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Counterpoint & harmony.

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Counterpoint & harmony.

Postby Guest » Sat Feb 13, 2016 12:21 pm

Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.


A simple question, counterpoint & harmony, are they the exact same thing?

Re: Counterpoint & harmony.

Postby Temp » Sat Feb 13, 2016 4:11 pm

Here's a number of concise replies to the very same question:

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Re: Counterpoint & harmony.

Postby Guest » Sat Feb 13, 2016 9:58 pm

Oh my giddy aunt, so it's not as straightforward as i thought it seems, will peruse later but at first glance, seems fascinating, even so i was thinking there's a 50/50 chance it could easily be one or the other, seems they might be the same difference, haven't read it yet, thanks man.

cheers too Temp

Re: Counterpoint & harmony.

Postby ericstrom » Mon Feb 15, 2016 3:27 am


Counterpoint and harmony are not the same thing.

Counterpoint refers to the specific interactions and relationship between a piece of music that has two different melodies at the same time. This happens in popular music also. For example, check out this article I wrote and skip down to #5:

Harmony is a broader term referring to what results from multiple pitches/notes occurring in the same piece of music. For example, if a keyboard, guitar and vocal is going at the same time, the chords and pitch relationships that results (I chord, V chord, etc...) would be an example of harmony.

I hope this helps!

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Re: Counterpoint & harmony.

Postby permanent_daylight » Mon Feb 15, 2016 11:50 am

It is relatively simple.

Harmony is polyphony of pitches. You can describe these as chords and cadences.

Counterpoint is more of a rhythmic, melody variation. Counterpoint is based on harmony, yet describes when voices are not rhythmically interlinked. Counterpoint is often regarded as a part of harmony, but it is moreso how they are arranged, often includes call-and-response type arrangements.
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Re: Counterpoint & harmony.

Postby damoore » Mon Feb 15, 2016 1:45 pm

LdashD wrote:
A simple question, counterpoint & harmony, are they the exact same thing?

Simple answer - no.

Counterpoint is horizontal. Harmony is vertical. That's an (over)simple answer too since Harmony concerns itself with progressions of chords, and progressions of individual notes within the chords, while counterpoint does worry about the vertical relationship of the notes to some extent. Indeed introductory counterpoint is taught as harmony. I don't believe that is how the masters did it, and I don't believe it is how it should be taught. Rather the emphasis should be on the horizontal relationships of notes, also known as "voice leading". If you understand voice leading you will understand a lot of music, certainly including Monk and Schoenberg (up at least through Pierre Lunaire) which otherwise you might find difficult.
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Re: Counterpoint & harmony.

Postby Guest » Mon Feb 15, 2016 3:56 pm

Yeah dumore I do kinda get it, but even some points you make, vertical, voice leading etc still conflict with my understanding, so I'll explain to you my understanding of what i think is happening in my audio example. And then you, or some other kind sould here can correct me.

I've just posted the link above, a solo instrument four bar riff/melody, followed by a 1 bar rest, (so you don't heve to anticipate) and then the exact same riff, but with harmonic? accompaniment, from another instrument playing a different competing and complimentary, melodic horizontal riff.

Now I believe, rightly or wrongly, the first solo riff is harmonic but as there's no accompaniment there's also no harmony? you need two or more voices to achieve harmony?

When the second melody/melodic line comes in, it produces a countermelody? the two voices moving independantly together, this is then counterpoint? But the second voice is also making vertical binary chords happen, a third voice would introduce triads, and so on.

I've had that riff for years, then i just played in the melodic line over the top, in about a min or less, because i just quickley stepped and leaped to the next avaiable note, voice leading? I changed a couple of intervals to improve the quality, this is also voice leading?

Re: Counterpoint & harmony.

Postby Luke JD » Mon Feb 15, 2016 4:12 pm

Solo instruments still have harmony! A lot of composers use notes of the underlying chords in the melodic phrases to tie the harmony in and give the melody a strong sense of progression. Like this lovely Bach piece:

There's still harmony there, oodles of it!

Yep, a counter melody creates counterpoint :) a third melody could introduce triads (you'll find you double up on some notes for good voice leading), but I wouldn't necessarily write a third melody (depending on what you're doing) cos that could get very busy, more of a supporting part. And yep, rearranging things so they step to the next note instead of taking disjunct leaps is good voice leading!
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Re: Counterpoint & harmony.

Postby Guest » Mon Feb 15, 2016 8:37 pm

Sorry for mis-spelling your name damoore, thanks Luke JD I'm pretty sure i've got it, er, I think.

So I'll take the link down now.

'ope that's acceptable to the mods...

Re: Counterpoint & harmony.

Postby tacitus » Thu Feb 18, 2016 12:06 pm

You can have harmony without counterpoint, but not, effectively the other way round. In counterpoint the harmony may be implicit, incomplete, and full of clashes, suspensions and ambiguities, but it is there unless you use some sort of serial technique to avoid it. Even then, you could say there is some sort of harmony going on, if not consonance.

Next question, what's the difference between harmony and consonance?
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