SOUND PATTERNS

A Structural Examination of Tonality, Vocabulary, Texture,
Sonorities, and Time Organization in Western Art Music

by PHILLIP MAGNUSON

BASIC RULES FOR SPECIES COUNTERPOINT

Chapter 11. Species I in Three Voices

Chapter 6. Species I in Two Voices
Chapter 7. Species II in Two Voices
Chapter 8. Species III in Two Voices
Chapter 9. Species IV in Two Voices
Chapter 10. Species V in Two Voices
.

11.1 MELODIC PRINCIPLES FOR SPECIES I (THREE VOICES)

  1. Due to the added complexity of the third voice, repeated notes may be used; restrict them to one pair in any one voice per exercise.

    They must never occur simultaneously in any pair of voices, as in the example above. Note the repeated notes in the soprano line.

  2. All other melodic principles (from Species I in two voices) are the same.

11.2 CONTRAPUNTAL PRINCIPLES FOR SPECIES I (THREE VOICES)

  1. The first and last intervals below a cantus firmus must be a unison or an octave.

  2. The important intervals are analyzed from the bass voice, and must be consonant with the bass.

    Note that the intervals from the bass to the alto are exact, but the bass to soprano are reduced to the smaller (not compound) intervals.

  3. Complete triads are preferable.
    1. Major and minor triads are used in either root position or first inversion
    2. Diminished triads can be used, but they must be in first inversion
    3. Do not use augmented triads or second inversion triads at all

    These are examples of some of the possible complete triads.

  4. An incomplete triad may be used if the line is made better because of it.

    If an incomplete triad is used, at least one of the intervals formed must be imperfect (a 3rd or a 6th); if all the intervals were perfect, the counterpoint would sound as if it were forming a cadence. The first and last measures, as the starting point and cadence, are exceptions to this.

    These are examples of some of the possible incomplete triads.


    INTERLUDE 1

    Which counterpoint contains the errors?

    A

    B

    C


  5. The upper two voices (soprano and alto) also form intervals, but they are treated differently than those intervals above the bass. They may have the dissonances of a P4 or tritone, but both must still be consonant with the bass.

    Even though there is a dissonance between them, the soprano and the cantus firmus are consonant with the bass. Note that this set of intervals is written above the soprano.

  6. Parallel perfect consonances are still prohibited, including those between the upper two voices.

  7. Direct perfect consonances are virtually impossible to avoid in three voice counterpoint, and they are allowable between the middle voice and either the bass or soprano. They are also allowable between the soprano and bass if the soprano steps into it.

  8. While parallel P5's are not allowed, a P5 may move to a d5 at any time. A d5 can only move to a P5 between upper voices if both triads are in first inversion.


    INTERLUDE 2

    Which counterpoint contains the errors?

    A

    B

    C


  9. Unisons are allowed between any two adjacent voices.

  10. Never double the leading tone at a cadence.

  11. Cadences must include the ^7-^8 and ^2-^1 motions; the third voice may be a:
    1. A unison or octave
    2. P5 above the cantus firmus
    3. M3 above the cantus firmus (musica ficta may be added to make it major)

    These are only three of many possible cadences. Locate the ^7-^8 and the ^2-^1 motions in each.


    INTERLUDE 3

    Which cadence contain an error?

    A

    B

    C


  12. The upper two parts must be an octave or less apart; the lower pair, a twelfth or less.

  13. All three voices may not leap in the same direction at the same time.

    Simultaneous leaps in all voices reduce the independence of the lines.

  14. All other contrapuntal principles are the same as for two voices.

    INTERLUDE 4

    Which counterpoint contains the errors?

    A

    B

    C


11.3 EXAMPLE OF 3-VOICE COUNTERPOINT IN SPECIES I

Note the format of the interval analysis: the numbers below the alto show the exact distance above the bass, the numbers below the soprano show the intervals from the bass (reduced to their simplest form), and the numbers above the soprano indicate the exact distance from the alto to the soprano.

11.4 HOW TO WRITE 3-VOICE SPECIES I

The four big questions to ask yourself when writing species I counterpoint in three voices:

  1. Is this note good for the line? You need to have good knowledge of all the melodic principles to answer this.
  2. If it is a perfect consonance, how has it been approached?
  3. If it is a dissonance, how is it justified?
  4. Is the cadence a clausula vera?

There are some extra conditions that need to be examined, but they involve lesser questions. These include issues about

  1. Beginning the counterpoint
  2. Distance between voices
  3. Use of unison
  4. Use of triads

ASSIGNMENTS:

SYNTHESIS

Using an assigned cantus firmus, write a soprano counterpoint above it and a bass counterpoint below it in Species I.

The goal is to use complete triads if possible, but never at the expense of writing good melodic lines.

This must be written as one exercise, in three lines with a treble clef, alto clef, and bass clef.

To prepare this writing assignment properly, use the notation guidelines appendix, located at Basic Principles of Music Notation, Semester I.

ANALYSIS

Find the errors in the following example. Put a number with a box around it near the mistake and briefly explain by the corresponding number below.


Cantus firmi

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.


Links to chapters in this unit:
Chapter 6. Species I in Two Voices
Chapter 7. Species II in Two Voices
Chapter 8. Species III in Two Voices
Chapter 9. Species IV in Two Voices
Chapter 10. Species V in Two Voices

Link to previous unit: FUNDAMENTALS

Link to next unit: DIATONIC PROCEDURES I: Harmonic Dimensions


Copyright 2008-2009 by Phillip Magnuson.

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