Counterpoint
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Music Theory & Composition Questions & comments about composition, arrangement, and music theory. Music rules and how to follow or break them.

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Old 22-09-2015, 08:00 AM   #1
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Counterpoint

Hey guys, i am trying to understand the concept of counterpoint. I am a little bit stumped. Can anyone explain to me how counterpoint works and voice leading? thanks guys!

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Old 22-09-2015, 08:32 AM   #2
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Re: Counterpoint

two melodies playing at the same time (or not at same time but that relate to each other and are close enough in time to make a context) that sound good together.

a simple counterpoint could be bass line playing call resonse with a flute.

like

Bass C C G D - - - -
Flute - - - C C G A

if you have a dubstep song with a bass layer that drives the song, and then you stick a lead on top that is counterpoint.

then there are a bunch of classical music rules you can follow that deals with how counterpoint should be made.

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Old 22-09-2015, 07:05 PM   #3
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Re: Counterpoint

WRT the classical rules... the more you make conventional harmony music.. the more those rules apply...
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Old 22-09-2015, 08:52 PM   #4
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Re: Counterpoint

Another way of counterpoint is to think of two or more arpeggios running side by side yet designed to blend together well. Classic arpeggios are broken chords. A lot of Bach's music is counterpoint, especially the Inventions.

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Old 23-09-2015, 10:01 PM   #5
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Re: Counterpoint

Simple enough, thanks for the answers guys!
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Old 23-09-2015, 11:48 PM   #6
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Re: Counterpoint

yea, it can add a lot to your music too. Using 3rds and 6ths below the melody and syncing them up will not detour people from the melody and will thicken up the pallet.
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Old 24-09-2015, 05:54 AM   #7
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Re: Counterpoint

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Originally Posted by vashima View Post
yea, it can add a lot to your music too. Using 3rds and 6ths below the melody and syncing them up will not detour people from the melody and will thicken up the pallet.
That's harmonization, not counterpoint.
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Old 24-09-2015, 08:52 AM   #8
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Re: Counterpoint

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Originally Posted by P.Rift View Post
That's harmonization, not counterpoint.
Indeed, My post wasn't very clear. I was just adding some extra tools to use when trying to add elements to the melody without masking it. Probably good you posted that though. I didn't intend on inviting confusion.
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Old 24-09-2015, 10:03 AM   #9
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Re: Counterpoint

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Originally Posted by vashima View Post
Indeed, My post wasn't very clear. I was just adding some extra tools to use when trying to add elements to the melody without masking it. Probably good you posted that though. I didn't intend on inviting confusion.
True. Harmonization is also easier to understand and to apply than counterpoint, and it's a great tool to make a simple melody line more interesting.
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Old 24-09-2015, 01:04 PM   #10
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Re: Counterpoint

Counterpoint is when you're singing row row row your boat and you get to merrily down a stream I start row row my boating... Annoying as fuck if you don't have a well developed loped understanding of melody. It's also interesting because you can incorporate harmonisation as well.
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Old 24-09-2015, 01:46 PM   #11
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Re: Counterpoint

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Originally Posted by Jaded View Post
Counterpoint is when you're singing row row row your boat and you get to merrily down a stream I start row row my boating... Annoying as fuck if you don't have a well developed loped understanding of melody. It's also interesting because you can incorporate harmonisation as well.
Acutally that's a canon, no? As far as I know (and I'm no expert) counterpoint follows the same principle but with differing melodies. In the old traditional form of Counterpoint there are very specific rules for how notes are allowed to move in relation to each other but these were realaxed a bit in more modern forms of Counterpoint. One of the features of Counterpoint is that all of the melodies should be of equal importance so it shouldn't be one voice just accompanying another.

If you want to know more about what it is and the "rules" it follows then just take a look at the Wikipedia page

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Old 24-09-2015, 03:17 PM   #12
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Re: Counterpoint

Yeah, "Row Row Your Boat" is an example of a canon but is more exactly a round because it has the potential to never stop whereas there are canons that have been written which don't necessarily do that.

