First Species Counterpoint

The example cantus firmus given in the course materials for first species counterpoint (note against note) has the following characteristics:

  • It’s in F major and starts and ends on the tonic
  • The range is from F to Bb (a perfect fourth) and the largest interval between adjacent notes is a minor third
  • The last three bars are a mirror image of the first
  • The Bb in bar four is the highest part of the cantus firmus and the only time this note occurs, so I think this is where the climax is (or the following note where this resolves down to the major third)

Here is the sample solution with some annotations and observations:

Ex1-2a

  • It is almost all contrary motion, with the exception of bars 6-7 which is a parallel sixth, so there are no parallel octaves or fifths which would compromise the independence of the lines
  • The melodies are smooth, with few jumps
  • With the exception of the first and last bars, all of the intervals between the two parts are thirds and sixths, so it has a clear ‘major’ flavour
  • The parts don’t cross

In the second example the cantus firmus is in the upper part. This sounds very different because our ears are naturally drawn to the upper line, and so this becomes the main melody, with the lower part an accompaniment. Here is the example with my annotations:

Ex1-2b

  • Again, the only parallel motion is in bars 6-7, which in this case is a parallel third
  • With the exception of bars 1, 3 and 8, all intervals between the parts are thirds and sixths
  • The fifth in bar 3 is approached by contrary stepwise motion, so does not violate any rules
  • There are no large leaps
  • The parts do not cross

Here is my solution to Exercise 1.2:

Ex1-2c

It is virtually identical to the sample solution, except in bar 6 where I step up to the Bb instead of leaping down to the E. The sample solution avoids having two adjacent parallel moves and introduces a bit more variety so I prefer that version.

 

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