Basics of Counterpoint 101: Introduction

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ysid
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Basics of Counterpoint 101: Introduction

#1 Post by ysid » Tue Mar 08, 2016 4:26 pm

What is Counterpoint?
Counterpoint is in basic terms, playing 2 or more independent melodies at the same time. While there is a more thorough definition in academics, this is what it is in layman's terms.

Why should you learn it?
Counterpoint is a good way to spice up your compositions and make them more interesting harmonically.

Prerequisites:
Basic knowledge in music theory- intervals, basic chords, scales.
Reading music at at least a basic level.

Got any questions or don't know something? Look at this website: https://www.musictheory.net/
Still confused? Just ask and I'll try to help you out.


I wanted to make this guide because in my opinion, some VN music is kinda boring. While a simple song can get the point across, sometimes you just want to spice it up a bit. This can help you bring the emotions you are trying to convey better. Plus who doesn't like a cool song? Bach had counterpoint down to a science. He was the master of it. Just listen to his "little fugue": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddbxFi3-UO4. With four voices at once, it gets crazy hard, but he can write it like it's nothing. I'm just going to teach you the bare minimum with 2 voices and identical note lengths. If everyone likes this or wants more, I'll continue. Also keep in mind that this isn't a super strict lesson with all the rules that classical composers followed, just the basic points needed to get it across. While music has "rules", think of them more as guides to a recipe that you can change to add your own flavor. When in doubt, use your ears. If it sounds good, don't worry too much about it. With that said, let's go.


There are 2 main types of intervals: Consonants and Dissonances.
Consonants are ones that sound pleasant to the ear, dissonances the opposite. Using both of these allows you to create tension, resolve it, and keep compositions interesting. Consonants are then split into two groups: Perfect and Imperfect.

Perfect Consonants:
Unison (Same Notes)
Perfect 5ths
Octaves

Imperfect Consonances:
3rds
6ths
4ths*

Dissonances:
7ths and 2nds

*Mozart and Beethoven considered these to be dissonances, while Bach considered these to be imperfect consonances. Take from that what you will.

When composing in counterpoint, your notes can move in 3 different directions:
Direct Motion- The two parts both move up or down
Contrary Motion- One part moves up, the other down
Oblique Motion- One moves up or down, the other stays the same

These are the following rules combining Intervals and Motions.
Rule 1: From one perfect consonant to another must move in contrary or oblique motion.
Rule 2: From a perfect consonant to an imperfect can move in any direction
Rule 3: From an imperfect consonant to a perfect one must move in contrary or oblique motion
Rule 4: From an imperfect consonant to another imperfect can move anywhere.
Rule 5: No 5ths, Octaves, or Unisons Twice in a row**
Rule 6: Start on a perfect consonant, and end on an octave.*


*These ones don't have to be strictly followed.
**Using these twice in a row will make not keep your melodies independent.

Picture for all you visual based folks: Image

The note durations don't matter, as long as they are the same. (This is for the rules I have said thus far, there are different rules for other types of counterpoint.) Keep in mind that this list isn't exhaustive, and not all of the rules are set in stone. Follow/break them at your own opinion. Hope this helps!

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Re: Basics of Counterpoint 101: Introduction

#2 Post by Nylan » Tue Mar 08, 2016 6:42 pm

Sweet! I fully support this effort. I have forgotten everything...

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Re: Basics of Counterpoint 101: Introduction

#3 Post by ysid » Tue Mar 08, 2016 7:35 pm

Nylan wrote:Sweet! I fully support this effort. I have forgotten everything...
This is as much for me as it is everyone else :lol: . I had to break out my theory books for a few parts....

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Re: Basics of Counterpoint 101: Introduction

#4 Post by D.ray » Tue Mar 15, 2016 11:49 pm

Good post. Counterpoint is what I learned right after harmony. Even in it's most basic form it can make quite an impact.

I would also recommend Johann Joseph Fux's book on the subject for any music nerds or anyone who wants an in depth analysis on the subject. It's on amazon for like $12.

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Re: Basics of Counterpoint 101: Introduction

#5 Post by keisunagi » Wed Mar 30, 2016 8:31 pm

Played violin for 10+ years. Wrote music for 1 year. Finally figured out what counterpoint is.
Thanks for the post!
I'm Kei! Because I like Key but Key was taken XD

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Re: Basics of Counterpoint 101: Introduction

#6 Post by PurpleMind » Sun May 29, 2016 11:07 am

Great stuff. Looking forward to reading more chapters of this (hopefully) series. Cheers!
I could compose music for you if you'd like. (Rusty thread, new one currently under construction)

Commission open! I'm currently available for hire.

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Re: Basics of Counterpoint 101: Introduction

#7 Post by Oracle » Wed Apr 05, 2017 9:10 pm

Wow learned about this stuff in music history class this year!
Let's change the world one note at a time~
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