Counterpoint as a definition gets a little bit convoluted because the term has different meanings depending on the sound is coming from, or where in history you're coming from. Yes, there are "rules" but they only apply in particular contexts - if you're writing music that sounds like Palestrina then there are certain things you just can't do if it's still going to sound like Palestrina but fast-forward 200 years to Bach and the two sound nothing a like and what you can get away with is absurd in comparison.

We commonly use the term "voice leading" all the time in our modern thoughts but voice leading is just a way of simplifying the counterpoint - identifying the voices from a vertical perspective opposed to the horizontal. By the Baroque period the emphasis had shifted to the harmonies but it's obvious musicians still thought about the entire line and less about this linear, vertical aspect.

Counterpoint could be as simple as just 3rds and/or 6ths against your primary melodic line but that wouldn't be very interesting and Bach would roll in his grave. If you write only in thirds/sixths than the likelihood that it's invertable, that you could put the harmony over the melody or vice versa and still sound good, is pretty high. Invertible counterpoint is when the idea that gets convoluted because you're writing lines that will sound good down the line against the melody but be different.

So to summarize here because I'm sure to have been scatter brained, in modern music theory stuff you can think of counterpoint as multiple lines across time and voice leading as purposely generating harmony in these specific moments in time using four voices. Now that distinction makes no sense because the two are realized together but if you're looking at that Kostka-Payne theory book, which is standard fare in the US, then you're going to be confused by the notion of counterpoint.

Hit me up if your looking to make sense of Burgundian cadences and other non-sense like that but counterpoint in jazz is whatever the fuck you want it to be so don't let it bother your too much.

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Old 24-09-2015, 03:29 PM   #13
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Re: Counterpoint

You guys rule. It's definitely a round.
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Old 24-09-2015, 07:35 PM   #14
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Re: Counterpoint

We probably should be doing more of it....
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Old 24-09-2015, 08:06 PM   #15
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Re: Counterpoint



to me what makes counterpoint top quality is when you get those cool harmonies out of playing the melodies on top of each other and when you can switch your focus on either of the voices because they're all interesting on their own but at the same time they complement each other so well.

Last edited by Lug; 24-09-2015 at 08:19 PM..

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Old 25-09-2015, 02:00 PM   #16
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Re: Counterpoint

Good example @[Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
I like how the melody is more less there the whole but as the other voices enter they begin to take on their own themes and ideas but always keeping that core bit of melody alive.

I wish my sax player could afford a bari just to play on a couple songs but shit do those things cost an arm and a leg. But he did just buy a Super Action Mark 3Tenor so I'm really proud of him.

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Old 05-11-2015, 03:36 AM   #17
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Re: Counterpoint

I don't know if I understood the concept well. It's something like two melodies sounding together?

Searching examples in Spanish I found a video but it sounds to me like two melodies, nothing special about that.

I can't put links so search in Youtube this: "sencillo contrapunto a dos voces" and a short example will appear.

Also, I was all the time mistaking that with chorus.
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Old 05-11-2015, 02:33 PM   #18
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Re: Counterpoint

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Originally Posted by Shin_A View Post
I don't know if I understood the concept well. It's something like two melodies sounding together?

Searching examples in Spanish I found a video but it sounds to me like two melodies, nothing special about that.

I can't put links so search in Youtube this: "sencillo contrapunto a dos voces" and a short example will appear.

Also, I was all the time mistaking that with chorus.
Yes it is several melodies that compliment each other playing at the same time. It might sound simple but it's not. Especially when you have more than two melodies:


On this video check out Fugue 8


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Old 05-11-2015, 05:49 PM   #19
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Re: Counterpoint

Now, I realize I've been years using it by intuition in my midis without knowing it was counterpoint.
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Old 05-11-2015, 07:09 PM   #20
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Re: Counterpoint

and I've been eating pointy-shaped orange roots without ever knowing they were called carrots.

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