way of understanding the musical style from the middle of the renaissance until early rococo.
The idea behind this is that there are five steps, or species in learning to write. These are covered in the index below.
Furthermore, this gives a strong grounding in the understanding of the relationship between melody and harmony, and voice leading. Additionaly, we can develop our own new styles of composition using the same basic format – but by changing some of the root assumptions about dissonance and melody….
There is also the simple fact that writing this kind of counterpoint can be therapeutic and highly satisfying – like sudoku or a good crossword.
It is suggested that you try out for yourself a good number of exercises applying each rule, as given, in the order given, to develop first an understanding of melodic style, and then how separate melodic lines work together.

Part of the reasoning behind this resource here is to suggest trying to mix species counterpoint with mantroch technique to create event matrices in a very different style.

Please remember though, that species counterpoint is a method of instruction in general counterpoint, not an end in itself. Going through this should make you very able to lead voices when writing to make what is attractive counterpoint, in your own style.

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

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