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#1 Ligneo Fistula

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 19:58

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but the descriptors for theory at grades 6–8 suggest that knowledge and application of counterpoint aren't explicit requirements.

 

Is species counterpoint, for example, something that is usually encountered at degree level rather than AS/A levels?


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#2 BadStrad

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 21:08

When I did the OU A224 course which is given as grade six equivalent we studied counterpoint.

When I attended an advanced theory course we also studied counterpoint and if you check the grade eight marking criteria it refers to "contrapuntal awareness" so while I didn't bother with the exam (so am only speculating) I would say some knowledge of counterpoint is expected.
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#3 Ligneo Fistula

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Posted 30 December 2019 - 08:06

Thank you, BadStrad.

 

I suppose I am asking how the two related subjects of harmony and counterpoint are normally taught/learned.  While I have one eye on taking the higher theory exams, my real motivation is to have a better understanding of the mechanics behind the music I aim to play.  Very naively I'm hoping that a better theory base will improve my playing and sight reading.

 

I assume through learning counterpoint one infers all the 'rules' of tonal and chromatic harmony at the same time?  Or is harmony normally taught first as it's easier to tackle this first than having to learn all the 'rules' of contrapuntal part writing at the same time?

 

The sticky post on grade 6–8 workbooks seems celebrate Anna Butterworth's Harmony In Practice and accompanying Answer Book. Is it agreed that this is probably the best starting point along this journey?


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#4 fsharpminor

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Posted 30 December 2019 - 08:59

I am sure I was taught the basic 'species' of counterpoint a Grade 6 level (LCM), back in the early 60's.  My teacher always spent half the lesson time (usually an hour ) on theory. It stood me in good stead.


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#5 Hildegard

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Posted 30 December 2019 - 09:54

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but the descriptors for theory at grades 6–8 suggest that knowledge and application of counterpoint aren't explicit requirements.

 

Is species counterpoint, for example, something that is usually encountered at degree level rather than AS/A levels?

 

Species counterpoint is very rarely taught anywhere these days, not even at degree level. 'Contrapuntal awareness' is required in some of the pastiche exercises set in higher grade theory exams and in some A-level courses. For instance, the most popular A-level board (Edexcel) has an option to complete a passage of two-part counterpoint in Baroque style (one part given throughout).

 

 

The sticky post on grade 6–8 workbooks seems celebrate Anna Butterworth's Harmony In Practice and accompanying Answer Book. Is it agreed that this is probably the best starting point along this journey?

 

I have always preferred Dr Hugh Benham's two books (AS Music Harmony Wookbook and A2 Music Harmony Workbook). Although designed primarily for AS/A-level, they also encompass the requirements for higher grade theory exams, and are in my opinion somewhat clearer than Butterworth, starting from the very basics and working up from there.


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#6 -Victoria-

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Posted 30 December 2019 - 11:15

Species counterpoint is not "real" counterpoint - it's just a pedagogical system which breaks contrapuntal music down into isolated skills. For those who haven't delved in; in first species for example, you simply write one note against another note, usually in semibreves. In 4th species you have to write semibreves in one part and suspensions in the other. There are strict rules to adhere to.

 

What you produce is not really "music", because you have to obey so many rules, you cannot be creative. However, in my opinion, it's an excellent way to understand the principles of voice leading, consonance and dissonance, and shaping a melody, which will definitely make writing in a contrapuntal texture easier for you. As long as you understand that the system is purely pedagogical (and fixed at the style of Palestrina, so not even as modern as Bach...) it has its uses. If you want to study Baroque (or later) counterpoint, then it is a good starting point.

 

In terms of ABRSM theory grades, it will help with writing in 3-part contrapuntal texture required at grade 8 (Baroque trio sonatas), and to a lesser extent it will probably help with Q2 writing in a later keyboard style. None of the grade 7 questions would need any real contrapuntal skills. If you are doing diplomas, it will help with writing Bach-style chorales in the AmusTCL and with writing string quartets in the LmusTCL, but you are not tested on the distinct "species" skills. 

 

It's not fashionable at the moment, as Hildegard mentioned, probably because it is too rigid. Some unis still teach it - Cambridge for example. I did it when was at Leeds in the early 90s.

 

Despite being a subject reserved for university level, species counterpoint is not actually particularly difficult. If you are around grade 6 theory, it should not be hard. If you know your intervals, you should manage.


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#7 Ligneo Fistula

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Posted 30 December 2019 - 21:22

Thanks everyone for the great responses; much appreciated.  I'll try to compare the Butterworth and Benham books before buying.


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#8 kenm

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Posted 11 January 2020 - 22:32

When I applied to Reading University to read for a BA in music, A-level harmony was usually a prerequisite, but as a mature student I was excused it.  The department head interviewed me, asked some musical questions and asked me to play and accompany a written melody on the piano.  Within the degree course we were taught counterpoint as found in Corelli trio sonatas and later (post-graduate) I studied species counterpoint to improve my composition, which I think it did


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