The 5 Species of Contrapuntal Technique
The contrapuntal species are pedagogical tools that allow the student to progressively learn the art of writing both above and below a cantus firmus. Once the species have been mastered above and below the c.f. in two voices, the species are then applied to three- and four-voice textures, with one "counterpointing" voice adding florid counterpoint against the other voices, which remain in semibreves. Presumably, the student will have achieved enough skill by this point that he or she can progress to both free counterpoint in all voices except the c.f. and free imitative counterpoint. Whether or not one's pedagogy of modal counterpoint is crafted around the species, they should at least play a part in the process of teaching the types of dissonance. A summary of the species appears below.
- First Species: Note against note (punctus contra punctum) (1:1)
- semibreves are used in both voices
- Only consonant intervals are allowed.
- Second Species: Passing tones or (2:1)
- Only consonant intervals and dissonant passing tone minims (on beat three only) are allowed against the cantus (in semibreves).
- Third Species: Passing tones, auxiliaries, portamenti, and notae cambiatae (4:1)
- The semiminims in the counterpointing part may incorporate consonant intervals (both stepwise and by leap), as well as weak-beat passing tones, auxiliaries, portamento figures, and cambiata figures.
- Fourth Species: Suspensions (2:1 with syncopes)
- Until the cadence, only syncopes (tied minims), incorporating consonance and suspensions, are used.
- Fifth Species: Free or florid counterpoint ("free":1)
- The counterpointing voice is now free, with all typical melodic idioms, rhythmic values, and use of dissonance available.
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