Getting Started with Counterpoint Composer

James L. Weaver
Developer / Evangelist


Twitter: @JavaFXpert
Email: jweaver@pivotal.io
http://JavaFXpert.com
http://CulturedEar.com

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About the Presenter

Author of several Java/JavaFX/RaspPi books

Java Champion, JavaOne Rockstar, plays well with others, etc. :-)

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About the Presenter

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"I see people going to college for 14 years studying to be doctors and lawyers.

I see people getting up at seven-thirty every morning going to work at the drug store to sell Flair pens.

But the most amazing thing to me is I get paid for doing this."

- Steve Martin in Let's Get Small

I can relate to Steve Martin's sentiment:

What is counterpoint?

"The relationship between voices that are interdependent harmonically yet independent in rhythm and contour"

Tip: For a gentle introduction to counterpoint, check out the Species Counterpoint article by Nicholas H. Tollervey

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Counterpoint example

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Listen for interdependent harmonies and independent rhythms & contour

Text

Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music

  • Created Palestrina-style counterpoint
  • Best known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition
  • Influenced music of composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach

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Born in Austria, Johann codified Palestrina's techniques in the 1700s, calling it species-counterpoint, mainly for teaching students. 

  • Published in Gradus ad Parnassum
  • Describe valid pitch and rhythmic relationships between notes
  • Influenced music of Hayden, Mozart and Beethoven

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Composers such as Chopin were indirectly influenced by Johan Fux  

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"Wlazł kotek na płotek" cantus firmus

This will be our main melody

Wlazł kotek na płotek i mruga,
ładna to piosenka niedługa.

 

Let's jump right in with a demo in which Counterpoint Creator writes counterpoint for a simple melody

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"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" cantus firmus

This will be our main melody

Brilla brilla una stellina, su nel cielo piccolina

 

Let's jump right in with a demo in which Counterpoint Creator writes counterpoint for a simple melody

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Funkel, funkel, kleiner Stern

Demo: Create counterpoint (first-species) for
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Now let's review the steps from the demo

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"Wlazł kotek na płotek" cantus firmus including initial chord

Initial chord contains number of voices and their starting notes

To enter these notes into the staff:

  1. Click the Clear menu item to clear the staff
  2. Click the piano icon to reveal the piano keyboard:
  3. Click in the staff to give it focus:
  4. While pressing the shift-key, click each of the notes in the initial chord
  5. Release the shift key and click the remaining notes

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"Twinkle" cantus firmus including initial chord

Initial chord contains number of voices and their starting notes

To enter these notes into the staff:

  1. Click the Clear menu item to clear the staff
  2. Click the piano icon to reveal the piano keyboard:
  3. Click in the staff to give it focus:
  4. While pressing the shift-key, click each of the notes in the initial chord
  5. Release the shift key and click the remaining notes

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Twinkle first-species counterpoint

Cantus firmus is automatically converted to whole notes, and melodies are placed on separate staves

To achieve similar results, in the menubar:

  1. Verify that First species is selected 
  2. Verify that Ionian mode is selected
  3. Click the Compose menu item

Clicking the Listen button will play the composition:

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To learn more about first-species counterpoint, check out:

For pointers on composing a cantus firmus, check out:

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Twinkle second-species counterpoint

Second species contains half-notes in counter-melodies

To achieve similar results, in the menubar:

  1. Select Second species 
  2. Verify that Ionian mode is selected
  3. Click the Compose menu item

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Demo: Create second-species counterpoint for
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

To learn more about second-species counterpoint, check out:

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Twinkle third-species counterpoint

Third species contains quarter-notes in counter-melodies

To achieve similar results, in the menubar:

  1. Select Third species 
  2. Verify that Ionian mode is selected
  3. Click the Compose menu item

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Demo: Creating third-species counterpoint for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

To learn more about third-species counterpoint, check out:

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Twinkle fourth-species counterpoint

Fourth species contains sustained half-notes in counter-melodies

To achieve similar results, in the menubar:

  1. Select Fourth species 
  2. Verify that Ionian mode is selected
  3. Click the Compose menu item

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Demo: Creating fourth-species counterpoint for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

To learn more about fourth-species counterpoint, check out:

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Twinkle fifth-species counterpoint

Fifth species combines first through fourth + eighth notes & rests

To achieve similar results, in the menubar:

  1. Select Fifth species 
  2. Verify that Ionian mode is selected
  3. Click the Compose menu item

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Demo: Fifth-species counterpoint for
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

To learn more about fifth-species counterpoint, check out:

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Exploring Modes

Using the mode selector

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Composing in Dorian mode

Start/end the cantus firmus with a D note and select Dorian mode

The same idea holds true for all modes:

Mode Start/end note
Ionian C
Dorian D
Phrygian E
Lydian F
Mixolydian G
Aeolian A
Locrian B

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Demo: Composing counterpoint
 in Dorian mode

Changing the Rules

Examine the counterpoint rules and results of altering them

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Modifying counterpoint rules

There are 70+ counterpoint rules, categorized by importance, that may be toggled to see their effect on the counter-melodies

Toggling a counterpoint rule

One such rule is to avoid unisons in two-part counterpoint.  Here we've toggled it so that the rule is not in effect.

The effects of disabling the avoid unisons rule

Here is our most recent composition before disabling the rule:

Here is the composition after disabling the "avoid unisons" rule:

Note that the final measure now contains D notes in unison, and that most of Melody 2 has changed as a result.

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Demo: Toggling a counterpoint rule, and its effect on a counter-melody

Getting Started with Counterpoint Composer

http://CounterpointComposer.com

Hope you enjoyed

James L. Weaver
Developer / Evangelist


Twitter: @JavaFXpert
Email: jweaver@pivotal.io
http://JavaFXpert.com
http://CulturedEar.com

Getting Started with Counterpoint Composer

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Getting Started with Counterpoint Composer

Tutorial for getting started with Counterpoint Composer

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