19th Weekly Homework Compo (WHC19)


This week we explore the first species counterpoint with atmosfaere:

First Species Counterpoint

Counterpoint is the art of combining multiple melodic lines.
The goal of this exercise is simply to write two melodies that sound good on their own but still sound good and independent when played at the same time.

Write two different sections of counterpoint using only half notes (Each note of both melodies starts and ends at the same time for first species counterpoint). Do the second section in a different mode (major, minor, lydian, etc..).

There are many rules that are followed to ensure that the lines maintain their independence. You don’t need to know or follow all of them for this exercise (at least try to make sure they sound independent by ear), but I will go over the most important ones below.

Parallel motion:
The more that the two lines move in the same direction, the less they sound like separate parts. Do not move from two notes that are separated by a fifth or an octave to two new notes that are also a fifth or an octave apart, this destroys the independence of the parts.

Voice crossing:
Have one line be higher and the other lower. Having the lower line go above the higher line is not good for independence of the voices. Do it sparingly for this exercise. (I don’t think it is much of a problem when the voices have different timbres but it is something to keep in mind)

Try to avoid repeating notes. It will make one of your lines melodically subordinate to the other. It weakens the melody of that line.
Unison: Don’t use the same note at the same time in both lines except at the beginning or the end.

Have the melodies reach their peak at different times.
Have the lines end on the fundamental note of the scale (can be separated by an octave) to give the melodies a strong resolution and unity. Occasionally one line can end on the fifth, but try to avoid this.
Often the beginning notes belong to the root position triad (fundamental, third, and fifth). I imagine this helps set the key and gives unity to the melodies. The lower line should probably be the fundamental note at the beginning. Have the relationship between the starting notes be unison, octave or fifth.
Don’t have harmonies of fourths in first species counterpoint. Apparently it is unstable, but I will have to experiment with it to try to understand.
Consonant “harmonies” between notes are 3rds, 5ths, and 6ths. This refers to the interval between two notes being played at the same time, not the interval of the notes in relation to the fundamental.
Dissonant “harmonies” are 2nds, 4ths, and 7ths. It is possible to use these if you can resolve them effectively.


Composing First Species Counterpoint
Composing a Cantus Firmus (well formed musical line)
Rules of First Species Counterpoint
More info with notated examples
Concise Rules
First Species with modes
Melodic writing and counterpoint

All Five Species


You will have 1 hour to complete your song and 10 minutes to finish it up. You will then have an additional 10 minutes to upload your song. At 6 PST/9 EST you may begin your mixing, please have your files uploaded by 7:20 PST/10:20 EST. Join us for discussion on Discord!

Start: on 11/19/17
Deadline: on 11/26/17
Voting: on 12/3/17

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