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Species Counterpoint Summary

Cantus Firmus (melodic line):

Begins and ends on same pitch.

2 1
Contour High point (zenith), low point (nadir), or continually rising.
Mostly stepwise motion. No repeated notes.
Balance leaps bigger than a third by motion in opposite direction.
No voice should make a leap larger than a fifth, except for the octave and
the ascending minor sixth.
Two consecutive leaps in same direction must outline a major or minor

First Species (1:1)

One counterpoint note per note of Cantus Firmus. (Whole note: Whole


Counterpoint begins on either or

7 1
Counterpoint ends
(In minor, you MUST add an accidental for the
leading tone)

Dissonance Treatment

All intervals must be either a perfect consonance (U, 5, or 8) or an

imperfect consonance (3, 6).
Dissonant intervals (2, 4, 7) must be avoided.
Parallel perfect consonances (5 5, 8 8, or U-U) are forbidden.
Avoid direct 5ths and octaves.
Parallel imperfect consonances are allowed, but may not continue for
more than three notes (3 3 3 is ok. 3 3 3 3 is not.
Use a mix of perfect and imperfect consonances.


Contour can have zenith, nadir, or continually rise. It does not need to be
the same as the Cantus Firmus. Zenith or nadir must occur at different
point than that of the Cantus Firmus.

Second Species (2:1)

Two counterpoint notes per note of Cantus Firmus. (Two half notes: Whole


The counterpoint may begin on the downbeat or with a half-note rest.

Penultimate measure may contain either two half notes or one whole

Dissonance Treatment

All rules for first species still hold true. Check consecutive downbeats for
parallel fifths and octaves.
For the upbeat only, dissonances are now allowed with the followed
o Always on the upbeat
o Always an ascending or descending passing tone (NOT a neighbor

Third Species (3:1)

Four counterpoint notes per note of Cantus Firmus. (Four quarter notes:
Whole note)


Counterpoint may begin on quarter note or half-note rest.

Dissonance Treatment

Dissonances may only occur on beats two and four.

Dissonances must be approached and left by step in any direction (except
for in a Nota Cambiata or double neighbor)

Nota Cambiata The first, third, and fourth note must be consonant. The
second note must be dissonant.
Avoid parallel consonances on consecutive strong beats.
Avoid melodic outline of tritone.

Fourth Species (4:1)

Two mostly syncopated counterpoint notes per note of Cantus Firmus.

(Two half notes: Whole note)
Use as many suspensions as possible, breaking chains of suspension no
more than two or three times.


Counterpoint begins on either or .

1 7 1
Counterpoint ends with

Dissonance Treatment

Tied half notes are called syncopes.

Best upper suspensions: 7-6, 4-3, 9-8.
Possible upper suspension if needed to start or continue a chain: 6-5.
Only possible bass suspension: 2-3.
All suspensions must contain a preparation, suspension, and resolution
(resolution is always down and always by step).

Fifth Species (Florid counterpoint)

Free combination of the first four species.

Eighth notes are allowed in beats two or four only and must be lower
neighbors or passing tones. The pair of eighth notes must be approached

and left by step. Either may be dissonant. Both may be dissonant in the
special case of 6-o5-4-3 above or 3-4- o5-6 below.

You may use dotted half notes that begin on beats one or three. The third
beat of the tie must be consonant and treated like a strong beat in third

In fourth species, the resolution may be embellished by a quarter note

anticipation. The anticipation may be further embellished with an
eighth-note lower neighbor figure. Otherwise, it must be a half note.