Two-Part Counterpoint

This order 1) of counterpoint is comprised of only two minims 2) against a semibreve (whole note)). By syncopation, is meant, a semibreve 3) of which the first half occurs in the unaccented part of a bar, and the other half in the accented part of the following bar.

Syncopation should always have a concord 4) at the unaccented part of the bar, while the accented may be either a concord 5) or a discord 6) at pleasure. If the accented portion be a concord 7), the composer is at liberty to make the melody progress by degree, or by interval.

If the accented portion be a discord 8), the melody must descend by degree to a concord 9), and not otherwise 10). This is called resolving a suspension – as the pupil must be aware, if he has studied harmony.

Discords 11) on the accented portion must be prepared by a concord 12), and resolved, also, by another concord 13).

In a succession of suspensions on the accented part of the bar, the note of resolution naturally becomes the consonant note of preparation to the suspension that follows it.

These discords 14) are only suspensions of the concords 15); since by leaving out the discords 16) in each bar of the preceding example, this progression becomes nothing other than a succession of concords 17).

Example 66 (suspension chain) without the suspensions

It will at once be perceived, therefore, by this means, upon what concord 18) a discord 19) should be resolved; consequently, it is prohibited to make a succession of seconds resolved upon the unison, or a succession of ninths resolved upon the octave.

Prohibited – these are still parallel unisons and octaves

By leaving out the discord 20) in each bar of these examples, there will be a succession of unisons, as regards the seconds, and a succession of octaves, as regards the ninths.

The same prohibition exists, when the counterpoint lies in the lower part, and when it might be believed that such successions could be employed. As a consequence of this precept, successions of discords 21), such as these in the following example, must not be introduced:–

Prohibited - these are still parallel fifths

By leaving out the syncopation, a prohibited succession of concords 22) appears:–

Without using discords 23), the danger of making successive 24) octaves, as well as fifths, may be incurred:–

Prohibited - these are still parallel octaves and fifths

By leaving out the syncopations, the false progression of the preceding example is made apparent:–

It will be seen, in short, that in order to ascertain whether all the prescribed laws of this order 25) are fulfilled without committing a single fault, there is nothing needful but to leave out the syncopation in each bar, which affords complete proof.

In two-part counterpoint of the present order 26), it is necessary, as much as possible, to abstain from employing the discords 27) of the fourth and the ninth. That of the seventh is preferable to these, when the counterpoint lies in the upper part; and that of the second, when the counterpoint lies in the lower part 28).

The law of syncopation should be observed in each bar. If, however, this constraint render the melody not easy to be sustained at a medium pitch, and that the syncopation carries it too much above, or too much below; or if it induce similar phrases too nearly allied; or, in short, if it involve the introduction of passages too perplexing; – then, syncopation must be deferred for one, or two bars, at most. This expedient should be employed only after all possible methods of syncopation have been tried in vain 29).

In this order 30), at the penultimate bar, the syncopation of the seventh should invariably be introduced, when the counterpoint lies in the upper part; and the syncopation of the second, when the counterpoint lies in the lower part.

Fourth-species cadence formulae

As observed in second-species counterpoint, so in the order 31) now under discussion, a half rest at the first bar may be employed, before commencing the counterpoint.

Two completed examples of fourth-species counterpoint

1) , 25) , 26) , 30) , 31)
half notes
whole note
4) , 5) , 7) , 9) , 12) , 13) , 18)
6) , 8) , 19) , 20)
The retardation figure is prohibited.
11) , 14) , 16) , 21) , 23) , 27)
15) , 17) , 22)
The 2-3 suspension is the only valid suspension when the counterpoint is in the lower voice.
Summary: It is better to switch temporarily to second-species counterpoint rather than to commit an error in strict fourth species. Even so, you should switch back to fourth species as soon as possible.
  • cherubini_counterpoint_and_fugue/two_part_counterpoint/fourth_order.txt
  • Last modified: 2018/06/17 18:28
  • by brian